LaDainian Tomlinson, despite being listed as questionable, will start Monday night's matchup against the New York Jets. He put in some work during Friday's practice and feels his sprained toe is better now than it was at this point last week. In Week 2, Tomlinson was limited to 10 carries and 26 yards against the Denver Broncos.
RB LaDainian Tomlinson
Whether it's Tomlinson or Sproles in the backfield, the Chargers will look at attack the edges of the Jets' defense. The strength of New York's defense is up the middle, led by massive NT Kris Jenkins and ILBs David Harris and Eric Barton. Also, expect the Bolts to show a renewed favoritism for running left now that Pro Bowl LT Marcus McNeill is back in the lineup.
Although Sproles has been productive this season, the Chargers need a healthy Tomlinson for the offense to run at optimal capacity. The Chargers are only 20-31 when Tomlinson carries less than 20 times in a game and 15-24 when he's kept out of the end zone.
WHEN THE CHARGERS PASS
Philip Rivers grew up idolizing Brett Favre. Rivers brought his A-game when the Chargers played Favre's Green Bay Packers last season, completing 27 of 36 passes (75 percent) for 306 yards, three touchdowns and an interception -- good for a passer rating for 116.2. Remarkably, Rivers' passer rating is even higher through two games this season (122.5).
WR Chris Chambers
The options beyond Chambers and Jackson are limited. Antonio Gates is averaging four catches and 61 yards per game, but he's clearly hindered by the nagging effects of toe and hip injuries. Additionally, backup receivers Legedu Naanee and Buster Davis have yet to carve out consistent roles on offense.
If the passing game is to be successful, the Chargers must hold off a Jets pass rush that's posted eight sacks through two games. The key here is the matchup between San Diego's offense tackles and New York's three pass-rushing outside linebackers (read more). The Chargers have done a good job of keeping Rivers upright thus far, allowing only one sack per game.
WHEN THE JETS RUN
The Chargers enter Monday's game with the eighth-worst run defense in the NFL. Ted Cottrell's unit will be charged with slowing down a New York rushing attack that is set up similar to San Diego's. Thomas Jones (4.4-yard rushing average) is a solid between-the-tackles-runner, while Leon Washington is a speedy change-of-pace back who is a dual threat as a runner and receiver.
DE Luis Castillo
The biggest concern for Cottrell is San Diego's unreasonably high number of missed tackles. Too often the Chargers have stopped an opposing runner in the backfield only to let him squirt free for big yardage. That can't happen on Monday, especially when Washington has the ball.
The Jets revamped their offensive line this offseason to win matchups like this one. New York signed former Pro Bowlers LG Alan Faneca and RT Damien Woody to join 2006 first-round picks LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson and C Nick Mangold. If San Diego's front-seven doesn't play with leverage and discipline, the Jets' offensive line will wear down the Chargers' defense in the second half.
WHEN THE JETS PASS
Over the last two weeks, San Diego's secondary has allowed Jake Delhomme and Jay Cutler to author game-winning drives. Clearly, the last thing the Chargers want to see if the ball in Favre's hands with the game on the line. If Bill Bradley's boys give up a game-winning score for the third consecutive week, the damage to their collective psyche may be too much to overcome.
FS Eric Weddle
When Favre drops back to pass, he has a bevy of enticing options to choose from. Jericho Cotchery is the team's big-play threat, having turned his four receptions into 100 yards. On the opposite side is Laveranues Coles, the team's most established pass-catcher, although he has yet to get in sync with Favre after missing significant time during the preseason with a leg injury. Slot receiver Chansi Stuckey has quickly gotten on the same page with Favre and is tied for the team lead with six receptions.
The Jets figure to attack the Chargers in the middle of the field, since New York has three talented tight ends ready to wreak havoc (read more). San Diego's safeties must be ready, especially Eric Weddle, who has too often been a step late as a first-time starter. Clinton Hart is another player to watch, as he'll be playing with a cast after breaking his hand last week. The odds of him corralling one of Favre's trademark fastballs one-handed are pretty slim.
JUST FOR KICKS
Nate Kaeding connected on all three field goal attempts last week; in doing so, he became the NFL's most accurate kicker (0.872) with a minimum of 100 attempts. On Monday, he'll get a stiff reminder of the most costly miss of his career. It was in a 2005 home playoff game against the Jets that Kaeding missed a 40-yard attempt in overtime that cost the Chargers the victory.
P Mike Scifres
Otto Greule Jr./Getty
The Chargers have a dangerous kick returner of their own in Sproles, whose 103-yard return last week tied a franchise record. Because Sproles is taking on so many responsibilities, Buster Davis has taken over on punt returns. Davis is dying for a big return as he looks to work his way back into Norv Turner's good graces; as it stands, Davis has fallen out of the offensive rotation.
Seeking to contain Sproles and Davis is New York special-teams standout Wallace Wright. Wright is the Jets' version of Kassim Osgood. Another special-teams player to watch is Brandon Siler. The Chargers are leaving Anthony Waters on the inactive list so Siler can stay active and contribute in kick coverage. His strong play needs to justify that decision.
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.