Titans at Chargers Week 8 Preview
Chargers on Offense
On Christmas Day last season, the Chargers offense dominated the Titans. The team combined for 166 yards on the ground and 4 touchdowns, including a team 60 yards from Mike Tolbert and two rushing touchdowns from Darren Sproles.
Philip Rivers had a very efficient day against the Titans last season. He was 21-of-27 for 264 yards and two touchdowns. He threw touchdown passes to Antonio Gates and Sproles.
Though some of the pieces are still there, the Chargers offense on Christmas last year is not the same that will take the field Sunday. San Diego will still be without Malcom Floyd and possibly Buster Davis and Legedu Naanee because of injuries and Vincent Jackson is still three weeks away after just signing his tender.
Gates is still not 100%, but is a warrior and continues to battle through injury and produce. Gates at 75 or 80 percent is better then most tight ends at 100%. He will go as long as he can, as hard as he can and will probably still get around 80 yards and a touchdown.
Rivers will have only healthy veteran wide out on Sunday in Patrick Crayton. Philips and Crayton have shown pretty good chemistry, accumulating 13 catches for 199 yards the last two games.
If the other wide outs are not healthy enough, Seyi Ajirotutu will get a long look. Last week, he made his NFL debut and had two catches for 26 yards.
Titans on Offense
The Tennessee offense revolves around running back Chris Johnson. The best running back in the NFL already has accumulated 662 yards and 7 touchdowns. He went over 2000 rushing yards last season and vowed to match that feat again this season.
Johnson ran for 142 and a touchdown in the December game against the Chargers. Much of it came in garbage time with Antonio Cromartie running along side of him instead of tackling him in a 42-17 blow out victory for San Diego.
Injuries have forced Vince Young and Kerry Collins to share time at the quarterback position. It appears that Young will be the one taking snaps on Sunday and with his mobility, adds an extra dimension to the Titans offense.
Wide receiver Kenny Britt is coming off a monster game against Philadelphia last week. He torched the Eagles for 225 receiving yards and three touchdowns last week. Britt has caught touchdown passes in five consecutive games and has seven for the season.
Veteran tight end Bo Scaife is the other big receiving target for the Titans. He has caught 19 passes and two touchdowns this year. The Chargers are notorious for giving up big games to tight ends, so he could be someone to keep an eye on.
Chargers on Defense
Tennessee played coy most of the week, not letting on who will start at quarterback, which was probably by design. Young and Collins are two completely different types of players and require different types of defensive scheming.
It sounds as if Young will start which will mean the Chargers defense will have to leave a “spy” on him most of the game. Having to keep a defensive player on Young during most of the game, leaves either one less defender in pass coverage or one less defender to blitz and put pressure.
Last season, the San Diego defense completely shut down Young. He was only 8-of-21 for 89 yards and two interceptions. Eric Weddle and Brandon Siler both picked off passes in the Christmas Day game. Young did run for 40 yards and a touchdown but fumbled when Shaun Phillips striped the ball from him.
All in all, the defense held the multi-threat Young in check last season. The Titan quarterback has played well when healthy this season though. His over 61 percent completion percentage and his 7-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio are both above his careers norms.
With all that quarterback talk, the primary goal for the Chargers is to slow down Johnson. A tall task obviously, but one San Diego should be up to.
The Chargers are giving up only 86 yards per game on the ground. Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera has his squad playing well, but this will be the best running back they will see all season.
The line backing group will have to be at the top of their games on Sunday. The group of Phillips, Stephen Cooper, Antwan Applewhite and Kevin Burnett will have to stay disciplined. Over pursuit by a linebacker and a cutback by Johnson, could mean six points for the Titans.
Titans on Defense
Tennessee has a pretty formidable defense, with playmakers all over. The Titans have done a great job of creating turnovers and with the Chargers propensity to give the ball away, ball security could be a major factor Sunday.
The defensive line is lead by Dave Ball and Jason Babin. The two are tied for the team lead with six sacks each. Chargers right tackle Jeromey Clary will not be able handle either one of those defensive ends. He will need help from a tight end or get chip blocks from the running backs to protect Rivers.
Linebacker Stephen Tulloch leads the team with 71 tackles while fellow linebacker Will Witherspoon is tied for second on the team with 3 sacks.
The secondary is lead by former first round pick Michael Griffin. The former Texas star leads the team with 4 interceptions. Pesky Cortland Finnegan and rookie Alterraun Verner start at cornerback. The two have combined for three interceptions this season.
Finnegan has made it clear; he is no fan of the Chargers, the quarterback in particular. In a 2008 Sports Illustrated article, Finnegan was asked who in sports he would want to meet in a ring. His answer…Philip Rivers!
Chargers Special Teams
San Diego has improved since their deplorable start to the season. They had nowhere to go but up.
Kicker Nate Kaeding will miss Sunday’s game with an injury. He may not be back until the after the bye week. Kris Brown filled in admirably last week, pulling off an onside kick, but missed a game tying field goal. It’s not 100% sure Kaeding would have made that kick, but the Chargers sure wish they had their regular kicker out there.
Kicker Rob Bironas is one of the best in the NFL. He has missed only one field goal in 15 tries this season, so with the game on the line, he will not miss.
Marc Mariani handles both the kick off and punt returns. Earlier this season, he returned a kick 98 yards for a touchdown against Denver. He will challenge in always shaky San Diego special teams units.
It won’t be easy, but San Diego has Philip Rivers and a stout enough defense to hold Johnson and Britt in check.
The Chargers get an early lead and hold on in front of the faithful home fans and pull out a tight victory and stay in playoff contention.
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