Jaguars / Chargers Game Preview I

Game preview of the Jacksonville Jaguars and San Diego Chargers

San Diego Chargers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Sunday, November 18, 2007

1:00 p.m., Jacksonville Municipal Stadium

Kickoff Temperature: 72 degrees, 10% chance of precipitation

Line: Jaguars by 3

San Diego offense- 25th overall (25th passing, 16th rushing); Scoring-10th (23.6 ppg.) Vs. Jacksonville defense- 23rd overall (27th passing, 15th rushing); Scoring-8th (18.2 ppg.)

The Chargers return six Pro Bowlers from a year ago on offense, however their numbers are mediocre to poor on offense. The main weapon on offense remains running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who has over 1000 yards from scrimmage already this season and nine touchdowns, despite routinely facing eight-man fronts. Tomlinson is currently the best back in the NFL, and probably one of the best of all time, and if the Chargers can get him out in space, the Jaguars have no match for his speed.

Chargers Pro Bowl quarterback Phillip Rivers has regressed in his second full year as a starting quarterback. Rivers quarterback rating is down to 77.9 from a year ago in which it was 92.0. Rivers has thrown 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, compared to 22 and 9 in 2006.

Rivers main target is tight end Antonio Gates, who is considered by many as the best tight end in the game. Gates has 50 receptions for 675 yards and 5 touchdowns already this season. The Chargers outside threats are newly acquired Chris Chambers, Vincent Jackson, and rookie Craig Davis. All three receivers are legitimate deep threats, and Chambers and Jackson have had some problems with drops throughout their careers.

The Chargers offensive line is made up of Pro Bowlers Marcus McNeill, and Nick Hardwick, along with Kris Dielman, Mike Goff, and Shane Olivea. Hardwick will be out with an injury, and Cory Withrow will take his place. Fullback Lorenzo Neal blocks like an offensive lineman, and can surprise teams with the occasional inside carry. Neal has been a Pro Bowler three times.

If the Jaguars defense can keep Tomlinson from getting into space, they will have an excellent shot at stopping the Chargers offense. A worrisome match-up for the Jaguars is tight end Antonio Gates vs. Clint Ingram, Daryl Smith, and/or Sammy Knight. The Jaguars have done a poor job against opposing tight ends for most of this season, and this week they face the best.

Jacksonville offense- 17th overall (26th passing, 3rd rushing); Scoring- 16th (20.3 ppg.) Vs. San Diego defense- 27th overall (25th passing, 21st rushing); Scoring- 15th (20.6 ppg.)

The Jaguars will likely have quarterback David Garrard starting this week after a three-week absence after a high ankle sprain. Although the Jaguars will likely have Garrard back, they will likely try to maintain their usual game plan of trying to run the football down the opponents throats. The Chargers are currently ranked 21st against the run, and are just two weeks removed from allowing an NFL record 296 yards rushing to Adrian Peterson of the Vikings. Last week, the Chargers made it a point to stop the run as they held the Colts Joseph Addai to just 56 yards on 22 carries.

The Chargers front three of Pro Bowl tackle Jamaal Williams, Luis Castillo, and Igor Olshansky are among the best defensive lines in the league. If Castillo isn't healthy enough to play, Jacques Cesaire is a capable fill-in. The Chargers have an active group of linebackers led by Pro Bowler Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips on the outside. The inside linebackers are Stephen Cooper and Matt Wilhelm. Merriman and Phillips have combined for 11 sacks already this season.

The San Diego secondary is made up of active corners Quentin Jammer and Drayton Florence, to go along with safeties Clinton Hart and local Port Orange, FL product Marlon McCree. If Jammer can not play on Sunday, former Florida State standout Antonio Cromartie is a more than capable fill-in, as he picked off Peyton Manning three times Sunday night. The Chargers also have great depth at safety with rookie Eric Weddle, this year's second-round pick.

If the Chargers defense is soft anywhere, it is on short patterns over the middle. Since the Jaguars rarely take shots down the field, look for San Diego to press their safeties up to take away the middle of the football field. The success of the Jaguars running game will likely have a big part in how this game plays out, and if the Jaguars will have any room to make plays through the air.

Special teams

Chargers kickoff return- 6th (25.7 ypr.); punt return- 8th (11.1 ypr.); punting- 7th (45.7 gross); net punting- 4th (40.4 avg.); kickoff coverage- 4th (20.8 ypr. allowed)

Jaguars kickoff return- 4th (26.4 ypr.); punt return- T18th (8.3 ypr.); punting- T25th (41.9 gross); net punting- T18th (37.0 avg.); kickoff coverage- T1st (17.4 ypr. allowed)

Chargers: PK Nate Kaeding, P Mike Scifres, KOR, PR Darren Sproles, LS David Binn.

Kaeding is 8/10 on field goals with a long of 51 yards. Sproles is averaging 28.1 yards per kickoff return, and 11.9 yards per punt return.

Jaguars: PK John Carney (or Josh Scobee), P Adam Podlesh, LS Joe Zelenka, KOR Maurice Jones-Drew, PR Dennis Northcutt.

Carney is 9/11 on field goals with a long of 41 yards. Jones-Drew is averaging 29.9 yards per kickoff return. Northcutt is averaging 8.8 yards per punt return. Special teams appears to be fairly even as both teams have explosive return men in Sproles and Jones-Drew respectively. Both teams cover kicks very well. San Diego has an advantage at punter with Mike Scifres, and at kicker with Nate Kaeding, although Jacksonville may have Josh Scobee back from injury for the first time since opening day.

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