The Los Angeles Chargers are feeling good about themselves, as they started the 2022 NFL season with a 24-19 win over the rival Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday.
It was something of a measure of revenge after the Raiders ended their playoff hopes last year in Week 18 by the slimmest of margins.
Now, on a short turnaround, Los Angeles is readying itself for another showdown versus the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Thursday.
That means taking on the monumental task of containing superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
The Chargers were able to beat the Raiders in Week 1 despite being without Pro Bowl cornerback J.C. Jackson, who didn’t play after recovering from ankle surgery in late August.
On Tuesday, Jackson participated in practice, although he was limited, but head coach Brandon Staley admitted he is “headed in the right direction.”
Staley also said there’s a 50-50 chance he is able to suit up on Thursday.
Brandon Staley said the hope is for J.C. Jackson to be back in practice Wednesday for jog through. 50-50 chance to play Thursday vs. Chiefs, per Staley.
— Daniel Popper (@danielrpopper) September 12, 2022
If Jackson is able to play, it will greatly improve the Chargers’ chances of winning.
Jackson Is One Of The Chargers’ Biggest Defensive Additions
Last year, L.A.’s defense was very poor all around, and one problem it had was its inability to create turnovers.
To that end, general manager Tom Telesco went out and signed Jackson, who was widely considered the best corner available as a free agent.
Last season, the 26-year-old made his first Pro Bowl and notched eight interceptions, one of which he brought back for a touchdown.
One of J.C. Jackson's best career interceptions came on a play where DMac and Jon Jones switched assignments vs the Chiefs' double crossers (aka Spear).
Little did we know we were were getting a glimpse at a future game plan pic.twitter.com/8ISqEpQapx
— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) September 5, 2022
Jackson also led the league with 23 passes defended, and his experience playing with the 2018 Super Bowl champion New England Patriots is also seen as a valuable bonus.
Without him, the Raiders’ Davante Adams carved up the Chargers for 10 catches, 141 yards, and a touchdown on Sunday.
Yes, Tyreek Hill isn’t a member of the Chiefs anymore, but JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling are very capable wide receivers who must be accounted for.
Travis Kelce, the best tight end in the NFL, is still in Kansas City, and Mahomes tends to get the most out of his receivers in general with his ability to complete off-balance or fundamentally incorrect passes.
The Chargers Defense Looks Strong Regardless
On the other hand, even without Jackson, the Bolts were able to hold the potent Raiders in check on Sunday.
Quarterback Derek Carr, whom some consider an elite QB, only went 22 of 37 while throwing more interceptions (three) than touchdowns (two) and getting sacked four times.
Pass rusher Khalil Mack, L.A.’s other huge defensive addition during the offseason, had three of those sacks as well as three tackles for loss and four QB hits.
In addition, Joey Bosa, the team’s incumbent pass rusher, tallied 1.5 sacks.
The Chiefs will likely be a stiffer test than the Raiders, as they are a proven team that won the Super Bowl just three seasons ago, and the short turnaround could also be a challenge.
But a win against them would be a huge statement to the rest of the NFL that the road to the Super Bowl in the AFC may end up going through the Chargers.NEXT: The Chargers Showed Why They're Real Super Bowl Contenders