Five to Watch: Chargers vs. Titans

It has been 14 years since the Chargers won a playoff game, a drought they'll look to end on Sunday against the Titans. Five key players will decide whether the Chargers move on to Indianapolis or go one-and-done for the third time in four years.

1. LaDainian Tomlinson averaged 112 yards over the past six games, despite sitting out the fourth quarter in three of them. Having snagged his second consecutive NFL rushing title, he'll be running with a bull's-eye on his back from here on out. What kind of strategy do the Titans have in mind?

"Not let (Tomlinson) get long runs, make their team drive the ball down the field and not let them have the big plays, the big home-run plays where they just take it to the house," Titans DE Kyle Vanden Bosch said.

In the last meeting with the Titans, Tomlinson was forced to work for every yard -- nine of his carries were for 1 yard or less.

"It was a tough game last time we played them, and we barely escaped with a victory. We don't have an edge at all. We're going to have to earn everything that we get from these guys," Tomlinson said.

Tomlinson is ranked No. 18 on the all-time rushing list with 10,650 yards. He joins O.J. Simpson, (16th and 11,236 yards) as the only players in league history with 10,000 yards rushing and no postseason wins on their résumé.

2. Jamal Williams returns to action after missing the last two games due to hip flexor and ankle injuries. His absence on the field was obvious, as the Chargers allowed 214 yards on the ground against the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders.

With Williams' return, the massive holes that were present the past two games will slammed shut. Williams will look to eliminate RB LenDale White from the Titans' running game. White posted 1,110 rushing yards and seven touchdowns this season.

3. Antonio Cromartie, named AFC Player of the Month for December, leads the NFL with 10 interceptions. Cromartie and Titans WR Justin Gage, tied for the team lead with 55 receptions, will engage in frequent battles downfield.

Cromartie is a big play waiting to happen. Although he didn't start until Week 12, he has already set a single-season franchise record for interceptions to go along with his three touchdowns (interception return, fumble recovery and missed field goal return).

4. Philip Rivers has thrown for more than 3,100 yards this season and has proven more consistent in the second half of the season. He fumbled the ball a total of five times in Weeks 9 and 10, but has put the ball on the ground only once since.

In the last meeting with the Titans, Rivers tossed two interceptions and was sacked four times. With Titans DT Albert Haynesworth (40 tackles, 6 sacks) ready to ransack Rivers, Rivers will be expected to make quick, accurate and intelligent decisions. Heading into the playoffs, excessive turnovers would surely doom the Chargers. San Diego won only one game this season when it lost the turnover battle (coincidentally, it was the game against the Titans).

5. Mike Scifres set a career-high by landing 36 punts inside the 20-yard line and just missed setting a team single-season record with his 46.1-yard average.

Given Scifres' powerful leg, many have wondered why he didn't take over kickoff duties for the injured Nate Kaeding.

"I think he's the best punter in the league and the things he does for our team, you can't appreciate him enough," said Norv Turner of Scifres.

"If we got in a situation with Mike kicking off and punting and something happened to him we'd be in a tough spot. It was a combination of things."

Titans P Craig Hentrich also credits Scifres as NFL's best young punter.

"He's head and shoulders above everybody in this league," Hentrich said. "Probably he and (Oakland's) Shane Lechler are the two strongest guys. But in the end, I would probably go with Scifres."


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