Can the Chargers steal another win?

The Chargers enter Sunday's game with the Colts as playoff underdogs for the first time since 1995. Nonetheless, the Bolts feel they have what it takes to make it three straight over Indy. Here's a look at the matchups and scenarios that will determine which team advances to the AFC Championship.

OFFENSIVE MATCHUP TO WATCH: OT Marcus McNeill vs. DE Robert Mathis

After capping off his rookie season with a Pro Bowl appearance, McNeill regressed in an up-and-down 2007 season. However, he is coming off one of his best games in which he stonewalled Pro Bowl defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch. McNeill put in extra work before practice every day last week and the results spoke for themselves. He will maintain that same routine as he prepares to lock horns with Mathis.

Mathis averages 9.6 sacks per season over the last four years. He boasts a lightning quick first step and unparalleled closing speed. Although he is undersized (6 foot 2, 245 pounds), he plays with great leverage and is surprisingly stout against the run. Mathis will be looking for the sack-strip coming from Philip Rivers' blindside and it will be up to the nimble-footed McNeill to stop him.

DEFENSIVE MATCHUP TO WATCH: CB Quentin Jammer vs. WR Marvin Harrison

Jammer doesn't pile up the picks like Antonio Cromartie, but he is every bit as solid in coverage. He will be pitted against future Hall of Fame receiver Harrison, who will see his first action since Oct. 22 as he works his way back from a knee injury.

Jammer is always in good position but lacks the recovery speed and anticipation to shut down a top receiver like Harrison. However, Jammer may get a reprieve on Sunday if Harrison is not in sync with Peyton Manning following such a long layoff.

When Jammer played Harrison in the past, he gave him a large cushion to protect against the deep ball. On Sunday, Jammer may want to press Harrison on the line and make him prove he hasn't lost his deep speed. It certainly wouldn't hurt to make Harrison put pressure on his ailing knee by forcing him to fight for a clean release.

THE CHARGERS WILL WIN IF…LaDainian Tomlinson rushes for more than 100 yards, something he has never done against the Colts. It is imperative that the Chargers wear down the undersized Colts and prevent them from teeing off on Rivers. Also, handing the ball to Tomlinson is the best way to prevent turnovers against a Colts team that ranks second in the league in turnover differential (plus-18). Tomlinson did not fumble once this season despite tallying 374 touches.

THE CHARGERS WILL LOSE IF…Joseph Addai runs for more than 3 yards per carry. San Diego will load up to stop the run and try to make the Colts one-dimensional. Manning will get his yards regardless, so the key is to avoid getting stabbed with both sides of the sword. The Chargers want to stop the run on early downs and force Manning into obvious passing situations, when Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips can go to work on the edges. In the Week 10 game, Addai carried 22 times for 56 yards (2.5-yard average).

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.


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