The Week Ahead

The San Diego Chargers face the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at Miami in a meeting of top teams in the AFC. The Chargers are 7-3 and are tied for the division lead in the West and the Dolphins are 6-4 atop the East. Game time is 10 AM PST.

Miami (6-4) ended a streak of three consecutive losses, all with Ray Lucas starting for Jay Fiedler, who will likely miss two more games with a broken thumb. Lucas completed 18 of 26 passes for 221 yards to help beat the Baltimore Ravens 26-7. Ricky Williams tied a team record with his fifth 100-yard rushing game, but his first in five games. He gained 102 yards in 26 carries and scored two touchdowns.

Drew Brees completed 29 of 50 passes for 336 yards, all career highs, with two touchdowns, with one interception leading the Chargers back from a 17-7 deficit to win in overtime on a 40 yard Steve Christie field goal. LaDainian Tomlinson, the NFL's leading rusher who was working behind a makeshift line, had 88 yards on 24 carries, giving him 1,053 for the year. He also caught eight passes for 57 yards. Wide receiver Curtis Conway had seven catches for 152 yards. This was the second overtime win for the Chargers this year, they beat Oakland on Oct. 20th 27-21.

This is a game of defenses. The Chargers are third in the league in defending the run allowing 92.8 yards per game and the Dolphins are second in the league allowing 92.1 yards per game.

With running backs Tomlinson and Williams expected to be held to minimal yards throughout the game, the quarterbacks will feel the pressure. Lucas is 72 of 126 for 811 yards with two touchdowns and six interceptions since taking over for the injured Fiedler. Brees is 190 of 309 for 1999 yards with 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions on the season.

Brees has proved he can put the game in his hands to win a game; Lucas may have to do just that to win this week.

5 Keys to a Charger Victory

1. Contain Randy McMichael. McMichael is third on the Dolphins in receptions with 30 and leads the team in touchdown receptions. Donnie Edwards has been stellar in covering receivers and backs and he will be tested by this super rookie.

2. Read the defense. Brees will have to rely on his talents as a quarterback in reading coverages. The Dolphins secondary is one of the best in the league and is led by Patrick Surtain who leads the team with five interceptions.

3. Disguise coverages on defense. Lucas is not having a fluid transition back into the starting lineup. By disguising coverage they may force Lucas into situations when he will throw into coverage.

4. Limit Ricky. Stack the line against Williams. Williams has seemed quicker on his feet this year and stopping him could limit the Dolphins offense.

5. Attempt to block Zach Thomas. Fred McCrary as the lead blocker must bust through the hole and cut off the lanes that Thomas always seems to find. He leads the Dolphins in tackles with 95 and taking him off his game could provide big lanes to run through.

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