Bolts Notebook: 10-29

With the possible exception of the Dallas Cowboys, the Chargers are the most disappointing team in the NFL through the first seven weeks. Norv Turner's team looks to pull itself off the mat on Sunday when it hosts its conference rivals from Tennessee. Here's a rundown of several key issues that will decide this must-win game.

--Three weeks from now, Philip Rivers may have the most talented group of pass catchers in the NFL, a group that will include Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates, Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee. The key is winning the next three games to improve to 5-5, which is what it will take to make the final six games relevant.

The injury report is loaded with pass catchers. Gates (toe) and Buster Davis (ribs) will play through the pain, just as they did last week. Floyd will be out again with a hamstring, while Naaee has a chance to play a limited role. Even Richard Goodman, signed from the practice squad a few weeks ago, is dinged with a dislocated finger.

Look for Darren Sproles, who caught nine passes for 70 yards last week, to help compensate with another busy game. Rivers may check down to Sproles early and often against a Tennessee Titans defense that is tied for first with 25 sacks.



--For whatever reason the Chargers seem to have Vince Young's number. San Diego is 4-0 against the hot-and-cold quarterback. Young has a career passer rating of 74.7 but an average rating of just 43.9 against San Diego. Two of Young's toughest losses have come against the Chargers, including a playoff loss in '08 and a Christmas Day loss last season that essentially ended Tennessee's postseason push.

San Diego seems prepared to frustrate Young once again, assuming he returns after sitting last week with a knee injury (he fully participated in practice this week, so he is expected to go). The Chargers enter Week 8 with the league's No. 1 pass defense, allowing more than 30 yards per game less than the next stingiest team in the AFC. San Diego is even with the Titans for first place in sacks (25) and ranks No. 6 in the conference in interceptions (seven).



--Seeking an X-factor in Sunday's game? How about Eric Weddle, the playmaking safety who has been unusually quiet. The fourth-year veteran from Utah has yet to force a fumble or intercept a pass this season. He has also had some uncharacteristic missed tackles this season and is on pace to finish with his fewest tackles since his rookie year.

With Steve Gregory serving the final game of his four-game suspension on Sunday, Weddle needs to step up and make a game-changing play. He did that last season in Week 3 against the Miami Dolphins, when his pick-six in the fourth quarter gave the Chargers a crucial win. San Diego badly needs an encore against Tennessee.



--Maybe the Blue and Gold play better in the black. The Chargers look to improve to 3-0 in blacked-out games, as Sunday's clash came 8,000 tickets short of being televised locally. The Chargers are 2-0 in blackouts this season, winning those games by a combined 56 points. Another blowout would be much appreciated by the home crowd, as close contests don't want to break San Diego's way in 2010.



What do you expect from Sunday's contest? Discuss inside the message boards.




Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.


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