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SAN DIEGO (at Tampa Bay):
Posted Nov. 07 at 10:41 AM
Philip Rivers has thrown for more than 220 yards in only four of the eight games. San Diego's passing game has been a disappointment, but that downward trend may not hold this week because Tampa Bay's run-stopping defensive scheme encourages opponents to pass. That’s what they’re trying to do -- force teams to be one-dimensional. At the halfway point of the season, the Bucs rank 1st in run defense but last in pass defense. They’re allowing passing yards as a record clip, giving up 331 per game. They’ll almost certainly become the first team in league history to give up 5,000 passing yards in a season; right now, they’re on pace to break the record by over 300 passing yards. So while Rivers is having an off year, passing for only 233 yards per game, this looks like a week where he’s a pretty safe choice to put up 280-plus. Only two quarterbacks all year have failed to throw for more than 280 against this defense. Sputtering Kansas City went for 180, and even they had some success moving the ball early in that game (they had a really long drive end with a red zone turnover early), and Christian Ponder went for 251 two weeks ago. In his other two recent games, Ponder has passed for under 65 yards. This game is in Tampa, but Rivers’ basement is probably about 270 yards. Touchdowns, that’s another matter. The Bucs are giving up tons of yards, but they’ve toughened up in the red zone. Drew Brees, Carson Palmer and Eli Manning combined for 11 TDs against this defense, but the Bucs have allowed only 2 TD passes in their other five games. Rivers hasn’t been good in red zone or crucial situations. We see him throwing 1-2 TDs, with 2 more likely than 1. The Bucs have allowed over twice as many touchdowns on passes (13) than runs (6), while the Chargers have a 12-4 mix. In a combined 16 games, that’s 25 TD passes versus 10 runs. We’re figuring San Diego will score in the low 20s in this game, putting them in line for something like 1.5 TD passes and .7 TD runs. ... If you’re stuck looking for a replacement receiver for Week 10, Danario Alexander should be on the list of potential replacements. Robert Meachem has a hamstring injury and sounds like he doesn’t expect to be ready. The Chargers might not want him anyway. Meachem has been a bust, catching only 12 of the 29 passes thrown his way. When he sat out against Kansas City, Alexander took that spot and caught all 3 of the passes thrown his way, for 61 yards. He’s got some size and downfield ability, and as a lesser-known, fill-in type guy, he’ll see nothing but single coverage. If Rivers meets expectations and throws for 280-300 yards, that might make Alexander the surprise 100-yard receiver of the week. ... Malcom Floyd is the No. 1 receiver, and this is a choice matchup for him. Tampa Bay is giving up passing yards at a record clip. The Bucs have Vincent Jackson, so there could be a little personal rivalry there. Jackson played for San Diego last year; the Chargers would probably like to have a wide receiver finish with better numbers. ... It’s a poor matchup for Ryan Mathews. Tampa Bay ranks No. 1 against the run, giving up only 78 yards per game. If Adrian Peterson hadn’t busted a 64-yard touchdown against them, they’d be down under 70 yards per game and 3.1 per carry. Mathews is having just a so-so season anyway, averaging 4.4 yards per carry. They’re not using him as much as a pass catcher, and he’s scored only one touchdown. They prefer Jackie Battle in goal-line situations. When San Diego got to the 1-yard last week against Kansas City, they sent Mathews to the sidelines and brought in Battle (but faked him the ball rather than actually using him). Mathews is averaging 70 rushing and 24 receiving yards. In this kind of a matchup, it’s more realistic to expect 50 rushing and maybe 35 receiving, with not better than a 20 percent chance of a touchdown. ... Those in PPR leagues needing a warm body to use at running back can consider Ronnie Brown. He plays on a lot more passing downs than Mathews. He’s averaged 42 receiving yards in the seven games he’s actually played, with at least 23 yards in all of those games. If the Chargers have a big day passing the ball (and we think they will), it will be a surprise if Brown doesn’t finish with at least 35 receiving yards. ... Eddie Royal has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury. If he plays, it will be as a slot guy -- he wouldn’t start ahead of Danario Alexander. ... Antonio Gates doesn’t look like an elite tight end anymore. He’s averaging only 40 yards per game, and he’s scored in only two games. He’s just a guy now. We’re putting him higher than usual because we believe the Chargers will pass for 50-60 more yards than usual. He would presumably get in on some of that action. The Bucs let tight end Brandon Myers catch 2 TDs last week. ... The <>Chargers Defense projects to be a lesser unit. It’s sitting at only 13 sacks and 8 interceptions, even though it’s had plenty of opportunities to play lesser quarterbacks, including Kansas City twice, Tennessee and Brandon Weeden. It’s working against Josh Freeman, and he’s been involved in only 12 sacks and 5 interceptions. Doesn’t seem like the Chargers will get past 2 sacks and an interception.
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