Game Scout: Chargers vs. Bucs

The Chargers are back on the road, looking for their third consecutive win and fourth straight in Tampa Bay. Scout.com looks at the latest injury news, keys to the game and scoop from both camps.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 12/21/08
SURFACE: Grass
TV: CBS (Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf)

SERIES: 9th regular-season meeting. The Chargers have dominated this series as they have won seven of the eight contests. That includes all three of them played at Tampa Bay. This will be the first time, though, they have played in Raymond James Stadium.

PREDICTION: Bucs 19-17

KEYS TO THE GAME:


RB LaDainian Tomlinson
Harry How/Getty

Chargers: The Bucs have given up 474 combined rushing yards the past two weeks and have several defensive starters nicked up. It's an opportunity for San Diego's on again, off again (mostly off) ground game to get the Chargers into the flow in a long cross-country road game. But the Chargers first have to be willing to give RB LaDainian Tomlinson consistent touches. Getting L.T. involved would also help settle excitable QB Philip Rivers, who must remain patient against the Tampa-2.

Buccaneers: The Bucs might not know who will be under center until QB Jeff Garcia tests his injured calf on Sunday. A big part of Garcia's game is his mobility, so coach Jon Gruden will likely turn to Brian Griese if Garcia isn't close to 100 percent. Tampa Bay hasn't been able to get the ground game untracked of late, but the Bucs need to give RB Warrick Dunn and Cadillac Williams early carries because San Diego tends to pick up sacks in streaks.

Key Injuries:

Chargers: WR Malcolm Floyd (lung) is out; FB Mike Tolbert (shoulder) may play.

Bucs: Garcia (calf) is uncertain; LB Derrick Brooks (rib) and DT Chris Hovan (knee) should play.

Need to know: The Chargers are 4-0 all-time at Tampa. ... The Bucs clinch a playoff spot with a win and losses by Atlanta and Philadelphia or Dallas. ... Bucs WR Antonio Bryant has tied his career high with six touchdown receptions.

PERSONNEL NEWS

Chargers: --WR Malcolm Floyd (lung) is out this week and could miss the following game as well. Legedu Naanee and Kassim Osgood will see additional playing time.

--C Nick Hardwick (concussion) will start Sunday.


FB Mike Tolbert
Stephen Dunn/Getty

--FB Mike Tolbert (shoulder) could be active this week.

--DT Jamal Williams will start this week.

--S Clinton Hart (neck) practiced Thursday and will play Sunday.

--CB Quentin Jammer (ill) worked Thursday and will start Sunday.

--ILB Stephen Cooper (knee) worked Thursday and will start Sunday.

--LB Anthony Waters (hamstring) didn't work Thursday and he could be down this week.

--WR Vincent Jackson (concussion) worked Thursday and is fine.

Bucs:

--QB Jeff Garcia (calf) took most of the reps with the first-team offense and is expected to start Sunday against the Chargers.

--QB Brian Griese also is preparing to start Sunday against the Chargers in case Jeff Garcia is unable to go.

--DT Jovan Haye (knee), who was limited to about a half-dozen plays in Sunday's game at Atlanta, participated fully in practice Thursday.

--DT Chris Hovan, (knee) who did not play at Atlanta Sunday, participated fully in practice Thursday.

--G Jeremy Zuttah (ankle) was limited in practice Thursday.

--LB Derrick Brooks (ribs) was limited in practice Thursday but is expected to play Sunday against the Chargers.

INSIDE THE CAMPS

Chargers:

If the Chargers are to defeat the Bucs Sunday and keep their playoff hopes alive, they're just as likely to do it through the air.

Quarterback Philip Rivers is tied for the NFL lead with 28 touchdown passes.


WR Vincent Jackson
Donald Miralle/Getty

And Jackson is primed to reach 1,000 yards receiving.

That's a big deal around a team that has leaned on the run.

If Jackson collects 60 yards in the next two games, he'll be the first San Diego wideout to hit 1,000 since Curtis Conway in 2001.

"He's made big play, after big play, after big play," Rivers said. "And really he has been as consistent as he can be, week in and week out."

Jackson is near 1,000 despite having but 50 receptions. His 18.8 yards per catch average is tops among the NFL's first 25 receiving leaders. But his reception total is the second fewest.

The Chargers figure to test the Bucs' run defense with LaDainian Tomlinson considering Tampa Bay's struggles of late.

But don't be surprised when, needing a big chunk, Rivers doesn't try to find Jackson. Rivers continues to look his way more, and Jackson is taking advantage.

And Jackson could be a larger focal point with No. 3 receiver Malcolm Floyd out with a collapsed lung,

"I don't feel like I've done anything different, it's just a matter of getting the opportunity to put up some numbers," Jackson said.

Bucs:

Barrett Ruud isn't sure what it takes to be named to the Pro Bowl.

Ruud leads the Bucs with 154 tackles. The next closest player is Derrick Brooks, who was named to his 11th Pro Bowl, with 97.


LB Barrett Ruud
Getty

"The old saying is usually you go a couple years after you're supposed to and you stay a couple years longer," Ruud said. "I'm not going to throw a tantrum or anything. I would've liked to have gone. Everybody wants to have that tag as a Pro Bowler but unfortunately, it didn't happen so all I can do is keep playing to get into the playoffs now."

San Francisco's Patrick Willis and Carolina's Jon Beason were voted to the NFC team at inside linebacker, a position that's hard for fans to evaluate.

"And when you don't get up and have a big-time celebration, sometimes they don't know who did anything," Ruud said. "I can definitely see why I get kind of ignored or not recognized by the casual fan."

Getting overlooked is nothing new to Ruud. "I was a three-star recruit in Super Prep magazine," Ruud said. "I never got that much attention. But at the same time, I've had players say stuff to me and that means a lot. I would be lying if I said I never want to be a Pro Bowler, but it does mean the most when players come up and say they really like what we're doing. That really does mean a lot. I would be lying if I said I never want to be a Pro Bowler, but it does mean the most when players come up and say they really like what we're doing. That really does mean the most. The Pro Bowl tag is always nice too."

But Ruud was not even named an alternate. "I got the shaft," Ruud said. "Somebody's got to get it, though."


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