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-NFL Divisional Playoffs: San Diego Chargers vs. Indianapolis Colts
By Chris Pokorny, PFCritics Writer
January 13, 2008

Game:  San Diego Chargers (12-5) vs. Indianapolis Colts (13-3)
Where: RCA Dome (Indianapolis, IN)
When: 1:00 PM EST
Announcers: Greg Gumbel & Dan Dierdorf (CBS)

"We certainly can't count on that happening again. I'd be surprised if he threw three. My guess is that is a once-in-a-lifetime thing," said Norv Turner.

And that's exactly why the San Diego Chargers are going to have to fight a lot harder than they did in their 23-21 victory earlier in the season if they want to move on to the AFC Championship. So many things have changed since that game, and so many once-in-a-career things occurred (Peyton Manning throwing six picks and Adam Vinatieri missing the game-winner). With the New England Patriots winning Saturday, it's confirmed that this will be the final game ever played in the RCA Dome. The Colts will want to make it a memorable one, starting with the return of Marvin Harrison.

Let's get to the preview for the showdown between the Chargers and Colts...


Category Chargers Colts
Points Scored 25.7 (5th) 28.1 (3rd)
Passing 187.8 (26th) 252.1 (6th)
Rushing 127.4 (7th) 106.6 (18th)
Total Offense (yards) 315.3 (20th) 358.7 (5th)


Category Chargers Colts
Points Scored 17.7 (5th) 16.4 (1st)
Passing 213.3 (14th) 172.8 (2nd)
Rushing 107.0 (16th) 106.9 (15th)
Total Defense (yards) 320.3 (14th) 279.7 (3rd)



Peyton Manning has rarely struggled against one particular team in the NFL. He used to have his issues with the Patriots, but as of late, he's improved to keep his team competitive against them throughout. Now, he needs to get past the San Diego Chargers. After losing two of three games against the Chargers, and after throwing six interceptions against the Chargers last time, Manning will have to execute upon whatever he found in the film room on them. He'll have Marvin Harrison back finally, which will undoubtedly put more pressure on the Chargers to cover rather than read what Manning is doing. Unfortunately for the Chargers, Philip Rivers hardly helped them in their 23-21 victory earlier this season. He threw two interceptions and fumbled once (for a touchdown), looking like a mess all game long.

Running Back
LaDainian Tomlinson may still be the best running back in the NFL, but Joseph Addai does exactly what is needed of him in the Colts running game each and every week. Neither running back had a particularly high average the last time these two teams met. Tomlinson catching fire will be a lot more important to the Chargers than Addai not catching fire would be to the Colts. You saw it again last week with San Diego against the Tennessee Titans: Tomlinson wasn't utilized enough in the first half, and the Chargers were shut out. In the second half, after incorporating him a little more, Rivers got more into the flow of the game and San Diego ran away with things. Tomlinson makes the difference, but the Colts are comfortable whether Addai gets his yardage or not. Most of the time, he'll get that yardage.

For years, the Colts have had the best group of receivers in the NFL. I can't say that with 100% certainty anymore after what Brady is done in his first season with three new receivers, but the combination of Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison, and Anthony Gonzalez certainly seems tough enough to defend. Throw Dallas Clark in the mix there too. The Chargers' best threat, Antonio Gates, will play but will be hindered by a toe injury. Rivers has had enough trouble getting Chris Chambers involved in games early. Against the Colts' cover-2 pass defense that's ranked second in the league, it's hard to imagine that Rivers will have a successful day throwing the ball. That doesn't mean he shouldn't take his chances though.

Offensive Line
21 sacks is hardly a lot, but it's also the most that Manning has been taken down since the 2002 campaign. A lot of that had to do with when he was sacked 11 times in four games near the middle of the season, when the Colts had injury problems on their offensive line. They've had time to recuperate over the bye week and should be prepared to do battle against the Chargers. Rivers has had some ball security issues this season, fumbling six times. He usually does receive a good amount of time to deliver the ball though, and Tomlinson has found his chemistry with the line over the second half of the season.

Defensive Line
The Colts will be without Dwight Freeney in the postseason this year, but that hasn't hampered their ability to win football games down the stretch. Guys like Raheem Brock and Robert Mathis have been able to pick up the slack and maintain the intensity level that Indianapolis needs to stop the run and the pass. Meanwhile, the Chargers will see the return of big defensive tackle Jamal Williams. They'll need Williams in the lineup to try and force the Colts to be one-dimensional, as they did a nice job keeping Addai contained earlier this season.


Shawne Merriman and the Chargers' linebacking corp is a group that will benefit from having played last week against a good Tennessee Titans running game. Shaun Phillips and Matt Wilhelm intercepted Manning the last time these teams met, but with the Colts having more weapons healthy today they'll have to take their games to even another level. They are capable of playing well, but it may not matter if Manning is riding hot. The Colts have a lot of speed at the linebacker position; it'll be interesting to see if Norv Turner is able to incorporate enough plays into his gameplan to counter that.

While Antonio Cromartie had a miraculous season, no one can do it better than the Colts secondary. As much as Manning was frustrated last time with six picks, the Colts' secondary actually played a better game to the point where Rivers looked like he was on an island of his own. Bob Sanders is the defensive player of the year for a reason: he makes a difference for every other player on this defense.

Special Teams
Adam Vinatieri not only missed the game-winner against the Chargers, he missed another kick earlier in that game. Still, there isn't another kicker a team would want in the postseason with the game on the line -- at least you hope so, for the Colts' sake. The Chargers have been happy with kicker Nate Kaeding, but you still have to question his postseason confidence, especially after missing a kick last week against the Titans.

Indianapolis Colts 28, San Diego Chargers 24.
While the Chargers could very well come in and be overmatched, this is a team that has had something on the Colts for whatever reason. They may not look good early, but I expect there to be a point in the game where the Chargers turn this from being a 28-14 game to a 28-24 game within a couple of minutes. The Colts are too healthy and have played very good football all season long to complete another letdown to the Chargers though.
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