Chargers - Cardinals gameday

This is the 11th meeting between the Chargers and Cardinals. The Chargers lead, 7-3, although they have dropped two of the last three games with Arizona. The Chargers beat the visiting Cardinals in 1995, 28-25, in their last meeting in San Diego.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET
GAMEDATE: 1/21/06
SURFACE: Grass TV: FOX, Matt Devlin, Dale Hellestrae

2006 RANKINGS: Cardinals: offense 25th (30th rush, 10th pass); defense 29th (16th rush, 30th pass). Chargers: offense 4th (3rd rush, 16th pass); defense 7th (8th rush, 12th pass)

PREDICTION: Chargers 37-21


With QB Kurt Warner starting in place of injured Matt Leinart, the Cardinals certainly need to get production out of RB Edgerrin James. The problem is San Diego's front seven should be able to win the battle in the trenches, which would leave the immobile Warner exposed to the league's top pass rushing defense.

If Arizona can somehow manage to create shorter passing situations, WRs Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald should be able to work effectively against San Diego's cover men.

The Chargers' offense needs to get first-year starting QB Philip Rivers back on track -- he has had a passer rating of 85.4 or lower in four of his past five games.

RB LaDainian Tomlinson is enough to beat the Cardinals at home, but the Chargers know they will need to regain some semblance of a balanced attack heading into the playoffs.

FAST FACTS: Cardinals: S Adrian Wilson is the only player in the NFL with at least 5.0 sacks and four interceptions. ... Boldin has joined Roy Green as the only Cardinals with three 1,000-yard seasons. Chargers: Clinch home-field advantage with a victory. ... Tomlinson needs two rushing touchdowns to tie Priest Holmes' NFL record of 48 over a two-year span (2002-03).


--SS Adrian Wilson has improved greatly in pass coverage. He has four interceptions this year and has come close to making several other big plays.

--RB Edgerrin James has 1,093 rushing yards this season, an Arizona Cardinals single-season record.

--WR Troy Walters, who also returns punts, won't play Sunday because of a sprained ankle. Bryant Johnson will take over the punt return duties.

--MLB Gerald Hayes will miss his second consecutive game with a fractured rib. Monty Beisel will start in his place.

--DT Chris Cooper, signed by the team in late September, has been a nice addition. He's a backup at both tackle spots, and there's not much of a drop-off when he's in the game.


--DE Luis Castillo isn't working much, and he's pointing his return toward the second week of the playoffs; the Chargers have a first-round bye. He'll likely miss his second consecutive game Sunday due to a sprained ankle.

--LT Marcus McNeill continues to work and should go Sunday. The Chargers had a scare Sunday when he came out with a stinger in the neck area.

--DE Derreck Robinson is a backup, but he's an important part of the rotation to keep the starters fresh. Robinson has to monitor a foot injury, but he should be able to contribute Sunday.

--CB Antonio Cromartie will see the field plenty this week as the Cardinals will employ their three-wide set regularly. Cromartie has held up fairly well in his rookie year, although he is apt to allow too much cushion in his coverages.

--With WR Eric Parker's neck always a concern for him lasting an entire game, Keenan McCardell would take over Parker's punt return duties if needed. But McCardell seldom does more than fair catch punts, so don't expect big yards coming from him being back there.

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