The Los Angeles Chargers dominated the Arizona Cardinals in Week 12, but their huge win came at a price, as star running back Melvin Gordon suffered an MCL sprain.
Melvin Gordon has been a critical component of the Los Angeles Chargers offense this season, averaging 125.5 yards from scrimmage per game.
An excellent pass-catching back who has a real nose for the end zone on the ground, Gordon has scored 13 touchdowns in 10 appearances for the 8-3 Chargers this season, with nine of those 13 scores coming on the ground.
However, Gordon suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain during the Chargers 45-10 blowout win over the Arizona Cardinals in Week 12. The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported both the details of the injury and stated that the Chargers could get Gordon back before the regular season closes.
While the Chargers are behind the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West, they almost certainly have a playoff spot locked up with an 8-3 record. If they were in a different division in the AFC, they’d be in the conversation for a playoff bye. Instead, the Chargers are clearly a wild card team, with a handful of other mediocre teams fighting for that second slot. As such, Los Angeles would face the weakest division winner, which will likely be the Houston Texans.
For the Chargers, there’s still something to play for, but not at the expense of rushing Gordon back too soon. We’ve seen standout running backs like Matt Breida and Leonard Fournette held back by injuries this season after initially trying to play through the pain, with Fournette, a critical part of the Jacksonville Jaguars, aggravating that hamstring injury, which may have costed the Jags a few games in 2018.
The Chargers face the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos in Weeks 16 and 17, and those are two playoff contenders in the AFC, with both competing for the Wild Card spot behind Los Angeles. If the Chargers stumble during Gordon’s expected multi-week absence, then perhaps there’s an argument for inserting Gordon back into the lineup.
However, it makes far more sense for the Chargers to hold Gordon out for the remainder of the regular season so that he’ll be 100 percent for a deep playoff run. The Chargers look like darkhorse Super Bowl contenders with their offense, especially after dropping 45 on the Cardinals behind 25 consecutive completions from star quarterback Philip Rivers.
Although Gordon has excelled for the Chargers this season, Rivers has been so brilliant that this offense may not even need Gordon. With Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson producing in the backfield, the Chargers can make do with their running game, and Ekeler might be just as good of a receiver as Gordon. Plus, with Mike Williams catching touchdowns, Keenan Allen moving the chains, Tyrell Williams breaking open defenses deep, and Antonio Gates still producing at the tight end position, Rivers still has an embarrassment of riches even without Gordon in the lineup.
The Chargers are one of the NFL’s few teams that can afford an injury to a star player down the stretch of the regular season, but a guy like Gordon can be a difference-maker, especially from a gameplanning standpoint for defensive coordinators, against elite teams in the postseason. With the Chiefs, Steelers, and Patriots playing great football, the Chargers need to make sure Gordon is at his best over the long haul.