LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles both averaged 3.7 ypc last week, the first time they've both hit that plateau in the same game since Week 10 against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Chargers will look to build upon that success against a Titans team that put two linebackers on injured-reserve this week, including 10-year veteran Keith Bulluck, who posted 108 tackles and three interceptions in 14 games.
The Titans rank ninth in run defense (100.4 yards/game), which seems like a mismatch against San Diego's No. 30 run offense. However, the Titans are missing two key cogs and the Chargers will be using the run only to keep Tennessee's defense honest and to set up plays in the passing game. To that end, San Diego's rushing attack will be effective.
Edge -- Chargers
When the Chargers Pass
This is the biggest mismatch of Friday's game and the Chargers must exploit it if they hope to emerge with a victory. The Titans have the worst pass defense in the AFC, allowing more than 265 yards per game. They've already allowed 50 plays of 20-plus yards, the third-highest total in the AFC behind only the Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders. San Diego's offense is tied for first in the league with 57 plays of 20-plus yards.
The biggest issue facing the Titans is how to cover Antonio Gates with Bulluck out of the lineup. If Tennessee commits its safeties to protecting the deep halves of the field -- which it may be forced to do in order to slow Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd -- it will open up countless opportunities underneath for Gates.
Edge -- Chargers
When the Titans Run
RB LaDainian Tomlinson
Here are the key questions regarding San Diego's defense: 1) Can it bring down Chris Johnson once he's stopped, or will he cut back and/or break tackles to make something out of nothing? and 2) Can it stop Vince Young from moving the chains with his legs? The closer San Diego comes to answering these questions with "yes," the closer the Chargers move to bagging the No. 2 seed.
Edge -- Titans
When the Titans Pass
Tennessee's passing offense ranks No. 20, but don't let that statistic fool you -- the Titans pose a lot of problems for the Chargers through the air. Young is playing efficient ball right now, posting a passer rating of over 99.5 in three of his last four games. One of Young's favorite targets is his former Texas teammate, TE Bo Scaife, who ranks fourth on the team with 43 receptions. Scaife has at least four catches in each of the last five games, a trend that should continue against a Chargers defense that struggles to slow tight ends.
The only way for San Diego to win this phase is to force negative plays, in particular, sacks and takeaways. That's easier said than done, however, as Young is sacked just once every 26.25 pass attempts and has turned the ball over only five times in 10 games (four interceptions and a lost fumble).
Edge -- Titans
Just for Kicks
The Chargers and Titans both won last week on game-winning kicks: Nate Kaeding hit a 52-yarder with three seconds left to top the Bengals, while Rob Bironas booted a 46-yarder in overtime to drop the Dolphins. San Diego and Tennessee are both strong across the board on special teams, so in a close game like this figures to be, a big third-phase play by either team could make all the difference.
Edge -- Push
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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. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.