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Los Angeles Chargers vs. New York Jets: Prediction, preview, pick to win

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The Sports Xchange
Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers take on the New York Jets on Sunday. Photo by Lori Shepler/UPI
Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers take on the New York Jets on Sunday. Photo by Lori Shepler/UPI | License Photo

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (7-7) AT NEW YORK JETS (5-9)

GAME SNAPSHOT

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KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, MetLife Stadium. TV: CBS, Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Evan Washburn (field reporter).

SERIES HISTORY: 35th regular-season meeting. Chargers lead series, 21-12-1. In their last meeting, the Chargers blanked the Jets 31-0 at Qualcomm Stadium in 2014 with Michael Vick getting the start. It will be the Chargers' first road game against the Jets since 2012, when the Chargers won 21-17.

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KEYS TO THE GAME: The Chargers have lost just one of their past six games. Unfortunately, it's the one that counted most.

After losing their first four games and then righting the ship to get to 7-6, the Chargers came out flat against Kansas City last week, losing the game and control of their destiny in the AFC West.

The Jets' biggest task will be protecting Bryce Petty, who will be making his second start at quarterback in place of the injured Josh McCown, from San Diego pass-rushing duo Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. The two have combined for 21.5 sacks this season for the Chargers, who have the No. 4 pass defense in the NFL.

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The Chargers also have the No. 3 passing offense.

With tight end Hunter Henry ruled out, quarterback Philip Rivers will depend on his favorite all-time target, 37-year-old Antonio Gates. Rivers and Gates connected on their 86th touchdown, the second most in league history.

Melvin Gordon is closing in on 1,000 yards rushing, but he is averaging 3.8 yards per carry. The Chargers will try to exploit the No. 21 New York run defense.

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MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

--Jets RB Bilal Powell vs. Chargers' run defense. Los Angeles hasn't stopped the run with any consistency all year, and now it must try to do it without Denzel Perryman (hamstring). He's out and defensive tackle Corey Liuget (knee) could be, too. Inside linebacker Jatavis Brown (abdomen) will be compromised. The Jets will offer Powell, their leading rusher with 581 yards and four touchdowns. With Bryce Petty making just his second start, the Jets will test the Chargers' wounded run defense.

--Jets QB Bryce Petty vs. Chargers DEs Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Bosa (11.5 sacks) is headed to the Pro Bowl, and a case could be made for Ingram (10 sacks) as well. Those two will take aim at a quarterback making his second start after he threw two interceptions in his debut. The key will be whether the shaky Chargers' run defense can win on early downs. If so, Petty will be asked to complete passes against one of the league's best rush tandems and a secondary that includes two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Casey Hayward. The Jets allowed one sack last week and will need another strong effort against Bosa and Ingram.

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FRIDAY INJURY REPORT

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

--Out: DT Corey Liuget (knee), LB Denzel Perryman (hamstring)

--Questionable: T Joe Barksdale (hip), RB Austin Ekeler (hand), T Russell Okung (groin)

NEW YORK JETS

--Out: G Brian Winters (abdomen)

--Questionable: RB Matt Forte (knee), C Wesley Johnson (hip), RB Elijah McGuire (illness)

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Chargers TE Antonio Gates. Everyone remembers Gates, the 14-year pro likely headed to the Hall of Fame. But the ball will point his way more now with Hunter Henry (kidney) out for the year. It's been a phase-out year for Gates, as he has given way to Henry, a second-year pro. With Henry down, Gates will be targeted more. Gates caught two scoring passes the last time these teams played in 2014. He has a touchdown reception in his last three games against the Jets.

FAST FACTS: San Diego QB Philip Rivers has thrown five touchdown passes and one interception in his past two games against the Jets. He needs 162 passing yards for a fifth consecutive 4,000-yard season. ... RB Melvin Gordon had 169 yards from scrimmage (91 receiving) and a rushing touchdown in Week 15. ... WR Keenan Allen has 44 catches (8.8 per game) for 601 yards (120.2 per game) and four touchdowns in his past five games. He ranks sixth in the NFL with 88 catches. ... DE Joey Bosa has 6.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in his past seven games on the road. ... S Jahleel Addae is the only NFL safety with 85 tackles (85) and eight tackles for loss (nine). ... Jets RB Bilal Powell has scored in two of his past three games. ... WR Robby Anderson has 405 yards receiving (101.3 per game) and four touchdowns in his past four home games. ... LB Demario Davis has 35 tackles in his past four games. ... Rookie S Jamal Adams ranks third among NFL safeties with eight tackles for loss. ... DE Leonard Williams had his first career interception in Week 15.

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PREDICTION: Despite suffering a crucial loss last weekend in Kansas City, the Chargers aren't done yet. The San Diego pass rush will provide a tough challenge for Jets quarterback Bryce Petty.

OUR PICK: Chargers, 24-9.

--Ched Whitney

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