Week 9 @ Minnesota Vikings: Rookie RB Adrian Peterson put the league on notice with his 224-yard, three-touchdown performance against the Chicago Bears in week six. On Sunday, Wade Phillips' Dallas Cowboys were able to keep him in check to the tune of 12 carries for 63 yards and a score. Ted Cottrell, a Phillips protégé, will be seeking similar results in week nine.
Week 10 vs. Indianapolis Colts: With all the attention given to Tom Brady, the continued excellence of Peyton Manning has almost gone unnoticed. Manning enters week seven with a 5:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio (10-2) and a sparkling 108.6 passer rating. He will look to pick apart a San Diego secondary that ranks No. 25 in the league and allows quarterbacks to complete more than 64 percent of their pass attempts.
Week 12 vs. Baltimore Ravens: OLB Terrell Suggs is off to a slow start this season with just two sacks in seven games. However, he has the ability to dominate off the edge. Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan will move Suggs all over the field, making it difficult to account for him. Philip Rivers has made poor decisions under duress this season, so it will be crucial to keep Suggs out of the pocket.
Week 13 @ Kansas City Chiefs: Jared Allen is a dominant defensive end and has racked up a league-best eight sacks in just five games this season. However, the Chargers have a dominant left tackle, Marcus McNeill, who is capable of neutralizing him. The player that the Chargers worry about is sophomore DE Tamba Hali, whose speed and relentless pursuit can cause problems for Shane Olivea on the other side of the line. Hali has 2.5 sacks this season.
Week 14 @ Tennessee Titans: Nothing is more disheartening for a football fan than seeing Vince Young line up for the opposing team. He does just enough to keep his team in the game and then takes over late in the fourth quarter. The Chargers will use Matt Wilhelm to spy on Young, but even that may not be enough to keep V.Y. from willing his team to victory.
Week 16 vs. Denver Broncos: Nine-year veteran Champ Bailey has 40 career interceptions and is the closest thing to a shutdown cornerback in the NFL. Flanked by former Pro Bowlers Dre' Bly and John Lynch, he has the Broncos' pass defense ranked No. 1 after six weeks. He will spend time shadowing Antonio Gates and Chris Chambers and will force Norv Turner to scheme around him.
Week 17 @ Oakland Raiders: It is difficult to tell how JaMarcus Russell will fare after missing his entire rookie training camp. However, the Raiders will let him fire away in a season finale that is certain to be meaningless for the Silver and Black. Russell has a big arm and some capable targets in Jerry Porter and Ronald Curry. The Chargers may need this game to get in the playoffs. If they do, Russell will make them work to punch their ticket.
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. He has followed the Chargers for more than 14 years and covered the team since 2003.