2005 RANKINGS: Bills: offense 29th (13th rush, 29th pass); defense 13th (31st rush, 2nd pass). Chargers: offense 9th (10th rush, 11th pass); defense 21st (1st rush, 30th pass)
Bills: Have not had a 300-yard passer in past 39 games. Are outscoring opponents 40-10 in the first quarter.
Chargers: Brees has thrown at least one touchdown pass in a career-high seven consecutive games. Coach Marty Schottenheimer played for Buffalo from 1965-68.
PREDICTION: Chargers 30-23
KEYS TO THE GAME:
It doesn't require watching game tape to know the Bills are struggling to stop the run. They are allowing a whopping 150.7 rushing yards per game, which is a frightening number with Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson coming off a bye week. It's essential for Buffalo to at least contain Tomlinson and make QB Drew Brees force the ball against their second-ranked pass defense.
The Bills will start QB J.P. Losman, who showed an increased ability to throw vertically after replacing injured Kelly Holcomb last Sunday. The Chargers' biggest weakness is their secondary, and the Bills must capitalize on that vulnerability. RB Willis McGahee is the focal point of the offense, but the Chargers' front seven is very strong against the run and McGahee won't have a chance unless Losman is able to force San Diego to respect the pass.
Steve Foley (strained abdominal) isn't getting worse. But he's not getting better, either, so he might be down for the third straight game, despite practicing this week. If he can't go, Shaun Phillips gets the start. Phillips has been productive while filling in; he has four sacks.
Shawne Merriman didn't work Thursday as he was hit by a migraine headache before practice but returned to the practice field Friday. He said he will be fine for Sunday.
Drayton Florence (ankle) has practiced all week after missing three of the past four games. Sammy Davis will step aside as the starter if the coaches determine Florence can go Sunday. That appears to be the case, barring any setbacks.
Nick Hardwick (ankle) is returning on Sunday, and that should give a boost to an offensive line that has been inconsistent of late. Hardwick missed the past three games.
Keenan McCardell needs 34 receiving yards Sunday to pass Lance Alworth for 21st on the NFL's all-time list. Alworth will be on hand Sunday as his old No. 19 jersey is retired at halftime.
Vincent Jackson skipped practice after tweaking a hamstring.
Ben Leber (foot) didn't practice and is questionable. He is a backup to Shawne Merriman.
J.P. Losman took all the repetitions with the first unit on Thursday in anticipation of his return to the starting lineup Sunday in San Diego. Veteran Kelly Holcomb, who has started the past five games, suffered a concussion in last Sunday's win over Kansas City and has not been able to practice this week. Losman rallied the Bills past the Chiefs with two TD throws.
KR/CB Terrence McGee remains questionable for the Chargers with a sore hamstring he re-injured last Sunday. McGee could practice only on a limited basis Thursday. It's likely that with more rest through the weekend he will suit up Sunday, but he won't be 100 percent.
Troy Vincent returned to practice Thursday after re-injuring his shoulder. MRI results were negative. He will play Sunday at San Diego.
Sam Adams, who missed last week's game with swelling on the knee, dressed for practice Thursday but was very limited in what he could do. The Bills were hoping the bye week plus giving Adams last Sunday off would allow him to return to 100 percent, but his knee has been slow to respond. His absence would be felt Sunday when the team tries to defend star Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson.
Greg Jerman, a key reserve who missed the past two games with a high ankle sprain, returned to practice on Thursday. With struggling Mike Williams as their only backup tackle, the Bills would welcome Jerman's return to full strength for the season's stretch drive.