Five to Watch: Chargers vs. Colts

The Bolts gear up to strike down the defending Super Bowl champs. San Diego is considered a sizable underdog, but Chargers players believe they can topple any team when they're on their game. Five players could tilt the playing field in San Diego's favor.

1. Philip Rivers proved last week against the Tennessee Titans that the Chargers are not a one-man show. Although he struggled in the first half, his composure prevailed down the stretch as he went 12 of 17 for 194 yards and a touchdown.

Rivers needs another big game if the Chargers are to oust the defending champs. His top priority is to protect the ball against a defense that finished second in the league with 22 interceptions. He also must find a way to make big plays down the field against a defense designed to prevent exactly that.

2. LaDainian Tomlinson wasn't stopped by the Titans, but he sure was contained (42 yards on 21 carries). Pressured by all four corners, he never displayed dismay; on the contrary, he seemed amped by the challenge. Having two consecutive NFL rushing titles under his belt, he embraced the challenge of making something out of nothing.

Colts S Bob Sanders, who was named the AP Defensive Player of the Year, will shadow LT in what should be the game's best matchup. The Colts allow 106.9 rushing yards per game and have held Tomlinson under the century mark in all three career meetings.

3. Antonio Cromartie snatched three of Peyton Manning's career-high six interceptions in Week 10. As the NFL's leader with 10 interceptions, Manning should expect Cromartie's pressure on his passes once again.

Receivers Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison will look to shake Cromartie, whose tight coverage earned him three votes for Defensive Player of the Year. Wayne had 10 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown in the last meeting; Harrison has 442 yards on 27 catches in his last three games against San Diego.

4. Vincent Jackson had his best game of the season against the Titans, marking his first playoff touchdown and his first career 100-yard game. His success should continue against the Colts, especially if Antonio Gates is on the sidelines due to a toe injury.

Jackson averages more than 17 yards per catch in his two meeting against Indy. It certainly helps that Jackson has 4 inches on the tallest player in the Colts' secondary.

5. Shawne Merriman has led the Chargers in sacks in each of his first three seasons. He showed that knack for big plays last Sunday, when he forced Titans RB Chris Brown to fumble deep in Chargers territory, which Shaun Phillips recovered.

"Forcing the fumble down there was big," Norv Turner said. "Holding them to field goals was big. We made some key plays."

Look for Merriman to make more key plays on Sunday as he goes for his third consecutive playoff game with a sack. His hands will be full trying to limit Joseph Addai, as the Colts average 89 yards on the ground in home playoff games.


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