The speed of the Colts linebackers -- this year, the corps consists of Freddie Keiaho, Gary Brackett and Clint Session -- negates much of Tomlinson's evasiveness in space. Also, Indy's zone defense leaves few cutback lanes for Tomlinson to exploit.
However, the Chargers cannot afford to get pass-happy against the Colts. Firstly, there must be an emphasis on keeping Philip Rivers out of third-and-long situations. Defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are two of the best pass-rushers in the game and know how to generate sacks and turnovers.
QB Peyton Manning
The Chargers have a tendency to give too many possessions to opposing offenses, as San Diego ranks in the league's bottom half-dozen in time of possession (27:58). In fact, San Diego's defense has faced more plays than any other team in the AFC, an average of 67.5 per contest.
To counter that disturbing trend, the Chargers will rely on short passes to the running backs out of the backfield. Tomlinson figures to be in for a busy day, as he's caught at least four balls in each of his last three regular-season games against the Colts.
Darren Sproles will also be used as a receiver, although he figures to be a marked man this week. During last year's Divisional Round matchup, it was Sproles who gave the Chargers the lead going into the fourth quarter with a 56-yard touchdown on a well designed screen pass.
What the Chargers lack is a bruising back, a la Michael Turner, to pound the ball straight ahead and simply wear down Indianapolis' undersized defensive front seven. North-and-south runners do best against the Colts, as Indianapolis has the speed to snuff out any runs that go sideways.
The most powerful running back on San Diego's roster is Jacob Hester, but there's no way he sees his first significant playing time in a game of this magnitude. Rookie Mike Tolbert will likely get called on for a couple of fullback dives in short-yardage situations, but that's about the extent of his impact as a runner.
Whoever is carrying the ball, power and decisiveness will be the name of the game. The Chargers must impose their will on the Colts or they'll have to superimpose themselves into the playoff picture.
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.