However, the Bucs realize that Coach Norv Turner uses the running game to set up the entire offense. Even when the Chargers aren't gaining many yards on the ground, the Bolts will still pound the rock in hopes of opening up the play-action pass.
"They're very explosive when they want to be," said Bucs DT Chris Hovan of the Chargers offense. "They love to run the ball to set the play-action, and we have to stop the run first and foremost, because we know that's what they're going to do."
RB LaDainian Tomlinson
Former Charger Michael Turner led the Falcons with 152 yards against the Bucs last week. If the Chargers are to sniff that kind of success, Turner's replacement in San Diego, Sproles, must have a big game.
Sproles will be plenty motivated after being denied a Pro Bowl invite on Tuesday. Nonetheless, Tampa Bay is ready for San Diego's mini dynamo.
"When you give [Sproles] the screens, he's something to deal with," said Bucs safety Sabby Piscitelli. "He's probably one of the more explosive backs I've ever seen when he gets the ball in his hands. He's one of those guys we really have to gang tackle and get everyone around the ball."
If Sproles and Tomlinson get on track, it will open things up downfield for the passing game. The Bolts have a couple players on the brink of greatness in that department:
1) QB Philip Rivers is on pace for his first 4,000-yard season.There's also Antonio Gates, who came one reception shy of matching his season-high last week, when he caught seven passes for 78 yards. Gates was named to his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl on Tuesday and will be charged with exposing the vulnerable middle of Tampa's Cover-2 defense.
2) WR Vincent Jackson is 60 yards shy of his first 1,000-yard season.
With so many weapons on-hand for the Chargers, the Bucs offensive players know they must be productive in case the game turns into a shootout.
"We need to put up some points," said TE Jerramy Stevens when asked about Tampa Bay's struggles in the red zone. "This team, San Diego, is going to score."
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.