The San Diego Chargers are sitting atop the AFC Western Division, despite getting off to yet another slow start. The one word that best describes this Chargers team is "explosive". They are explosive running the ball. They are explosive throwing the ball and they are explosive on defense. While all eyes are on the undefeated Colts and Saints, this Chargers team is playing as good as any team in football.
The Browns were already the worst team in football and after last week's rash of injuries; they may be the single worst team in the history of the NFL. Now while the Browns may have every reason to quit, this team has a number of prideful players that aren't about to lay down for anyone.
Browns Offense vs. Chargers Defense
A windy December game in Cleveland would have been perfect for the running style of Jamal Lewis. His shortened steps and power running is the perfect style for the muddy surface. Lewis however, has been placed on IR and is done for the season. It remains to be seen if this is truly the end of the Jamal Lewis era.
The Browns may now turn to the combination of Jerome Harrison and Chris Jennings to carry the load. It is evaluation time for many players on the Browns roster and these two running backs will need to showcase themselves not only to the future Browns regime but also to other teams across the league. Harrison has the quickness to beat teams to the edge and Jennings has a bit more of a power side to his skill set.
The Chargers Defense is not the same dominant force it once was but they can still get after the quarterback and force opposing offenses to alter their game plan. With the Browns struggling to run the football and no threat via the air, expect to see the Chargers to unleash their defense. They will be coming from every position and daring the Browns to throw the ball deep on them.
Every time the Browns offense takes a step forward, they immediately follow with a dozen steps backwards. Quarterback Brady Quinn simply lacks confidence in everything around him. Receivers are dropping too many footballs, the right side of the line continues to play matador and the play calling is simply ridiculous.
Quinn's mechanics are starting to go out the window. The almost robotic style of Quinn has been replaced by poor habits. Brady is not setting his feet and squaring his body to the throw. Your front foot is your accuracy on throws and Quinn's front foot has been in the air and going horizontal instead of vertical. This is creating overthrows, under throws and a general lack of accuracy with all of his passes.
To break those habits, you can roll your quarterback out of the pocket and allow his natural throwing motion to return. Keeping him inside the pocket is not a good idea when the constant pocket collapse is the reason the mechanics are sliding.
For wide receiver Brian Robiskie to be inactive while street free agents and practice squad players are getting balls thrown their way is downright criminal. The young players should be learning on the job at this stage of a wasted season. Seeing the young players develop is the only selling point left for this season of misery.
Chargers Offense vs. Browns Defense
The Browns defense is either last or next-to-last in almost every statistical category and now they have lost Shaun Rogers and Brodney Pool for the remainder of the year. Add in the previous losses of D'Qwell Jackson and Eric Barton and you get an entirely different defense than what started the season.
The pickup of Matt Roth is already paying off for this defense. Roth joined the Browns via waiver wire and he was arguably the best defensive player for the Browns one week ago. Roth did a terrific job of sealing the edge and forcing the run back inside. He also showed the ability to put some pressure on the quarterback.
Sealing the edge against LaDainian Tomlinson will be a huge challenge for Roth and the Browns defense. LT may have lost a step but he is capable of the homerun anytime he touches the ball. Tomlinson will be looking to surpass Jim Brown on the all-time rushing list. He needs just 56 yards to pass Jim.
The Browns will be looking to stop Tomlinson from achieving that goal in Cleveland with Jim on the sidelines. Look for the defensive front to be very motivated in this one.
Phillip Rivers has become one of the most prolific passers in the NFL. He has terrific touch on the mid to deep passes. Having two very large receiving weapons with terrific hands has also helped Rivers in becoming an excellent quarterback.
Tight end Antonio Gates is the best at his position currently in the NFL. He runs terrific routes and is fearless in the middle of the field. His combination of size, speed and hands is second to none. The Browns have a tendency to lose the tight end in coverage and that is against average tight ends.
Vincent Jackson is a huge receiver and he creates an immediate mismatch with the Browns defensive backs. Vincent does not like to fight through early contact at the line. If the defender can get up into his chest, he can frustrate Vincent and take him out of the game. If he is allowed to come clean off the line, then he simply uses his size and speed to impose his will on the secondary.
When cold weather kicks in, special teams becomes even more important and for the Browns, the special teams sets the stage for the rest of the team. If the Browns are to have any shot in this one, they need a huge boost from the special teams. Joshua Cribbs has been very quiet as of late and he is due to have a big game.