May 24, 2024

The lights will be bright, the stage enormous and the vibe electric as the Chargers make their third prime-time appearance in four games.

Monday night. At the New York Jets. ESPN/ABC.

Bolt Up, baby! Ah, hello, Bolt Up, maybe?

“It doesn’t matter like it used to,” 11th-year wide receiver Keenan Allen said. “You used to get psyched up for it knowing it was a big game, the only game on TV and all that. Now, it’s just another game.”

But, Keenan, you’ll have the eyes of the entire NFL!

“You kind of become numb to the situation and treat all of them the same.”

 Chargers receiver Keenan Allen catches the ball during practice.

The Monday Night Football matchup against the Jets is “just another game” to a veteran such as Chargers wideout Keenan Allen.

(Kyusung Gong / For The Times)

Come on, it’s “Monday Night Football.”

“Same as playing in L.A., 1 o’clock in the afternoon.”

But it’s New York!

“It’s a football stadium.”

OK, for the record, it’s New York-adjacent, MetLife Stadium sitting in New Jersey and serving as the shared home of the Jets and Giants.

When scheduled months ago, this game was supposed to be a showcased battle of franchise quarterbacks. That buildup has since fallen from A (Aaron) to Z (Zach).

Instead of future Hall of Farmer Aaron Rodgers, Justin Herbert will be matched against Zach Wilson, who just two months ago didn’t seem to have a future at all.

Then Rodgers injured his Achilles tendon in the Jets’ season opener, and Wilson replaced the man brought in to replace him.

Largely because of the presence of Herbert, the Chargers remain one of the league’s most relevant teams, explaining their recent near residency in America’s living room.

They lost to Dallas on a Monday night three weeks ago before beating Chicago on Sunday night last weekend.

The Chargers are scheduled to play three more prime-time games after this one, giving exposure to their players if not chill bumps to their veterans.

“At this stage of my career, I’m playing for legacy,” 10th-year edge rusher Khalil Mack said. “It’s a lot bigger than Monday night or Sunday night. I’m playing for wins and being impactful on the game.”

Added Mack after a pause: “The lights are the lights. You try to perform with ’em or without ’em.”

Chargers linebacker Khalil Mack (52) walks off the field in Jacksonville after a playoff loss.

Chargers linebacker Khalil Mack (52) has played many nationally televised games under the lights.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

To be sure, the Chargers need to perform against the Jets. They are 3-4 and desire victories, particularly against the AFC and on the road.

They’ve already lost conference games to Miami, Tennessee and Kansas City and have home dates remaining against Detroit, Baltimore, Buffalo and the Chiefs.

If the Chargers are going to rally from their middling start and make a playoff push, they almost certainly will need to win away from SoFi Stadium, especially against opponents such as the 4-3 Jets, who are the underdogs Monday.

New York’s offensive line has been ravaged by injury, and the team ranks last in the NFL in third-down and red-zone conversion rate.

But the Jets also just limited the Giants to minus-nine net yards passing and haven’t permitted an opposing quarterback to throw for 300 yards in 25 games. They’ve also won three in a row.

“We have to be ready for whatever they bring pressure-wise, coverage-wise,” Herbert said. “They do a lot of great things on defense.”

Even if Allen and Mack aren’t decidedly more juiced up, this game does bring added significance for at least a couple of their teammates. Cornerback Ja’Sir Taylor and defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day are going home.

Taylor grew up about a 45-minute drive — “depending on traffic,” he said — from MetLife Stadium, a place where he has watched games but never had the opportunity to play.

Having attended high school in Brick Township, N.J., Taylor estimated he’ll have close to 30 family members and friends at the game.

“It’s going to be a special night,” he said. “I’ve always had a lot of support from Jersey.”

Joseph-Day grew up a little more than an hour away, in Pennsylvania. He then went to Rutgers, which plays its home games in Piscataway, N.J.

“This one means the world to me,” Joseph-Day said. “It’s hard being away from your friends and family all the time. Having my [5-month-old] son now, it makes me really appreciate these moments a lot more.”

Admitting he’ll be feeling increased emotion, Joseph-Day said that, once the game starts, he’ll settle into his usual routine. Not that this matchup will be anything resembling routine.

“It’s not just going home,” Joseph-Day said. “It’s a big game, too. We need this game, you know? We need this game for sure. I think everyone in this locker room feels that way.”

With the personal stakes heightened, Taylor was asked which team he grew up rooting for — the Jets or the Giants.

“Am I allowed to say that?” he asked in return.

“I was an Eagles fans,” Taylor said. “The Jets and Giants weren’t doing good at the time and Philly was closest. So I took the Eagles.”

On Monday night, they’ll all take the Chargers in prime time, in a game that means more to some and the same to others and everything to the group as a whole.

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