TV: CBS, Gus Johnson, Steve Tasker
2006 RANKINGS: Chargers: offense 5th (2nd rush, 13th pass); defense 9th (7th rush, 14th pass). Bills: offense 29th (26th rush, 30th pass); defense 21st (26th rush, 16th pass).
PREDICTION: Chargers 27-20
KEYS TO THE GAME:
The Bills have allowed a combined 395 rushing yards the past two games and an average of 172 over the past four games -- a frightening figure with red-hot Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson coming to town. Tomlinson has 14 touchdowns while averaging 172 rushing yards the past five games. Part of his success is due to the fact opposing defenses must respect the passing game now that QB Philip Rivers has proven he can hurt teams with his arm. Buffalo knows it will give up yards -- the hope is the defense can clamp down on third down and in the red zone.
The Bills could receive a boost if predicted snow showers provide poor conditions. RB Willis McGahee played a big role in his return last Sunday, but the Chargers are a difficult team to run against consistently. They also get OLB Shawne Merriman back from suspension and if San Diego can stick Buffalo in long passing situations, the Chargers' vaunted pass rush could have a field day against Buffalo's offensive line.
FAST FACTS: Chargers: Coach Marty Schottenheimer needs one victory to tie Dan Reeves (201) for sixth-most all-time. ... Rivers has a 102.2 passer rating in posting a 4-2 road record. Bills: McGahee (3,017) is the seventh Bill to pass 3,000 career rushing yards. ... K Rian Lindell's 82.08 field-goal accuracy percentage is the best in franchise history. ... Final five opponents have a combined 33-22 (.600) record.
--FS Marlon McCree hasn't practiced this week due to his sore calf. He got hurt in the first half against Denver on Nov. 19 and had to be carted from the field. Then he came back and played on it in the second half -- probably not the wisest thing to do.
--S Bhawoh Jue would replace Marlon McCree (calf) if McCree doesn't start. Jue, though, has a knee that often aggravates him.
--OLB Shawne Merriman continues to work as he prepares for his first game back after a four-game suspension.
--RB Michael Turner has yet to test his sore hamstring. If he doesn't play Sunday, rookie Antonio Cromartie would return kicks. Cromartie had an 91-yard return last week. At backup running back would be Andrew Pinnock, which would be a big drop-off from Turner if something should happen to LaDainian Tomlinson.
--SS Matt Bowen, who broke his foot in training camp, saw his first action last Sunday against Jacksonville, playing special teams. If the veteran free agent continues to improve, he could see some action on regular downs backing up rookie Donte Whitner or in special packages when a bigger body is needed against double tight ends.
--QB J.P. Losman, who has led back-to-back winning TD drives on the last possession of the game, wasn't sacked last week for the first time in his 19 career starts. Helping out the line is Losman going to more three- and five-step drops instead of seven-step drops.
--RB Willis McGahee, who returned to the lineup last week after missing two games with three broken ribs, practiced again on a limited basis. He said his ribs will not fully heal until the season is finished and he's playing in pain, but it's tolerable with medication and extra padding.
--TE Robert Royal now has 14 catches for 122 yards, but his 8.7-yard average isn't exactly the kind of downfield threat Buffalo wanted from the position.
--WR Lee Evans is just 116 yards from his first 1,000-yard season.
--DE Anthony Hargrove registered his first sack with the Bills in the fourth quarter against Jacksonville. He now has 1.5 sacks on the year.