Top 3 Individual Matchups
1. Vincent Jackson vs. Leodis McKelvin: Jackson is finally blossoming into a go-to receiver for San Diego now in his fourth season. He leads the team in receptions and receiving yards and is still a deep threat averaging almost 20 yards per catch. The 6'5" wideout will be a big test for Buffalo's top draft pick.
- Jamal Williams vs. Melvin Fowler: Fowler has been dealing with an elbow injury this week and might be replaced by Duke Preston Sunday. Either way San Diego's three-time Pro Bowl DT will be tough to stop. Brad Butler and Derrick Dockery will need to provide assistance to whoever is in the pivot, otherwise Williams could disrupt the Bills passing game all by himself.
- Shaun Phillips vs. Langston Walker: Phillips is the linebacker that has played in the shadow of Shawne Merriman, but is an accomplished pass rusher in his own right. Leading the team in sacks and quarterback hits, Phillips will need to be accounted for not only by Walker, but by Buffalo's backs if Trent Edwards is to have time to throw.
Top 2 Bills Advantages
Good advantage: Red zone offense – As talented as San Diego's defense is they've given up a ton of yards often allowing opponents deep into their territory where scoring becomes almost inevitable. Only San Francisco (25) has given opponents more opportunities in the red zone than the Chargers (24). San Diego gives up an average of four a game, but it's still on Buffalo's offense to cash in with touchdowns.
Best advantage: Kick return – San Diego has the number one kick return unit in the league, but their kick coverage has been suspect at times as they've surrendered an average drive start of almost the 30-yard line to their opponents (29.2). That stands 28th in the league. Leodis McKelvin has been very close to busting a couple of returns for scores, and might break through this week.
Bills number one must
Win the second half – Both Buffalo and San Diego have been good second half teams on the whole thus far this season. The Bills are outscoring their opponents 69-47 in the second half, but the Chargers have been even more impressive posting a 53-point differential in the third and fourth quarters (103-50). Only Green Bay (69) has scored more fourth quarter points than San Diego (63).
The Bills must win the third and fourth quarters on the scoreboard if they want to post a big AFC conference victory and that means red zone touchdowns on offense and third down stops defensively.
Cover corners: San Diego is blessed with a pair of solid cover cornerbacks in Antonio Cromartie and Quentin Jammer. The two former first-round picks have lived up to expectations and are good at shutting down their opponents' top passing options as the Chargers lead the league in passes defensed with 35. Buffalo will need to get big time production from Josh Reed, Roscoe Parrish and the tight end position if they are to move the chains on offensive possessions.
Sneaky Sproles: Darren Sproles is as close a clone to Roscoe Parrish as a returner as you're going to find in the NFL today. With a low center of gravity and a lightning quick burst, Sproles, much like Parrish, can set up coverage players and with one step be gone. Sproles is tied for fourth in the league in punt return average (14.3) and leads the league in kick return average (30.4), which includes a 103-yard return in Week 2 at Denver.
And if for some reason Sproles' ankle injury keeps him out of the game, the Chargers have Antonio Cromartie to turn to. Anyone remember his 109-yard missed field goal return for a touchdown against Minnesota last year?
Chargers 'D' getting pressure: After getting off to a slow start in 2008, the Chargers pass rush is rounding into form as they've effectively adjusted to life without Shawne Merriman. San Diego's defense has 14 sacks in their last four games, including four against New England last week. Not surprisingly, the linebackers in the Chargers' 3-4 front are doing most of the damage as they're responsible for 10.5 of the team's 17 quarterback takedowns this season.
Deep receiving corps: Tight end Antonio Gates still doesn't look the same coming off offseason toe surgery and Chris Chambers has been in and out of the lineup in addition to reserve receiver Buster Davis. None of it seems to matter however, as the Chargers now have effective weapons all over the field. Vincent Jackson has emerged in his fourth NFL season. He and Phillip Rivers have established some bona fide chemistry this season as the pair has been responsible for a handful of San Diego's big plays. Fellow 6'5" wideout Malcolm Floyd also proved dangerous last week with 75 yards receiving and a touchdown against the Patriots.
Rivers ripping it: While San Diego's offensive engine LaDainian Tomlinson toiled through a turf toe injury the offensive load fell on Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers, who to this point has delivered. Topping the league in passer rating (109.4), touchdown passes (14), average gain per completion (9.02) and second in passing yards (1,489) and fourth-quarter passer rating (129.5), Rivers has been difficult to stop. Now in his third season as a starter Rivers' decision making is lightning quick and with opponents still giving a lot of respect to Tomlinson in the backfield, the Chargers' passing game gets a lot of favorable matchups. It's why San Diego leads the AFC in plays of 25 yards or more with 15.
Quote of the week
"We've put ourselves in a good position right now and what we do with that has yet to be seen. If we want to get where we want to go, we have to take advantage of our opportunities like this."
--Lee Evans on facing an AFC power at home
Stat of the week
Twelve of Buffalo's 19 post-bye week games have been decided by less than a touchdown with seven of those 12 being decided by less than a field goal.
Buffalo has won their last three games coming off the bye week with victories over Kansas City (2005), Green Bay (2006) and Baltimore (2007) respectively. The Bills are 13-6 all-time after the bye and 9-4 all-time at home.
Milestones in reach
Both Lee Evans and Josh Reed stand one reception away from the 250th in their respective careers. They would become just the 10th and 11th players in franchise history to compile 250 or more catches in their career.
Josh Reed also needs 76 receiving yards to reach 3,000 in his career.
Brian Moorman needs 63 punting yards to become the 55th NFL player to surpass 25,000 punting yards in a career.
A win on Sunday would give Buffalo its 200th victory at home in franchise history.