By Dave Thomas
For a pair of teams both sitting in second place in their respective divisions, along with sporting identical 4-4 records at the halfway point of the season, Sunday’s match up between the San Diego Chargers and the host Tampa Bay Buccaneers is a little more than just your average contest between two .500 teams.The winner keeps their hopes alive of making the playoffs, while the loser must seriously consider the fact that they could be sitting home come January.
In looking at the Chargers’ position, things are not quite as difficult given the fact that San Diego is only a game out of the division lead (Denver 5-3). A win this Sunday would send the Bolts into their Nov. 18 showdown at Mile High Stadium either one game back of the Broncos or tied, depending on what Denver does at Carolina on Sunday.
Meantime, the Bucs have to be a little more realistic in dealing with the fact that the NFC South title is all but out of their grasp. With Atlanta rolling to an 8-0 mark to date (NFL’s only undefeated team remaining), Tampa Bay has little-to-no shot at catching the Falcons. As a result, the Bucs have to be eyeing a wild card spot if they have any hopes of making the postseason.
Jackson Prepares To Meet The Past
As the Chargers prepare to jet east for their visit to Florida, they have to keep in mind that Tampa Bay receiver Vincent Jackson has probably circled this game on his calendar for a while now.
It was San Diego where Jackson began his career (played with the Chargers seven years), that is before the Bolts decided after last season’s second straight postseason absence to let Jackson fly the coup, heading to Tampa Bay on a long-term deal worth some $55 million.
As the former go-to receiver for San Diego QB Philip Rivers for a number of years, Jackson has fit in nicely in Tampa’s scheme of things, grabbing 31 receptions for 710 yards and six touchdowns to date. Given San Diego’s inconsistent play in the secondary, there is little doubt containing Jackson has been a priority in practice so far this week.
The Bolts also must deal with running back Doug Martin (794 yards rushing, 7 TDs), along with an improving Josh Freeman at quarterback (2,047 yards passing, 16 TDs, 5 INTs).
If you get the idea Tampa Bay may be throwing a three-headed monster at San Diego’s defense come Sunday, you very well could be right. The question will be if the Chargers can get enough pressure on Freeman, keep Martin from having a big day carrying the pigskin (franchise-mark 251 yards rushing and 4 TD’s versus Oakland last weekend), and limiting Jackson to a handful of catches?
For the Chargers to emerge with their ninth win in 10 all-time meetings with the Bucs, it will take a mighty effort from the defense, a turnover-free performance from the offense, and a desire to go into Denver the following weekend with first place on the line.
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Dave Thomas is a freelance writer covering all things Chargers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.