Enemy Intel: Game Scout

Game Scout for San Diego vs. Buffalo and St. Louis vs. Arizona

Arizona Cardinals (2-7) at St. Louis Rams (4-5)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/20/05
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: FOX, Thom Brennaman, Eric Kramer

SERIES:

54th meeting. The Rams hold a 29-22-2 lead in the series over the Cardinals, including a hard-fought 17-12 decision in Week 2 this season in Tempe, Ariz. Prior to a Cardinals win late in 2004, they had dropped five in a row - including all of them since realignment put them into the NFC West with the Rams - and six of eight against the team that now rules the city that the Cardinals abandoned in 1988. One of the most significant games in the series from the Cardinals' perspective was a cliffhanging 20-17 victory in 1998 at St. Louis that helped the Big Red reverse a slow start to finish 9-7 and earn their first, and only, playoff berth since moving to Arizona.

2005 RANKINGS:

Cardinals: offense 13th (32nd rush, 3rd pass); defense 22nd (25th rush, 13th pass). Rams: offense 3rd (20th rush, 4th pass); defense 30th (27th rush, 27th pass)

PREDICTION:

Rams 33-24

KEYS TO THE GAME:

The Cardinals expect to get WR Anquan Boldin back from a sprained knee, which will give QB Kurt Warner another weapon to attack a Rams defense allowing 6.14 yards on first down. Arizona should move the ball well, but the two keys are getting a solid game from a beat up offensive line and capitalizing in the red zone. The Cardinals have settled for far too many field goals this season, which would be fatal in what figures to be a shootout. The Rams are counting on WRs Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce to be much improved in their second game back from injuries. If they are able to take advantage of the Cardinals' shaky secondary and build a lead, the Rams will turn the offense over to RB Steven Jackson to attack a Cardinals defense allowing 4.5 yards per carry.

FAST FACTS:

Cardinals: Have only one rushing touchdown this season. ... WR Larry Fitzgerald leads the NFL with 16 receptions for at least 20 yards. Rams: WR Isaac Bruce has moved past Michael Irvin for 11th place on the all-time list with 12,095 career receiving yards. ... Are 42-10 (.808) in past 52 home games.

PERSONNEL NEWS:

Cardinals:

--RB Marcel Shipp will start again despite gaining just 3 yards on four carries last week in Detroit. Shipp's father had passed away the previous Sunday, and he had attended the funeral the previous Friday.

--K Neil Rackers has made 28 straight field goals, a team record, this year, but not all them have been chip shots. Over the past two years, Rackers has made 10 of 14 attempts from 50 yards or more.

--QB Kurt Warner will start his third straight game, and he could pass for more than 300 yards for the third straight week. He played well last week in Detroit, but again had trouble getting the Cardinals into the end zone.

--G Alex Stepanovich will switch from the right side the left, replacing Reggie Wells, who is out for the year with a fractured and dislocated ankle.

--G Jeremy Bridges will start at right guard after being signed Tuesday for the third time this season. Bridges likely will lose the job when rookie Elton Brown returns from a knee injury in a few weeks.

--C Nick Leckey will get his third straight start. He's played fairly well but he has had trouble handling large, physical tackles.

--DE Bertrand Berry will miss at least five weeks, and likely the rest of the season, after suffering a torn pectoral muscle last week. He won't need surgery and he hopes to make a quick recovery. The team isn't putting him on injured reserve, just in case Berry is a fast healer.

--DE Antonio Smith, a fifth-round pick in 2004, probably will start his first NFL game Sunday, replacing Bertrand Berry. Veteran R-Kal Truluck, signed this week, is likely to play in passing situations.

Rams:

--DE Tyoka Jackson suffered a back injury in practice Wednesday and did not practice Thursday. He was added to the injury report as questionable. "We just have to wait and see (Friday)," interim coach Joe Vitt said.

--G Adam Timmerman attended practice Thursday but did not participate because of soreness in his back. Timmerman will not start Sunday, but will be available in an emergency.

--WR Isaac Bruce said he came out of last week's game feeling good and hopes to do more this week against Arizona. Bruce played against Seattle after missing five games because of a toe injury.

--CB Ronald Bartell might get his first start in place of Travis Fisher (groin) this week. Bartell, Chris Johnson and Corey Ivy are all candidates to start.

--RB Marshall Faulk hasn't practiced this week because of soreness in his knee, but he is expected to play against Arizona.

INSIDE THE CAMPS:

Cardinals:

Receiver Anquan Boldin expects to play Sunday in St. Louis after missing the past two games with a right knee bruise.

Boldin practiced without any pain or swelling Thursday. His return is obviously a huge boost for the Cardinals, who last week started rookie LeRon McCoy, a seventh-round draft pick from Indiana (Pa.) University.

McCoy played well, catching six passes for 70 yards. He'll likely play a big part in the offense Sunday as the No. 3 receiver, playing in place of Bryant Johnson, who is out with a sprained shoulder.

While McCoy played well, he's no replacement for Boldin, one of the league's better receivers when he's healthy. Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald could give the Rams' secondary some problems.

The Cardinals don't waste much time trying to develop a run game. They usually get away from it early and let Kurt Warner start winging the ball.

That's because the offensive line can't open holes, but it does do a decent job of protecting the quarterback.

Rams:

Few thought it possible, but the return of quarterback Kurt Warner to St. Louis for this week's game against Arizona has been overshadowed by more issues surrounding the team.

First came an anonymous quote from "a disgusted veteran" in Sports Illustrated that criticized the team's three defensive tackles. Next was an altercation in practice Wednesday between offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild and running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery.

The Sports Illustrated story was essentially a compilation of what has affected the team off the field, from front-office dysfunction to the health problems of coach Mike Martz, which resulted in him not coaching since Oct. 9.

However, the story began with a statement from a player that was said immediately after Sunday's loss to Seattle.

The quote: "We have three (former) No. 1 picks at tackle, and those guys are killing us. They're not playing hard, and they can't stop anybody. It's horrible."

That was a reference to Damione Lewis, Jimmy Kennedy and Ryan Pickett.

Said defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson, who is also the team's defensive captain, "That is not a fair assessment, in my opinion. Opinions, everybody has one, you know the whole story, and people say whatever they want to say, but that is not what usually comes out of this locker room. So it's a little surprising. I'm not surprised that we don't have a name attached to it. If there's not a name attached to it, it really doesn't carry a whole lot of weight with me."

Jackson took the most exception with lumping Pickett in that group.

"Ryan Pickett is one of the best defensive tackles, nose tackles, in the league," Jackson said. "People don't really understand that. Ask his opponents. Watch the film. If you guys want to find out how good someone is playing, just watch the film. Don't take my word for it, words mean nothing. The film doesn't lie."

Asked about the play of his defensive tackles, interim coach Joe Vitt said, "I thought our defensive tackles have played pretty well this year, I think we're getting pretty good inside pressure. I think we could have been better last game. But there's a lot a guys that could have done a lot better last game."

As for the story, Vitt said, "I haven't read any Sports Illustrated. I haven't read our own papers. I haven't read any Sports Illustrated. I have no comment on it. I haven't read it.

"I don't know who the anonymous player was. And I will tell you this: I'm here to answer football questions -- not tabloid questions -- and talk about the Cardinals."

Asked whether it was newsworthy that a player points a finger at teammates, Vitt said, "Not until I get further information on it. No, I don't think it's newsworthy. Any other questions?"

The incident between Fairchild and Montgomery occurred when Montgomery first objected to Fairchild giving input to one of the team's running backs. It then escalated into a discussion about the team's offensive philosophy, and Montgomery's belief the Rams don't run enough. Montgomery then made contact with Fairchild's face with what has been described as a "push-slap."

Vitt again elected not to address the incident, which no one in the media saw. He said, "I won't talk about hearsay."


Buffalo Bills (4-5) at San Diego Chargers (5-4)

GAME SNAPSHOT

KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/20/05
SURFACE: Grass
TV: CBS, Gus Johnson, Steve Tasker, Scott Kaplan

SERIES:

33rd meeting. Chargers lead 19-11-2. The clubs are original members of the American Football League and played twice for the AFL championship. The Bills won both times, 20-7 in 1964 and 23-0 in 1965. In the '64 game, played at Buffalo's War Memorial Stadium, linebacker Mike Stratton leveled Chargers running back Keith Lincoln with a thundering tackle on San Diego's second possession, putting him out of the game. Momentum swung quickly in the Bills' favor and they never looked back.

2005 RANKINGS:

Bills: offense 29th (13th rush, 29th pass); defense 13th (31st rush, 2nd pass). Chargers: offense 9th (10th rush, 11th pass); defense 21st (1st rush, 30th pass)

PREDICTION:

Chargers 30-23

KEYS TO THE GAME:

It doesn't require watching game tape to know the Bills are struggling to stop the run. They are allowing a whopping 150.7 rushing yards per game, which is a frightening number with Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson coming off a bye week. It's essential for Buffalo to at least contain Tomlinson and make QB Drew Brees force the ball against their second-ranked pass defense. The Bills are likely to start QB J.P. Losman, who showed an increased ability to throw vertically after replacing injured Kelly Holcomb last Sunday. The Chargers' biggest weakness is their secondary, and the Bills must capitalize on that vulnerability. RB Willis McGahee is the focal point of the offense, but the Chargers' front seven is very strong against the run and McGahee won't have a chance unless Losman are Holcomb is able to force San Diego to respect the pass.

FAST FACTS:

Bills: Have not had a 300-yard passer in past 39 games. ... Are outscoring opponents 40-10 in the first quarter.

Chargers: Brees has thrown at least one touchdown pass in a career-high seven consecutive games. ... Coach Marty Schottenheimer played for Buffalo from 1965-68.

PERSONNEL NEWS:

Bills:

--QB Kelly Holcomb, who suffered a severe concussion against the Kansas City Chiefs last week, did not practice Thursday for a second straight day. He remains questionable for Sunday's game at San Diego, but it's looking less likely that he will start, and the team isn't sure if he will even suit up as the backup.

--QB J.P. Losman took all the repetitions with the first unit on Thursday in anticipation of his return to the starting lineup Sunday in San Diego. Veteran Kelly Holcomb, who has started the past five games, suffered a concussion in last Sunday's win over Kansas City and has not been able to practice this week. Losman rallied the Bills past the Chiefs with two TD throws.

--KR/CB Terrence McGee remains questionable for the Chargers with a sore hamstring he re-injured last Sunday. McGee could practice only on a limited basis Thursday. It's likely that with more rest through the weekend he will suit up Sunday, but he won't be 100 percent.

--FS Troy Vincent returned to practice Thursday after re-injuring his shoulder. MRI results were negative. He will play Sunday at San Diego.

--DT Sam Adams, who missed last week's game with swelling on the knee, dressed for practice Thursday but was very limited in what he could do. The Bills were hoping the bye week plus giving Adams last Sunday off would allow him to return to 100 percent, but his knee has been slow to respond. His absence would be felt Sunday when the team tries to defend star Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson.

--T Greg Jerman, a key reserve who missed the past two games with a high ankle sprain, returned to practice on Thursday. With struggling Mike Williams as their only backup tackle, the Bills would welcome Jerman's return to full strength for the season's stretch drive.

Chargers:

--LT Roman Oben (foot) didn't practice again on Thursday and it is looking as if he will miss Sunday's game. Leander Jordan would get his second NFL start at left tackle if Oben can't go.

--OLB Steve Foley (strained abdominal) isn't getting worse. But he's not getting better, either, so he might be down for the third straight game. If he can't go, Shaun Phillips gets the start. Phillips has been productive while filling in; he has four sacks.

--OLB Shawne Merriman didn't work Thursday as he was hit by a migraine headache before practice. He said he will be fine for Sunday.

--CB Drayton Florence (ankle) has practiced all week after missing three of the past four games. Sammy Davis will step aside as the starter if the coaches determine Florence can go Sunday. That appears to be the case, barring any setbacks.

--C Nick Hardwick (ankle) is returning on Sunday, and that should give a boost to an offensive line that has been inconsistent of late. Hardwick missed the past three games.

--WR Keenan McCardell needs 34 receiving yards Sunday to pass Lance Alworth for 21st on the NFL's all-time list. Alworth will be on hand Sunday as his old No. 19 jersey is retired at halftime.

--WR Vincent Jackson skipped practice after tweaking a hamstring.

--ILB Ben Leber (foot) didn't practice and is questionable. He is a backup to Shawne Merriman.

INSIDE THE CAMPS:

Bills:

Quarterback J.P. Losman appears on the verge of being named the Bills' starting quarterback for Sunday's game at San Diego.

Veteran Kelly Holcomb, who suffered a severe concussion in last week's home win over Kansas City, was not able to practice Thursday for a second straight day. Holcomb said he felt much improved, but it was not certain if he would be able to practice on Friday, either.

Asked if Holcomb would at least dress as the backup quarterback, coach Mike Mularkey said, "That's not a guarantee right now."

With Losman already getting the bulk of the week's practice repetitions, he does seem to be the choice to start against the Chargers. Mularkey said he would announce his decision on Friday.

Losman started Buffalo's first four games. His last start was against New Orleans in San Antonio when he threw for 75 yards and one interception in a crushing 19-7 loss on Oct. 2, dropping Buffalo's record to 1-3.

He was replaced by Holcomb, who went 2-2 in his starts prior to getting knocked out in the second quarter against the Chiefs. Losman entered the game and rallied Buffalo with two touchdown passes in a 14-3 victory.

Chargers:

The Buffalo Bills offense is built around the running of Willis McGahee. And for good reason -- the former University of Miami star's 856 rushing yards rank fourth in the league.

But the Chargers are tops in the NFL against the run, allowing just 79.6 yards per game. And they are out to prove they can stop McGahee, who has said he's the NFL's best back.

"From what I heard, he said he is the best running back in the league," Chargers nose tackle Jamal Williams said. "But we practice against the best right here (LaDainian Tomlinson).

"(McGahee) is a quality running back, don't get me wrong. He is quick, he runs out more on the outside. He's a quality player, and we're glad we have a challenge this week."

The challenge would be getting Williams his due. Despite being in the middle of a stingy run defense, Williams flies under the radar.

"I don't think he gets much notoriety because he is not one of those hoopla guys," defensive tackle DeQuincy Scott said. "He does his job, and that's good enough for him."

Said defensive tackle Luis Castillo: "It's unfair. He was never a guy you really heard too much about. You hear about Sam Adams and Casey Hampton of the Steelers and all those other guys. But you see what (Williams) does, the way he manipulates an offense and the way he makes offenses play around him. He changes the game."


Breaking Burgundy Top Stories

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Arizona Cardinals (2-7) at St. Louis Rams (4-5)

GAME SNAPSHOT\r\n
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET\r\n
GAMEDATE: 11/20/05\r\n
SURFACE: FieldTurf \r\n
TV: FOX, Thom Brennaman, Eric Kramer\r\n

SERIES:

54th meeting. The Rams hold a 29-22-2 lead in the series over the Cardinals, including a hard-fought 17-12 decision in Week 2 this season in Tempe, Ariz. Prior to a Cardinals win late in 2004, they had dropped five in a row - including all of them since realignment put them into the NFC West with the Rams - and six of eight against the team that now rules the city that the Cardinals abandoned in 1988. One of the most significant games in the series from the Cardinals' perspective was a cliffhanging 20-17 victory in 1998 at St. Louis that helped the Big Red reverse a slow start to finish 9-7 and earn their first, and only, playoff berth since moving to Arizona.\r\n

2005 RANKINGS:

Cardinals: offense 13th (32nd rush, 3rd pass); defense 22nd (25th rush, 13th pass). Rams: offense 3rd (20th rush, 4th pass); defense 30th (27th rush, 27th pass)

PREDICTION:

Rams 33-24

KEYS TO THE GAME:

The Cardinals expect to get WR Anquan Boldin back from a sprained knee, which will give QB Kurt Warner another weapon to attack a Rams defense allowing 6.14 yards on first down. Arizona should move the ball well, but the two keys are getting a solid game from a beat up offensive line and capitalizing in the red zone. The Cardinals have settled for far too many field goals this season, which would be fatal in what figures to be a shootout. The Rams are counting on WRs Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce to be much improved in their second game back from injuries. If they are able to take advantage of the Cardinals' shaky secondary and build a lead, the Rams will turn the offense over to RB Steven Jackson to attack a Cardinals defense allowing 4.5 yards per carry.

FAST FACTS:

Cardinals: Have only one rushing touchdown this season. ... WR Larry Fitzgerald leads the NFL with 16 receptions for at least 20 yards. Rams: WR Isaac Bruce has moved past Michael Irvin for 11th place on the all-time list with 12,095 career receiving yards. ... Are 42-10 (.808) in past 52 home games.

PERSONNEL NEWS:\r\n

Cardinals:\r\n

--RB Marcel Shipp will start again despite gaining just 3 yards on four carries last week in Detroit. Shipp's father had passed away the previous Sunday, and he had attended the funeral the previous Friday.\r\n

--K Neil Rackers has made 28 straight field goals, a team record, this year, but not all them have been chip shots. Over the past two years, Rackers has made 10 of 14 attempts from 50 yards or more.\r\n

--QB Kurt Warner will start his third straight game, and he could pass for more than 300 yards for the third straight week. He played well last week in Detroit, but again had trouble getting the Cardinals into the end zone.\r\n

--G Alex Stepanovich will switch from the right side the left, replacing Reggie Wells, who is out for the year with a fractured and dislocated ankle.\r\n

--G Jeremy Bridges will start at right guard after being signed Tuesday for the third time this season. Bridges likely will lose the job when rookie Elton Brown returns from a knee injury in a few weeks.\r\n

--C Nick Leckey will get his third straight start. He's played fairly well but he has had trouble handling large, physical tackles.\r\n

--DE Bertrand Berry will miss at least five weeks, and likely the rest of the season, after suffering a torn pectoral muscle last week. He won't need surgery and he hopes to make a quick recovery. The team isn't putting him on injured reserve, just in case Berry is a fast healer.\r\n

--DE Antonio Smith, a fifth-round pick in 2004, probably will start his first NFL game Sunday, replacing Bertrand Berry. Veteran R-Kal Truluck, signed this week, is likely to play in passing situations.

Rams:\r\n

--DE Tyoka Jackson suffered a back injury in practice Wednesday and did not practice Thursday. He was added to the injury report as questionable. "We just have to wait and see (Friday)," interim coach Joe Vitt said.\r\n

--G Adam Timmerman attended practice Thursday but did not participate because of soreness in his back. Timmerman will not start Sunday, but will be available in an emergency.\r\n

--WR Isaac Bruce said he came out of last week's game feeling good and hopes to do more this week against Arizona. Bruce played against Seattle after missing five games because of a toe injury.\r\n

--CB Ronald Bartell might get his first start in place of Travis Fisher (groin) this week. Bartell, Chris Johnson and Corey Ivy are all candidates to start.\r\n

--RB Marshall Faulk hasn't practiced this week because of soreness in his knee, but he is expected to play against Arizona.

INSIDE THE CAMPS:\r\n

Cardinals:\r\n

Receiver Anquan Boldin expects to play Sunday in St. Louis after missing the past two games with a right knee bruise.\r\n

Boldin practiced without any pain or swelling Thursday. His return is obviously a huge boost for the Cardinals, who last week started rookie LeRon McCoy, a seventh-round draft pick from Indiana (Pa.) University.\r\n

McCoy played well, catching six passes for 70 yards. He'll likely play a big part in the offense Sunday as the No. 3 receiver, playing in place of Bryant Johnson, who is out with a sprained shoulder.\r\n

While McCoy played well, he's no replacement for Boldin, one of the league's better receivers when he's healthy. Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald could give the Rams' secondary some problems.\r\n

The Cardinals don't waste much time trying to develop a run game. They usually get away from it early and let Kurt Warner start winging the ball. \r\n

That's because the offensive line can't open holes, but it does do a decent job of protecting the quarterback.

Rams:\r\n

Few thought it possible, but the return of quarterback Kurt Warner to St. Louis for this week's game against Arizona has been overshadowed by more issues surrounding the team.\r\n

First came an anonymous quote from "a disgusted veteran" in Sports Illustrated that criticized the team's three defensive tackles. Next was an altercation in practice Wednesday between offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild and running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery.\r\n

The Sports Illustrated story was essentially a compilation of what has affected the team off the field, from front-office dysfunction to the health problems of coach Mike Martz, which resulted in him not coaching since Oct. 9.\r\n

However, the story began with a statement from a player that was said immediately after Sunday's loss to Seattle.\r\n

The quote: "We have three (former) No. 1 picks at tackle, and those guys are killing us. They're not playing hard, and they can't stop anybody. It's horrible."\r\n

That was a reference to Damione Lewis, Jimmy Kennedy and Ryan Pickett.\r\n

Said defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson, who is also the team's defensive captain, "That is not a fair assessment, in my opinion. Opinions, everybody has one, you know the whole story, and people say whatever they want to say, but that is not what usually comes out of this locker room. So it's a little surprising. I'm not surprised that we don't have a name attached to it. If there's not a name attached to it, it really doesn't carry a whole lot of weight with me."\r\n

Jackson took the most exception with lumping Pickett in that group.\r\n

"Ryan Pickett is one of the best defensive tackles, nose tackles, in the league," Jackson said. "People don't really understand that. Ask his opponents. Watch the film. If you guys want to find out how good someone is playing, just watch the film. Don't take my word for it, words mean nothing. The film doesn't lie."\r\n

Asked about the play of his defensive tackles, interim coach Joe Vitt said, "I thought our defensive tackles have played pretty well this year, I think we're getting pretty good inside pressure. I think we could have been better last game. But there's a lot a guys that could have done a lot better last game."\r\n

As for the story, Vitt said, "I haven't read any Sports Illustrated. I haven't read our own papers. I haven't read any Sports Illustrated. I have no comment on it. I haven't read it.\r\n

"I don't know who the anonymous player was. And I will tell you this: I'm here to answer football questions -- not tabloid questions -- and talk about the Cardinals."\r\n

Asked whether it was newsworthy that a player points a finger at teammates, Vitt said, "Not until I get further information on it. No, I don't think it's newsworthy. Any other questions?"\r\n

The incident between Fairchild and Montgomery occurred when Montgomery first objected to Fairchild giving input to one of the team's running backs. It then escalated into a discussion about the team's offensive philosophy, and Montgomery's belief the Rams don't run enough. Montgomery then made contact with Fairchild's face with what has been described as a "push-slap."\r\n

Vitt again elected not to address the incident, which no one in the media saw. He said, "I won't talk about hearsay."


Buffalo Bills (4-5) at San Diego Chargers (5-4)

GAME SNAPSHOT

KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/20/05
SURFACE: Grass
TV: CBS, Gus Johnson, Steve Tasker, Scott Kaplan

SERIES:

33rd meeting. Chargers lead 19-11-2. The clubs are original members of the American Football League and played twice for the AFL championship. The Bills won both times, 20-7 in 1964 and 23-0 in 1965. In the '64 game, played at Buffalo's War Memorial Stadium, linebacker Mike Stratton leveled Chargers running back Keith Lincoln with a thundering tackle on San Diego's second possession, putting him out of the game. Momentum swung quickly in the Bills' favor and they never looked back.

2005 RANKINGS:

Bills: offense 29th (13th rush, 29th pass); defense 13th (31st rush, 2nd pass). Chargers: offense 9th (10th rush, 11th pass); defense 21st (1st rush, 30th pass)

PREDICTION:

Chargers 30-23

KEYS TO THE GAME:

It doesn't require watching game tape to know the Bills are struggling to stop the run. They are allowing a whopping 150.7 rushing yards per game, which is a frightening number with Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson coming off a bye week. It's essential for Buffalo to at least contain Tomlinson and make QB Drew Brees force the ball against their second-ranked pass defense. The Bills are likely to start QB J.P. Losman, who showed an increased ability to throw vertically after replacing injured Kelly Holcomb last Sunday. The Chargers' biggest weakness is their secondary, and the Bills must capitalize on that vulnerability. RB Willis McGahee is the focal point of the offense, but the Chargers' front seven is very strong against the run and McGahee won't have a chance unless Losman are Holcomb is able to force San Diego to respect the pass.

FAST FACTS:

Bills: Have not had a 300-yard passer in past 39 games. ... Are outscoring opponents 40-10 in the first quarter.

Chargers: Brees has thrown at least one touchdown pass in a career-high seven consecutive games. ... Coach Marty Schottenheimer played for Buffalo from 1965-68.

PERSONNEL NEWS:

Bills:

--QB Kelly Holcomb, who suffered a severe concussion against the Kansas City Chiefs last week, did not practice Thursday for a second straight day. He remains questionable for Sunday's game at San Diego, but it's looking less likely that he will start, and the team isn't sure if he will even suit up as the backup.

--QB J.P. Losman took all the repetitions with the first unit on Thursday in anticipation of his return to the starting lineup Sunday in San Diego. Veteran Kelly Holcomb, who has started the past five games, suffered a concussion in last Sunday's win over Kansas City and has not been able to practice this week. Losman rallied the Bills past the Chiefs with two TD throws.

--KR/CB Terrence McGee remains questionable for the Chargers with a sore hamstring he re-injured last Sunday. McGee could practice only on a limited basis Thursday. It's likely that with more rest through the weekend he will suit up Sunday, but he won't be 100 percent.

--FS Troy Vincent returned to practice Thursday after re-injuring his shoulder. MRI results were negative. He will play Sunday at San Diego.

--DT Sam Adams, who missed last week's game with swelling on the knee, dressed for practice Thursday but was very limited in what he could do. The Bills were hoping the bye week plus giving Adams last Sunday off would allow him to return to 100 percent, but his knee has been slow to respond. His absence would be felt Sunday when the team tries to defend star Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson.

--T Greg Jerman, a key reserve who missed the past two games with a high ankle sprain, returned to practice on Thursday. With struggling Mike Williams as their only backup tackle, the Bills would welcome Jerman's return to full strength for the season's stretch drive.

Chargers:

--LT Roman Oben (foot) didn't practice again on Thursday and it is looking as if he will miss Sunday's game. Leander Jordan would get his second NFL start at left tackle if Oben can't go.

--OLB Steve Foley (strained abdominal) isn't getting worse. But he's not getting better, either, so he might be down for the third straight game. If he can't go, Shaun Phillips gets the start. Phillips has been productive while filling in; he has four sacks.

--OLB Shawne Merriman didn't work Thursday as he was hit by a migraine headache before practice. He said he will be fine for Sunday.

--CB Drayton Florence (ankle) has practiced all week after missing three of the past four games. Sammy Davis will step aside as the starter if the coaches determine Florence can go Sunday. That appears to be the case, barring any setbacks.

--C Nick Hardwick (ankle) is returning on Sunday, and that should give a boost to an offensive line that has been inconsistent of late. Hardwick missed the past three games.

--WR Keenan McCardell needs 34 receiving yards Sunday to pass Lance Alworth for 21st on the NFL's all-time list. Alworth will be on hand Sunday as his old No. 19 jersey is retired at halftime.

--WR Vincent Jackson skipped practice after tweaking a hamstring.

--ILB Ben Leber (foot) didn't practice and is questionable. He is a backup to Shawne Merriman.

INSIDE THE CAMPS:

Bills:

Quarterback J.P. Losman appears on the verge of being named the Bills' starting quarterback for Sunday's game at San Diego.

Veteran Kelly Holcomb, who suffered a severe concussion in last week's home win over Kansas City, was not able to practice Thursday for a second straight day. Holcomb said he felt much improved, but it was not certain if he would be able to practice on Friday, either.

Asked if Holcomb would at least dress as the backup quarterback, coach Mike Mularkey said, "That's not a guarantee right now."

With Losman already getting the bulk of the week's practice repetitions, he does seem to be the choice to start against the Chargers. Mularkey said he would announce his decision on Friday.

Losman started Buffalo's first four games. His last start was against New Orleans in San Antonio when he threw for 75 yards and one interception in a crushing 19-7 loss on Oct. 2, dropping Buffalo's record to 1-3.

He was replaced by Holcomb, who went 2-2 in his starts prior to getting knocked out in the second quarter against the Chiefs. Losman entered the game and rallied Buffalo with two touchdown passes in a 14-3 victory.

Chargers:

The Buffalo Bills offense is built around the running of Willis McGahee. And for good reason -- the former University of Miami star's 856 rushing yards rank fourth in the league.

But the Chargers are tops in the NFL against the run, allowing just 79.6 yards per game. And they are out to prove they can stop McGahee, who has said he's the NFL's best back.

"From what I heard, he said he is the best running back in the league," Chargers nose tackle Jamal Williams said. "But we practice against the best right here (LaDainian Tomlinson).

"(McGahee) is a quality running back, don't get me wrong. He is quick, he runs out more on the outside. He's a quality player, and we're glad we have a challenge this week."

The challenge would be getting Williams his due. Despite being in the middle of a stingy run defense, Williams flies under the radar.

"I don't think he gets much notoriety because he is not one of those hoopla guys," defensive tackle DeQuincy Scott said. "He does his job, and that's good enough for him."

Said defensive tackle Luis Castillo: "It's unfair. He was never a guy you really heard too much about. You hear about Sam Adams and Casey Hampton of the Steelers and all those other guys. But you see what (Williams) does, the way he manipulates an offense and the way he makes offenses play around him. He changes the game."

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