Scouting Report: Indianapolis Colts

No match-up is more exciting than the San Diego Chargers versus the Indianapolis Colts. In 2004, the Colts beat the Chargers in overtime, 34-31. In 2005, the Chargers returned the favor, winning 26-17 and leaving the Colts three wins short of perfection. The teams will hook up again in week 10 at Qualcomm Stadium in what could very well be a battle for AFC supremacy.

The Colts boast the only offense in the league more explosive than San Diego's. Peyton Manning is the best quarterback in the game and has finally developed some patience to complement his uncanny accuracy. He has the weapons to attack defenses on every level, as he can throw deep to Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, or check down to Dallas Clark and Joseph Addai.

Explosive talent isn't limited to the offense in Indy. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis form the quickest pair of defensive ends in the league; Gary Brackett is a tackling machine in the middle; and Bob Sanders is an enforcer in the secondary.

There are no worries on special teams, where Adam Vinatieri is money in the clutch.

The question with the Colts is whether they lost too much talent in the offseason, as seven players who started at least one game last year have inked deals elsewhere. The defense took the most hits, with Cato June, Nick Harper, Mike Doss and Jason David among the most notable defectors.

So how do the 2007 Chargers stack up with the defending Super Bowl champions? Actually, the match-up gives both teams plenty of reason for optimism.

The Chargers are ideally built to attack the Colts' weaknesses. San Diego can exploit Indy's porous run defense with a combination of LaDainian Tomlinson, who led the league in rushing in 2006, and Michael Turner, who finished second in yards per carry amongst players with 10 or more attempts. On defense, San Diego can pressure Manning with Luis Castillo disrupting things in the middle and Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips coming off the edges.

The Colts provide the Chargers with similar dilemmas. Indy's speed on defense goes a long way towards negating Tomlinson's lateral quickness, causing him to struggle where north-and-south runners like Maurice Jones-Drew and Travis Henry so easily succeed. Also, San Diego's defense is designed not to give up the big play, but is vulnerable to the short passing game that Manning executes with such precision.

Who has the edge when these teams clash in November? It's too close to call. But if you're only going to attend one Chargers game this year, the showdown with Indy is the one to see.

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