Getty Images

When the 2023 NFL season began, both the Bills and Chargers profiled as potential Super Bowl candidates. But neither club has followed a smooth path to this point. Buffalo dropped its opener to the Jets on the night Aaron Rodgers went down, then later fired offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey amid a 6-6 start. Los Angeles, meanwhile, has been even worse, fielding a porous defense and cutting ties with both head coach Brandon Staley and general manager Tom Telesco following a fall to 5-9.

Now, in Week 16, the two sides will go head to head. And at least one of them still has a chance to fully right the ship in 2023. While the Chargers will be making their first appearance under interim head coach Giff Smith on Saturday, the Bills still have plenty to play for, aiming not only for a third straight win but to remain in the thick of the AFC wild card race.

What are the keys to their matchup? And how can you tune in? Here's everything you need to know:

How to watch

Keys to the game

  • Can the Chargers stop anything? Brandon Staley was probably headed for an exit no matter what, but he may have survived at least another week if L.A. hadn't surrendered 63 points (!) to the ailing Raiders in Week 15. The Chargers defense has been a sieve all year, ranking 30th against the pass and 28th in scoring. Will the staffing shakeup at least spark some fight? It won't get easier against Buffalo's attack, especially with injuries at every level of the lineup, most notably to Joey Bosa and Nick Williams in the front seven.
  • Will the Bills keep riding James Cook? Buffalo gave their lead ball carrier 25 carries against the Cowboys, and he ran all over Dallas' otherwise respected defense, totaling 179 yards on the ground. It stands to reason Cook will be heavily involved once again, though L.A. has at least been a bit better defending the run, ranking in the middle of the pack there. It's possible Cook could see some of his touches shift to the passing game, as Joe Brady looks to capitalize on the Chargers' hurting linebacker and defensive back groups.
  • What does Easton Stick have to offer? If the Chargers want to have a fighting chance in this one, even if just to retain some pride going into the 2024 offseason, they could use a hot start from their fill-in quarterback. Stick actually fared OK replacing the injured Justin Herbert in his debut; his production simply came too late to stop the Raiders' onslaught. He may benefit from the fact the Bills still have some key injuries on their side, with DaQuan Jones, Kaiir Elam and Micah Hyde all banged up; the latter is already ruled out for this one.


The Bills may have been a frustrating watch for the first three months of their season, but they're starting to round into playoff form at the right time. Whereas the Chargers have lost five of their last six and are simply playing out the string with replacements at QB and head coach, Buffalo is red hot, winners of two of its last three -- with the sole defeat coming in overtime to the reigning NFC champion Eagles. With a top-five offense averaging 27 points per game, there's no reason Sean McDermott's squad shouldn't feast on the road and keep building momentum for a push into the postseason. Despite the lopsided point spread, this one still has a ton of meaning for the Bills, whose playoff chances go up to 77% with a win, per The Upshot simulator, but drop all the way to 36% with a loss. Count on them to get the job done. 

Pick: Bills 33, Chargers 16

And if you're wondering who all of our experts are picking for the game, here are their against-the-spread predictions:

player headshot
Pete Prisco
player headshot
Will Brinson
player headshot
Jared Dubin
player headshot
Ryan Wilson
player headshot
John Breech
player headshot
Tyler Sullivan
player headshot
Dave Richard
player headshot
Jamey Eisenberg
Bills (-12) at Chargers