Five to Watch: Chargers vs. Lions

In week 15, the Chargers are in a good spot to clinch the AFC West. However, they're still on the wall because their Pro Bowlers had a great fall. It's time for their backups to put the Chargers together again. Here are five key players to watch in Sunday's game.

FB Andrew Pinnock: The absence of Lorenzo Neal (fibula) impacts several aspects of Sunday's game. The Chargers will miss the maturity and experience he brings to the offense. Having Neal sidelined is unfamiliar territory for San Diego. The 15-year veteran has played in 221 consecutive games.

Neal's deficiency could work in San Diego's favor. Pinnock could bring a surprise element in Sunday's play calling. The last chance Pinnock had to shine was in week 17 in 2004. Against the Kansas City Chiefs he rushed nine times for 26 yards and caught three balls for 26 yards.

LB Marquees Harris: As Shawne Merriman's (knee) backup, Harris will start the most important game of his young career. When Merriman went down last Sunday against the Titans, Harris stepped in and earned three tackles. His most productive game this year came in week eight against the Houston Texans, when Harris recorded four tackles. He has one sack on the season and 5.5 in his three-year career. Although his strength is rushing the passer, he has never finished with more than one sack in a game or three sacks in a season.

LB Jyles Tucker: The rookie, who moved up quickly from practice squad to the active roster, will also see reps in Merriman's place. Tucker is just 14 pounds lighter and an inch shorter than Merriman, and boasts a similarly aggressive demeanor. In Tucker's first active game against the Baltimore Ravens he made a ferocious tackle on KR Yamon Figurs. Tucker has at least one tackle in every game this season.

WR Legedu Naanee: The rookie out of Boise State could receive a number of passes on Sunday if Craig Davis's Achilles acts up. The Chargers are calling Davis probable after limited participation in Thursday's practice and full in Friday's. Naanee caught at least one pass in every game during weeks 9-12, but has been shut out since. Davis has 15 receptions for 129 yards and is finding his niche with the team.

RB Darren Sproles: Davis's probability also affects Sproles's part in Sunday's game. Sproles is healthy after spraining his knee in week 13 and could be the primary punt returner. He has the ability to lift off, but has stayed grounded for most of the season -- with the obvious expcetion of the Indianapolis game (two returns for touchdowns).

Amberly Richardson is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a correspondent for She has contributed to the official Web sites of Shawne Merriman, Lorenzo Neal, Shaun Phillips and others for Sixthman Communications.

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