WHEN THE PACKERS HAVE THE BALL
Rodgers (2,372 passing yards, 20 TD, 3 INT) has thrown one interception in his last three games and has passed for more than 300 yards in all but one contest this season. That was a 297-yard passing effort in a Week 3 win at Chicago. He threw three touchdown passes in a 33-27 win at Minnesota before the bye week and has 12 scoring strikes in the past four games for the Packers, who have converted 48.8 percent of their third-down chances as well. An early candidate for the MVP award, Rodgers is averaging a league-best 9.9 yards per pass attempt.
His worst rating of the season was a 111.4 mark against the Bears, a mark several quarterbacks at this level would enjoy reaching. The Packers would like to cut down on their penalties and sacks, as the offense has amassed 24 of the 38 penalties on the team this season and the offensive line has allowed 16 sacks in the first seven games after giving up 38 a year ago. The Packers are on pace to match that again if something is not fixed up front.
Wide receiver Greg Jennings (42 receptions, 677 yards, 5 TD) is hoping his right hand is healed after injuring it against Minnesota, though he’s considered probable to play. Running backs James Starks (374 rushing yards, 1 TD) and Ryan Grant (229 rushing yards) have complimented the team’s potent pass attack, but Green Bay is 24th in rushing.
San Diego knows it could be bombarded by Rodgers’ throws on Sunday, but has the fourth-best pass defense in the league, allowing 185.9 yards per week through the air. Kansas City had just 247 net yards passing in its Monday night win and Weddle (41 tackles) led the Chargers with a pair of interceptions to give a team-leading five on the season.
The Packers aren’t that dominant in running the football, though it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them try to set Starks and Grant in motion right away. The Chargers’ 3-4 scheme isn’t predicated in stopping the rush, as evidenced by its 17th-rated run defense. San Diego did hold the Chiefs to 94 yards rushing, however, with linebacker Donald Butler (49 tackles, sack) leading the way with eight tackles on Monday. He is tied with veteran linebacker Takeo Spikes (49 tackles, sack) for the team lead in stops.
Outside linebackers Shaun Phillips (24 tackles) and Antwan Barnes (7 tackles) have a team-best three sacks apiece and will try to apply pressure on Rodgers before he has enough time in the pocket to let loose. Fellow outside linebacker Travis LaBoy (15 tackles, 1 sack) hasn’t provided much of a pass rush so far this season, but a big game from him could make San Diego’s job on defense a bit easier. LaBoy, though, forced a fumble in the loss to the Chiefs.
WHEN THE CHARGERS HAVE THE BALL
The Chargers produced 447 yards of offense at Kansas City and still managed to fumble away a chance to win. Rivers (2,084 passing yards, 7 TD, 11 INT) threw for more than 300 yards for the fourth time this season, but he’s been putting the Chargers behind the eight ball with too many turnovers. San Diego’s still in first place in the AFC West, but will have to protect the ball more often if it has any intentions on making a push towards the playoffs. The Chargers scored just 14 offensive points against the Jets two games ago and did not record a touchdown until midway through the fourth quarter Monday in Kansas City.
Malcom Floyd (19 receptions, 1 TD) led the receivers with 107 yards on five receptions against the Chiefs with top target Vincent Jackson (27 receptions, 472 yards, 3 TD) held in check, as he finished with 49 yards on three receptions. Tight end Antonio Gates (17 receptions, 1 TD) appeared in his second straight game since missing four straight because of a foot problem and is expected to play again this week.
All three targets will be key to any chance of success the Chargers may create this weekend against a struggling Green Bay secondary. With leading rusher Ryan Mathews (509 rushing yards, 3 TD) doubtful with a calf injury and reserve Curtis Brinkley (43 rushing yards, 1 TD) sustaining a concussion last week, San Diego hopes Mike Tolbert (163 rushing yards, 3 TD) can return from a strained hamstring and pace the ground attack.
Green Bay tops the NFL in takeaways thanks to a league-leading 13 interceptions, five of which have been recorded by cornerback Charles Woodson. (26 tackles, 1 sack). The veteran is having a strong season for a Packers team rated just 31st in pass defense, allowing 288.9 yards per game. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers feels the unit can get better and said it’s not where he wants it to be.
He’ll have to have a tight scheme to handle a Chargers offense that likes to throw the football quite often. A few defenders are banged up for Green Bay such as cornerback Tramon Williams (21 tackles), who is bothered by a shoulder injury, while nickel back Sam Shields (23 tackles, 2 INT) did not play against the Vikings because of a concussion but is expected to return this week.
Linebacker Clay Matthews (22 tackles, 3 sacks) used the bye week to rest and is hoping to get his sack count up after registering 13 1/2 a season ago. The Packers are 28th in yards allowed (391.0 ypg) and 10th in rush defense, but were toasted by Vikings running back Adrian Peterson to the tune of 175 yards and a score on 24 carries before the break. Though San Diego’s running backs shouldn’t be as much trouble, the Packers have permitted 550 rushing yards in the last four games.
KEYS TO THE GAME
San Diego coming out on top on Sunday all depends on how Rivers and the offensive line perform. Rivers’ blunders the past few weeks have been well- documented, and the offensive line needs to create space for both the quarterback and the ground game.
Remember that the Packers’ pass defense is in its current state in the rankings mainly because opposing teams are playing from behind, and running the football while down doesn’t help the cause, especially in the fourth quarter. If Green Bay can race out to a comfortable lead, Rivers will pad his stats but may not leave the field happy.
Green Bay has a lot of pressure riding on this game, as it would like to remain the only team in the NFL with an unblemished mark. A loss by the defending Super Bowl champions will not have much of an impact on the NFC standings, but it would show the Packers aren’t invincible.
Prediction – Can Philip Rivers finally get on track? He leads the league in turnovers, and Monday night he cost his team a chance at a win in KC with a late fumble. The Packers are well rested after a bye, and Aaron Rodgers will look to keep building on his remarkable MVP season with a good effort in San Diego. The Packers are undefeated, and the Chargers won’t be able to keep up with their offense for 60 minutes. Green Bay 34 San Diego 21