|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...
|Total Offense (yards)
|Total Defense (yards)
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
FINAL PREDICTION: Indianapolis Colts 28, San Diego
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.