Points scored: 13th (24.0)
Total offense: 7th (396.7)
Rushing offense: 18th (108.0)
Passing offense: 4th (288.7)
Phillip Rivers is three-time Pro Bowl quarterback that is having one of his worst seasons since coming into the league. The Chargers' passing offense is fourth in the league in yardage, so it's not as if Rivers has been awful; San Diego can still move the ball downfield through the air with the best of them. It's been his penchant for turnovers that is really hurting the team. Rivers has thrown 15 picks this year – which already ties his career high for a full season – compared to just 13 touchdown passes. His 80.2 QB rating is more than 20 points lower than his 103.9 average rating the past three seasons.
San Diego relies on a two-headed attack at running back. Matthews is the quicker back, while Tolbert is a bowling ball in pads. Matthews is solid between the tackles but has enough speed to pull away from defenders once he's turned the corner. Tolbert is a short, powerful back who is more likely to run defenders over then he is to try and make them miss. Both players are also dangerous as receivers and have combined for 70 catches so far this season. Expect Matthews to get the bulk of the carries, with Tolbert spelling him in short-yardage and passing situations.
WR Vincent Jackson
The Chargers will be without Malcom Floyd this week, which is one less big receiver Chicago's secondary has to worry about. The big fish here is Vincent Jackson (6-5, 230) who is one of the most-talented receivers in the business. He's been boom or bust this season, but when he's been on, he's been dominant. He leads the team in targets and should get plenty of looks Sunday. Brown is a rookie who has come on of late in place of the injured Floyd. He's a solid possession receiver who has shown well in jump-ball situations. Crayton will work out of the slot, where he's been mildly effective this year.
Antonio Gates will be enshrined in Canton some day. That said, he's truly in the twilight of his career. He's dealing with numerous injuries, as he has for a few seasons now, and just isn't the same player he was in his prime. He is still one of Rivers' favorite targets though and does a great job creating space against opposing linebackers. He's especially dangerous near the end zone. McMichael, a 10-year veteran, serves more as a blocker but still must be accounted for in two-tight-end sets.
This unit is in shambles right now. The team placed starting left guard, and four-time Pro Bowler, Kris Dielman on IR this week. Additionally, two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Marc McNeill is out, as are guards Tyronne Green and Louis Vasquez. As such, the Chargers have had to shift players, most of them backups, all over the line. Dombrowski, Mruczkowski and Moll are all career second-stringers. Only Clary and Hardwick are the team's regular starters. Hardwick is the anchor here and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl in 2006. As the injuries began to pile up last week, the San Diego front five allowed six sacks on Rivers against the Oakland Raiders. Overall, this is the weakest offensive line Chicago will face all season.
Points allowed: 26th (25.3)
Total defense: 10th (331.3)
Rushing defense: 24th (127.9)
Passing defense: 26th (203.4)
Turnover ration: 28th (-8)
Garay (6-4, 320) is a beast on the inside that is extremely hard to move. He eats up space and makes it very difficult for opposing offenses to run the ball. Yet he's dealing with a hip injury that could limit him in Sunday's game. He'll most likely split time with NT Cam Thomas, a second-year player that is nowhere near as stout as Garay on the inside. Liuget is an under tackle miscast as a defensive end in San Diego's 3-4 scheme. He's not able to use his interior quickness as a two-gap player on the edge. As such, the rookie has had little impact this season. Martin, who is filling in for injured starter Luis Castillo, has also been mediocre and supplies no pass rush. Neither Martin nor Liuget have earned a sack so far this year.
LB Takeo Spikes
Christopher Hanewinckel/US Presswire
Starting OLB Shaun Phillips (foot) will not play Sunday, which is a big blow to San Diego's defense. Phillips is a Pro Bowl rusher off the edge. He'll be replaced by Barnes, who has been just as effective as a pass rusher, leading the team with 6.0 sacks, 4.0 of which have come in the last three games. Yet he struggles against the run. Spikes is the veteran leader of this group. He's recovering from a concussion but is expected to play this week. Butler has been all over the field this season. He leads the team in tackles (61) and has been solid in pass coverage. He and Spikes must be accounted for on every play, as both are hard-hitting linebackers that can be highly disruptive in the middle of the field. LaBoy is a solid, yet unspectacular, veteran who typically comes off the field in passing situations.
Jammer is a very dependable corner who doesn't make a lot of mistakes. The 10-year veteran leads the team with seven pass deflections but is yet to intercept a pass this season. Cason was beat out this year by rookie Marcus Gilchrist for the starting corner spot opposite Jammer. Yet Gilchrist will miss this contest with a hamstring injury. Cason is a decent cover corner but struggles in zone coverage and isn't strong in run support. Weddle was awarded the richest contract for a safety in league history this past offseason – five years, $40 million with $19 million guaranteed. He's a ball hawk who leads the NFL in interceptions (5) and is outstanding in run support. Chicago's passing attack must be aware of where Weddle is on the field on every play. Gregory was handed the starting job when Bob Sanders was lost for the season, again, due to injury. He's tough in the box and likes to mix it up in run support, yet he's sketchy in coverage. He can be taken advantage of in passing situations.
Goodman is a solid kick returner, although he lacks ideal explosiveness and isn't much of a homerun threat. His 24.1 yards per return rank him 12th in the league. Crayton is an experienced punt returner whose 10.1 yards per return is 14th best in the NFL. The Chargers are yet to return a kick or punt for a score this season. Scifres has a huge leg – his 49.8 yards per punt is third best in the league – but lacks ideal accuracy on directional punts. Novak can also bomb the ball from distance. He's two for three in field goal attempt of more than 50 yards, and five of six in attempts between 40-49 yards.
San Diego's coverage units seem to struggle year in and year out. This season, they are 27th in the league in yards allowed per kickoff return (26.5) and 26th in yards allowed per punt (13.7).
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.