Top 3 Individual Matchups
3 – Stevie Johnson vs. Quentin Jammer – Johnson’s production is back up the last two weeks where he’s gone 13 catches for 127 and a pair of touchdowns. He’ll need to be similarly productive against the Chargers top coverage defender to help keep Buffalo’s offense in step with San Diego’s.
Top 2 Bills Advantages
Good advantage – Run game –
Best advantage – Red zone – Buffalo despite the five-game losing streak still rank seventh in the league in red zone touchdown percentage (58%). Going against a red zone defense that allows touchdowns better than 60 percent of the time and ranks 25th in the league, the Bills should find the end zone more than once when they crack San Diego’s 20-yard line.
Bills Number 1 Must
Win third downs – Buffalo’s offense shouldn’t have much trouble converting third downs Sunday as the Chargers have one of the worst third down defenses in football allowing conversions more than 46 percent of the time (46.6%).
The key will be the Bills defense clamping down on San Diego’s strong offensive unit in those situations. The Chargers convert 47 percent of the time, good for fourth best in the league, but Buffalo had good success against Tennessee last week allowing just a pair of third down conversions the entire game. They’ll need to duplicate that effort for the Bills to have a chance.
Rivers back rolling
He still leads the league in interceptions with 17, and had a rough go of it on offense through the middle of the season. Philip Rivers was a victim of injuries around him with Antonio Gates, Malcom Floyd and Pro Bowl offensive linemen Kris Dielman and Marcus McNeill both going on injured reserve. His play suffered as pass protection was subpar and his arsenal of passing weapons was in a state of flux.
Now with everyone back healthy and some capable replacements getting comfortable up front, Rivers looks to be back on track after a 294-yard passing performance that included three touchdowns against the Jaguars.
San Diego’s resurgence on offense hasn’t been all about the passing game. Their ground game has been in high gear the past few weeks. In fact in the past two weeks alone the Chargers have rushed for 324 yards, which included back-to-back 100-yard rushing days for Ryan Mathews.
Mathews and fellow back Mike Tolbert are also capable receiving threats as evidenced by their combined 84 receptions good for second most in the NFL by a running back tandem. Only Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas of New Orleans have more (104).
3rd down demons
The Chargers offense has been particularly effective on third downs this season. Converting at a clip of 47 percent, San Diego ranks fourth in the league at moving the sticks. When the Chargers stay out of third and long they’re virtually unstoppable by third down conversion standards. On 3rd-and-1 to 3rd-and-5 this season San Diego has converted almost 79 percent of the time (78.8%) as they’ve gone 29-34.
Up until last week the Chargers were desperately trying to fill the hole left by Pro Bowl left tackle Marcus McNeill. After picking up Jared Gaither off waivers from Kansas City the Chargers started Gaither at left tackle. After not giving up a sack in his debut with San Diego on Monday night the Chargers are hoping they’ve found at least a temporary answer at the position.
More than once in the last handful of seasons the San Diego Chargers have had to make a late season run to qualify for the postseason. 2011 has been no different as a six-game losing streak, which was just snapped this past Monday has them at 5-7, but just two games back of division leaders Denver and Oakland at 7-5.
Working in San Diego’s favor is their fantastic winning percentage in December. Since Philip Rivers has been the full-time starter for the Chargers he has compiled a record of 21-2 in December. Furthermore he’s 10-1 all-time as a starter in December at home.
Part of the reason for the success is since 2006 the Chargers lead the league in points per game in December (see below).
Stat of the Week
The San Diego Chargers have averaged 30.2 points per game in December since 2006.
Quote of the Week
“As long as there are two teams out there and we’re one of them we’re going to play hard and prepare hard and finish the season on a high note. We’ve got four games to do that and we’ve got a good opportunity to go across the country and win a football game.”
Milestones in reach
Stevie Johnson needs a touchdown reception to extend his current scoring streak to three consecutive games.
Buffalo is tied for second in the league in takeaway points scored with 96. Only Detroit (98) has more.