Matchups to Watch: Bolts v. Seahawks

The San Diego Chargers look to avoid wilting in a hostile environment for the second time in as many chances when they head north to face the Seattle Seahawks Sunday. Here's a look at three key matchups in this contest between old AFC West foes, one in each phase of the game.

Offense: Philip Rivers vs. Seattle DBs

Rivers won't exactly have his hands full against a Seattle Seahawks secondary that let Kyle Orton go off for 300-plus yards and two scores in Week 2, but it will be interesting to see just how much information Seahawk coach Pete Carroll got out of Charlie Whitehurst.

A former Charger clipboard holder, Whitehurst played behind Rivers for three seasons. Even though the only meaningful thing he did was grow his hair out, he was bound to pick up on some of the offense's tendencies. But Rivers shouldn't have any trouble picking apart a Seattle secondary anchored by old man Lawyer Milloy and rookie Earl Thomas.

Defense: Antoine Cason vs. Deion Branch

Not exactly a heavyweight DB-WR matchup by any stretch of the imagination, but it will be a telling one because the Chargers will find out if Cason is finally ready to produce at a consistent level in the NFL.

A former first-round pick out of Arizona, Cason put together his best game as a pro last week when he grabbed two interceptions and forced a fumble against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He admittedly struggled at times last season, but the momentum from another big game against Seattle could help Cason realize that he has the make-up of a Pro Bowler.

He will be covering Branch, who is second on the team with seven receptions for 42 yards and a touchdown. All signs point to Cason having a breakout season, but we likely won't find out what kind of guts this kid has until the New England Patriots come to town in Week 7.

Special Teams: Darren Sproles vs. Jon Ryan

Maybe the biggest disappointment this season (aside from losing the season-opener) has been Sproles and the return game. He called more than one fair catch against Kansas City with at least 15 yards of daylight between him and the opposing coverage unit. That is inexcusable no matter how much wind is blowing in your face.

Look for Sproles and the return team to get it going against the Seahawks this week. Canadian-born Jon Ryan is a serviceable NFL punter, averaging 44.9 yards per kick, but if he's on the field early and often, Sproles is going to bust one. He's too dynamic of a player to only average 6 yards per return.

Future Matchups

Tune in next week as we predict how many interceptions Arizona Cardinals starting quarterback Jake Plummer, Kurt Warner, Matt Leinart ... DEREK ANDERSON will throw.

What are Chargers fans saying about Sunday's game? See in the message boards.

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