Preparing for the Pewter People

While the Chargers upcoming game against the Buccaneers is not receiving the kind of hype that last weekend's game against the Broncos garnered, it is nonetheless a big game. If the Chargers win, they will be one victory away from a claiming division championship.

As of now, the Chargers have a better divisional record than the Broncos. If the Broncos win in against the Chiefs in week 15 and the Chargers lose to the Chiefs in their season finale, however, than the Chargers and the Broncos would have identical divisional records.

Luckily for the Chargers, the next tiebreaker would be winning percentage against common opponents. The Chargers only losses outside of Denver came against the Jets and the Falcons; the Broncos never played the Jets and lost to the Falcons as well. Meanwhile, the Broncos' list of losses includes the Jaguars and the Raiders, both teams that the Chargers have beaten. So the only way the Broncos can catch-up in this tie-breaking category is to hope the Chargers lose to both the Colts and the Chiefs, and then hope that they themselves are victorious against both teams.

So while the Broncos are down, they are definitely not out. For the Chargers, the best way to keep them down is to keep winning. Also, the Broncos most difficult game remaining is a home game against the Colts. The Chargers would do well to stay even with the Colts in the standings, if for no other reason than to keep the Colts from resting their starters in that game at Denver. The division title may already belong to the Chargers by that juncture, but then again, it might not.

So the Chargers need to keep winning, and it all starts this Sunday against the Bucs. The Buccaneers' offense has grown increasingly efficient in recent weeks, which has allowed the team's speedy defense to become more aggressive. The Bucs' front four, although plagued by injuries and personnel losses, can still pressure opposing passers with minimal support from the blitz. Also, their speedy linebackers are well suited for covering pass-catching tight ends such as Antonio Gates. Because of this, the Chargers will need to make adjustments to their offensive game plan.

One thing the Chargers must do is establish the ground game in order to take advantage of the Buccaneers' undersized defensive lineman and linebackers, as well as the injury to strong safety Jermaine Phillips. The Chargers need to run between the tackles, as running side to the eges against a defense with so much team speed is futile. The Chargers should run LT early and often, and would be well advised to get power-back Jesse Chatman back involved in the offense as well.

Also, the offense will need big contributions from its reserve receivers. Kassim Osgood's height provides an excellent matchup against the Bucs' shorter cornerbacks, and Tim Dwight's speed should be used to take one or two deep shots against a defense that tends to sit on underneath routes – provided he is healthy enough to play. Keenan McCardell will receive plenty of attention during the game, and that usually is not a good thing.

If the offense is successful, the Chargers defense should not face too difficult a test. If Jamal Williams, Igor Olshansky and Randall Godfrey can shut down the run, then Steve Foley and Shaun Phillips should be able to apply ample pressure on Griese during obvious passing downs. Griese has typically struggled when under pressure, so this could be a big game for corners Quentin Jammer and Drayton Florence.

While the Chargers just swept through the most important stretch of their season, this is certainly no time for a let down. They have one foot on the Broncos' collective throat, and the other on the pedal as they make their drive to the post-season. All that is left is to buckle up, press down, and make some plays.

Lightning Quicks:

The Chargers signed Malcom Floyd to the active roster on Saturday and released David Brandt. Michael Lombardo can be reached at Lombardo@SanDiegoSports.net

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