The Los Angeles Chargers are holding out hope that running back Melvin Gordon can return from a knee injury for their crucial Week 15 game. As the Chargers prepare to face the AFC West-leading Kansas City Chiefs on a short week, they sit just one game back of Patrick Mahomes and company. While having Gordon for this game would be huge, it seems there are mixed comments coming out on his health.
As Chargers coach Anthony Lynn revealed on SiriusXM NFL Radio, he remained optimistic and said Gordon is running around and “wants to go.” Unfortunately, almost immediately after that, NFL Network’s Steve Wyche threw some cold water on that by reporting the team is not optimistic about Gordon’s outlook.
The Chargers are not optimistic that running backs Melvin Gordon (knee) and Austin Ekeler (neck, concussion) will be ready for Thursday's huge AFC West matchup at Kansas City, HC Anthony Lynn told me. Rookie RBs Justin Jackson and Detrez Newsome likely to be the spot
— Steve Wyche (@wyche89) December 11, 2018
The news can’t be considered all that surprising, as it’s hard to envision that enough has changed in the span of just two days for Gordon to be expected to play. This obviously doesn’t mean that there’s no chance he’ll go, but the outlook is bleak at this point.
As ESPN’s Field Yates revealed on Wednesday, the Chargers have listed Gordon as questionable for the game while also ruling Austin Ekeler out. Gordon will fly with the team to Kansas City, but it seems there’s certainly still a chance he won’t play.
Just hours prior to kickoff, it was revealed that Gordon himself said he is not expecting to play against the Chiefs, per NFL Network’s Omar Ruiz.
Just spoke to Melvin Gordon, he said he was feeling alright but when I asked him if he was gonna give a shot tonight, he shook his head sideways, indicating a no…
— Omar Ruiz (@OmarDRuiz) December 13, 2018
He also revealed that Chargers coach Anthony Lynn stated that it would be smart to hold Gordon out for this game, pointing to the decision likely being made.
After a conversation with Anthony Lynn, he said it’ll be smart to hold him out tonight. Had to make a hard decision, but allowed Gordon to make a case. Their hope being that the #Chargers have plenty more big games ahead that they’ll need their star back for. https://t.co/YEdnll4RKT
— Omar Ruiz (@OmarDRuiz) December 13, 2018
Outlook Moving Forward for Chargers
While the Chargers currently sit just one game back of the Chiefs and have an opportunity to grab a share of the AFC West lead, it’s looking like that Gordon won’t be out there. If that’s the case, the team will likely lean on intriguing rookie running back Justin Jackson. Although Jackson didn’t receive extended work until Gordon went down, he’s shown some upside in the recent stretch.
Jackson was held in check during the team’s 26-21 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, but in the two games prior racked up 120 rushing yards on just 15 carries with one touchdown. The key here is the fact that the Chiefs have struggled massively against opposing running backs, allowing 1,440 rushing yards on 281 carries with 11 touchdowns. For good measure, they’ve also given up 85 receptions for 831 yards and six additional scores to the position.
Although Gordon is surely the preferred option out of the backfield here for the Chargers, Jackson seems bound to do the heavy lifting.
Melvin Gordon’s Potential Return
Gordon’s return could prove to come down to how the Chargers fare in Week 15 against the Chiefs. While they sit at 10-3 currently and a win would place them in a tie with Kansas City, the outlook shifts completely if they lose that game. With a win, the Chargers could push to get Gordon back on the field as soon as possible to help their run for the possible No. 1 seed in the AFC.
But on the flip side, Chargers are all but a lock for the first Wild Card spot in the conference, at the very worst. It’s unlikely that would change, so a loss could lead to the team choosing to play it safe with their star running back over the final two weeks as they prepare for the playoffs.
Assuming Gordon misses Week 15, it’ll be very interesting to see how the team approaches his situation in the games to follow.
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