San Diego Chargers vs. Indianapolis Colts Playoff Primer
December 30, 2008 by AlexV
The night cap of day one on Wild-Card Weekend will have two teams on display that can light up the scoreboard. Whereas the Colts have reverted to a more proficient scoring style over the past few years with the peak-point maturity of Peyton Manning, the Chargers have remained a team that can put up points in bunches. This game should have all the makings of a contest that comes down to which team does the best with it’s last offensive drive, and a last chance hail-mary or “lateral push” doesn’t count.
Everyone knows that both teams have more-than capable and playoff-tested quarterbacks. Peyton Manning has practically carried his team whose run game which ranked 31st in the league with a meager 79.6 yards per game, and was able to post his ninth 4,000 yard plus season with 4,002 yards, threw 27 touchdowns against a respectable twelve interceptions, while completing 66.8 percent of his passes. These numbers were good enough to earn him a 95.0 QB rating.
Philip Rivers, for San Diego, threw his way to his first ever 4,000 yard plus season with 4,009 yards. He also tied with New Orleans’ Drew Brees for the most touchdowns with 34, completed 65.3 percent of his passes with eleven interceptions. All this was good for a passer rating of 105.5 which was tops in the NFL. Much like Peyton Manning, he too had to overcome his teams dip in rushing stats as LaDainian Tomlinson went from 1,462, 1,815, and 1,474 yards in the past three years respectively to his lowest output ever in his storied eight year career at 1,110 yards with 3.8 yards per carry. In those previously mentioned seasons, he had 4.3, 5.2, and 4.7 yards per carry respectively. So this should be the beginning of the down-hill part of his career.
But even with that being said, the Chargers still gained 107.9 yards per game on the ground (20th in the league, and eleven better than Indy’s 31st) and even with his 2008 swoon, Tomlinson is still one of the most prolific rushers in the league. Furthermore, his production is still better than the Colt’s duo of Dominic Rhodes, 538ypg, 3.5ypc, and Joseph Addai, 544ypg, and also 3.5ypc. The two of them alone gained 1,082 yards. This isn’t good, as the Chargers second option, Darren Sproles, had 330ypg with 5.4ypc. If you combine his total with Tomlinson’s you’ll get 358 yards of extra ground over the two Indianapolis runners.
As far as defenses go, the Chargers were 27th in the league versus the pass, giving up 247.4 yards per game. On the other hand, the Colts were very good with a 6th rated passing defense giving up 188.1 yards per contest. As for the rushing defenses, the Chargers ranked 11th and gave up a respectable 102.6 yards per game. With teams rarely giving every single carry to a feature back, 102.6 yards per game between two to three players isn’t terrible. The Colts, however, were 24th, and they gave up 122.9 yards per outing. That kind of number suggests that their opponent’s feature back was typically able to get at least over 90 yards on his own. Seemingly, the Colts allowed seven of their opponent’s backs to gain over 90 yards to the Charger’s three.
Now for the X factors.
Both teams are entering the post-season on hot streaks; the Colts have won nine straight, and the Chargers have won four straight. You would think the Colts did their duty better with that kind of disparity, but let’s not forget a few “gimme” games they won this season; The first time they played Houston, when QB Sage Rosenfels fumbled the ball away twice in the waning moments of the game, the game against Pittsburgh when they were down 17-7 at one point and Ben Roethlisberger threw three terrible interceptions, and the game against Cleveland when they were down 6-3 in the fourth quarter and Robert Mathis returned a fumble by QB Ken Dorsey 37 yards for a 10-6 victory. Without those three wins, the Colts wouldn’t even be in the playoffs.
In the Charger’s four game streak, their only luck-job win was in Kansas City when they scored twelve points in the final 1:19 of the game to win 22-21. Other than that, they have soared in beating Oakland 34-7, Tampa Bay 41-24, and most recently, Denver 52-21.
With all of that being said, the Chargers having a passing game that is actually complimented by the run, the Colts having to rely on Peyton manning for most of the season, and a renewed vigor of the San Diego Chargers by their miracle playoff push after overcoming a 4-8 record, I just simply have to give the game to San Diego at home. There is a reason the Colts passing defense was 6th in the league, and that is because their opponents had field days against their 31st ranked run defense. I am not saying the game won’t be close and that Peyton Manning isn’t great on the road just as he is at home, but the game can easily slip away from Indianapolis in the second half if they have to go score for score in this contest.