Five to Watch: Offensive Special

The San Diego Chargers host the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday and will be playing for their playoff lives. The pressure will be on the offense to deliver a better showing, as the Chargers lost last week despite the defense not surrendering a touchdown. With that in mind, here's a look at five offensive players who will lead the charge for San Diego.

1. Philip Rivers is the top rated quarterback in the AFC (100.8) but needs to protect the ball better after throwing two costly penalties against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He leads the league in touchdown passes with 21, but failed to throw one in last week's game for the first time this season.

Although the pressure will be on Rivers to go score-for-score with Peyton Manning, Rivers will have to resist the urge to force the action. If Manning plays similar to last week, the Bolts are in for a ride, as he completed 30-of-46 passes for 320 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in a 33-27 win over the Houston Texans.

2. LaDainian Tomlinson has recorded just two 100-yard games in ten tries this season. He will need to provide balance and variation to the Chargers offense to prevent the Colts pass-rushers from teeing off on Rivers.

The Colts rushing defense is not the strongest, ranked at No. 25 in the league with an average of 138.5 rushing yards per game. However, the Colts are adept at forcing fumbles, as Indy has forced 14 of them this season. Ball security will be key for Tomlinson, who has yet to lose a fumble in 2008.


TE Antonio Gates
Doug Pensinger/Getty

3. Antonio Gates followed two strong performances with a disappointing one when he logged two grabs for 10 yards against the Steelers. Now healthy, Gates has shown what he can do and leads all tight ends with six touchdowns, two of them in the past three games.

Gates will face a set of fast and talented linebackers, as well as a Colts pass defense that ranks No. 9 in the league. The Indianapolis defense can wrap up receivers and drag them down as they have a combined 788 tackles this year.

4. Vincent Jackson has suffered from a bad case of butter fingers of late, as he leads the Bolts with four dropped passes. He has a career-high 646 receiving yards this season, but recorded just 25 yards against the Steelers. He has not scored a touchdown since Week 7 against the New Orleans Saints.

Jackson will be shadowed by cornerbacks that will be dwarfed by him, as not one of the Colts corners is over 6 feet tall. At 6'5", Jackson will be a prime target for Rivers to throw high passes where only Jackson can grab them.

5. Marcus McNeill will have the unenviable task of protecting Rivers' blindside from one of the NFL's premier pass-rushers. Rivers was sacked twice during the game against Pittsburgh, including once in the end zone, where McNeill found himself with the ball in his hands at the worst time possible.

McNeill will have to hold off Dwight Freeney, who has reasserted his dominant form with four sacks in the last two games. Freeney has 18 tackles, seven sacks and two forced fumbles this season.


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