Michael Lombardo: I believe Tomlinson will return to his record-breaking form, but it won't be this week against the Bills. Tomlinson's injured big right toe is slowly improving with each passing week, but I don't see him getting back to 100 percent until the Chargers hit their bye in Week 9.
Even when healthy, I don't see LT returning to his 2006 form when he scored a single-season record 31 touchdowns. LT is 29 years old and just the second player in NFL history to log more than 350 touches from scrimmage in each of his first seven seasons. So even though he can still be an upper-echelon running back when healthy, his MVP days have likely fallen by the wayside.
TD: Who are the Chargers? One week they're losing to Miami, the next they're embarrassing New England. Are the talent-rich Chargers a Super Bowl contender?
LB Shawne Merriman
That being said, the Chargers do have legitimate concerns. The offense lacks a power runner who can bang between the tackles; the defense struggles to consistently pressure quarterbacks sans Shawne Merriman; and the special teams rely on a kicker in Nate Kaeding who has a history of missing under pressure. Nonetheless, I still rank the Chargers as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
TD: How does Antonio Cromartie always find himself in the right place at the right time? Do you see him wreaking havoc this Sunday (is his hip injury of any concern)?
ML: Cromartie is blessed with amazing athleticism, which allows him to take chances other corners wouldn't consider. He can play with his eyes in the backfield, knowing he has the speed and vertical leap to recover if beaten. He also has terrific instincts and a knack for breaking on the ball at the perfect time.
Unfortunately, Cromartie's thirst for interceptions can get him in trouble. He sometimes gets caught guessing, which leaves his safeties hanging out to dry. In fact, the cornerback the Bills should worry about most is Quentin Jammer. The seven-year veteran is quietly enjoying the best year of his career; if Jammer doesn't make the Pro Bowl this season, an investigation should be launched.
TD: How has 5-foot-6 Darren Sproles' role in the offense progressed over the past couple seasons, and how will it continue to grow?
RB Darren Sproles
Sproles' role will continue to increase, depending on the play of Tomlinson. Sproles' former college coach at Kansas State, Bill Snyder, once told me that Sproles is destined to be an every-down player at some point in his NFL career. I wouldn't be surprised if that time comes in the next couple seasons, either in San Diego or somewhere else. Remember, Sproles will be an unrestricted free agent after the season.
TD: What is San Diego's biggest weakness on defense, and what specific players should the Bills' offense exploit Sunday?
LB Shaun Phillips
The Bills will likely attack the Chargers between the hashes. Starting ILB Tim Dobbins is a liability in pass coverage, while starting safeties Clinton Hart and Eric Weddle lack man-coverage skills. Also, if Buffalo can spread San Diego out and force its outside linebackers to drop into coverage rather than rushing the passer, it would be a big advantage for the Bills.
TD: Is there lingering bitterness from the Denver debacle a few weeks back when a horrendous no-fumble call decided the game? How has the team harnessed that energy?
ML: The Chargers do a good job of taking things one game at a time, rarely looking back or looking ahead, which is something former coach Marty Schottenheimer instilled in many of this team's leaders. The Chargers aren't thinking about that loss anymore, although that may change if the team finds itself one game back in the standings come December.
Luckily for the Chargers, they are used to overcoming slows starts, having followed a nearly identical path just last season. What's unlucky, of course, is having a game stolen from them in what will be a very tight AFC race. Ed Hochuli deserves every bit of grief sent his way because of that call. Not only was the play clearly a fumble, but referees are trained to swallow their whistles when in doubt. Hochuli's performance in that game was inexcusable.
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.