A look at the key match-ups in the upcoming game against the Colts Monday night.
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After a gut wrenching loss late Sunday night against the Raiders, the Chargers now must refocus and go against one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL.
That quarterback is Andrew Luck. He's been nothing short of spectacular this year, and I'd argue he's already a top 5 QB in the league, yet is still underrated. He's really fun to watch. With most of the pressure on him, he continues to deliver. He makes "wow" throw after wow throw. He's also doing this behind a somewhat below average offense line, making it that more impressive.
Not to mention a running game that has struggled for the Colts. Newly acquired running back Trent Richardson is averaging 3 yards per carry. That hasn't stopped Luck from thriving. He's actually averaging 6.8 yards per run on 20 carries this year.
Luck can hurt you through the air or on the ground, and the when he does look to scramble he's keeping his eyes downfield and extending plays. Leading to extra first downs, that lead to touchdowns.
The big match-up on that side of the ball will be the Colts offensive line vs. the Chargers front 7. Both have been less than stellar this year. The Chargers had high hopes from a couple young guys coming into this season, but they've disappointed. The Colts line has forced Luck to be constantly under pressure. If the Chargers aren't able to create any pressure, then Luck will likely pick them apart by either going deep to speedster T.Y. Hilton, or working underneath with Reggie Wayne.
That's another match-up where the Colts have the advantage. The Chargers have been without top corner Shareece Wright since Week 2, and he might be out again this week. This has been one of the worst secondaries in the league, there's really no way around it. 2013 was supposed to be a "try out" year for many young defensive players, and they haven't lived up to the billing, at all.
3 Main keys to the Chargers stopping the Colts offense
- Creating Pressure
- Creating a turnover
- Make the Colts one dimensional
This may be a problem. The Chargers have forced only 2 turnovers in 5 games. That has to be some kind of record. That's terrible. While I do think they'll be able to stop the Colts run game, if they don't force the Colts to kick field goals in the red zone, we could be looking at the first 40 burger of the season.
On the other side of the ball, I have much more confidence. Philip Rivers has thrown for 400 yards 3 times this season, that's as many as he's thrown throughout his entire career. He is currently completing over 73% of his passes. He's been great. Yes, he made a couple bad throws last week, but that's the first time we've seen that from him all year. Rivers is still playing at a very high level, and if they want to win this game, he'll have to continue that.
The running game struggled last week when Ryan Mathews left the game with a concussion. They averaged under 2 yards per carry. You can't win games when that happens. Luckily, they should get Mathews back today as he was practicing. That should give the run game a boost and allow Danny Woodhead to return to a more comfortable role. Woodhead is an excellent complementary player, but not so much as a featured back, and we saw that last week when he fumbled and it was returned for a touchdown.
The receivers have been on a roll even without their #1 WR Malcom Floyd. Last week they had 2 WR's over 100 yards. Rookie Keenan Allen burst onto the scene with 6 catches for 115 yards. While Vincent Brown had his first breakout game as he caught 8 balls for 147 yards. Antonio Gates has had a few drops, but continues to excel underneath and be Rivers security blanket. If they can protect the quarterback this week, Rivers should be able to put up points.
Speaking of protecting the quarterback, the Chargers welcome back King Dunlap from a concussion that's forced him to miss the last 2 weeks. That is going to be huge as he faces Robert Mathis, who currently leads the league in sacks.
Keys to success on Offense
- Mathews over 17 carries
- 1 or less turnover/sack
- Attack Greg Toler
Toler is the corner opposite Vonte Davis. I have a lot of respect for Davis and think he's a very good player. I don't think the Colts have faced the greatest crop of WRs to this point, and I think this will be a challenge for them. I expect Rivers to challenge Toler early and often. Should be advantage Chargers.
Up until last week the Chargers had done a great job of not turning the ball over. Last week, they turned it over 5 times. You're not going to beat anyone doing that. That has to change this week. They also need to keep Rivers upright. I expect both to happen, and think they should be able to score with the Colts.
With Mathews back in the lineup, this offense is totally different when he's getting the ball. I think the coaches will realize that and feed him. The Colts D is much improved, but haven't faced an offense like this yet. So I expect them to get exposed.
This is an upset special to many. I think it's a good match up for the Chargers and I think last weeks victory over the Seahawks was emotionally draining for the Colts, and they'll be looking ahead to next week vs. the Broncos.