Chargers, Bears Go Different Directions

San Diego began the year 4-1 before sliding to 4-5. The Bears started 2-3 before rallying to win four in a row. Can the Chargers invade Chicago and steal the home team's momentum? It seems like a long shot given how the Chargers are faring, but Norv Turner's team has a fighting chance.

The Chargers' four-game losing streak is the third-longest active streak in the NFL. The two teams with longer skids are led by Curtis Painter and Rex Grossman, so their failures are to be expected. Philip Rivers losing four in a row for the first time in his career is tougher to explain.

He will look to stop the bleeding in Chicago, where the Bears are 4-1, their only loss coming against the still unbeaten Green Bay Packers.

On paper, this is a tough draw. Rivers has struggled to protect the ball (19 turnovers and counting) while the Bears thrive on creating takeaways (13 interceptions, seven fumble recoveries).

Perhaps Rivers will be inspired by the renewal of his rivalry with Jay Cutler, which was simmering when the two were dueling for control of the AFC West. Then again, Cutler may be equally motivated, especially since he now has the superior team.

San Diego's defense has matchup concerns, as well. Top among them is stopping Matt Forte, the league's leader in yards from scrimmage (1,308). The Chargers just allowed reserve Michael Bush to rumble for 242 yards from scrimmage and Forte is more versatile and explosive than Bush.

As for special teams, it is easy: If Norv Turner opts to kick to Devin Hester even once, his team deserves to lose.

With trouble looming in all three phases, the Chargers certainly have a daunting challenge in front of them. The one thing working in their favor is the extra three days they have to prepare for the game.

San Diego could get back Kris Dielman (concussion), Shaun Phillips (foot) and Malcom Floyd (hip). It will also give players like Ryan Mathews, Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates and Takeo Spikes a chance to get closer to 100 percent than they have been in weeks.

This should close the talent gap between the Chargers and Bears. Even still, the Chargers must prove they can execute for a full 60 minutes and deliver in crunch time, something they have failed to do for over the last five weeks.

With a win, the Chargers have a chance to regain a share of the AFC West lead. The 5-4 Raiders are on the road next week in Minnesota against a Vikings team that matches up very well with Hue Jackson's squad. But if the Chargers lose, they move one step closer to missing the playoffs for a second consecutive year.



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Michael Lombardo is 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 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.


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