Philip Rivers versus Peyton Manning could prove to be one of the best quarterback duels we will see this season. Manning is routinely one of the best QB's in the game, but this year, Rivers has stated his case for best signal-caller in the NFL.
Both teams have been bit hard by the injury bug this year, especially in the backfield. With that being said, it hasn't halted these pass oriented offenses from putting points on the board. If you are a fan of defense, tonight's game won't be for you as a flurry of points can be expected.
I've decided to channel my inner Nostradamus and come up with six predictions for tonight's tilt in a game that has the potential to be one of the best of the season.
Gates' status is still up in the air as he continues to battle a foot injury. Early reports have him running and cutting out on the field, and in a game of this magnitude, he should be active. Don't expect him to play a lot of snaps, but it is fair to think that he will be used in red zone packages.
When Gates is on the field, he has found himself celebrating in the end zone in all but one game this year. If he goes tonight, he'll record his 10th TD of the season.
The Colts' offense is still one of the best in the NFL, but Peyton Manning and co. haven't been as efficient as they have been in years past. In a game against a Charger offense that will carve up a defense like it's a pumpkin on Halloween night, the Colts don't want to get in a shootout.
Look for Jim Caldwell to work the run game early on with short passes to control the clock. Keeping Rivers off the field will be a high priority tonight for Indy. If this game gets into a shootout, it favors San Diego, who has simply been better on the offensive side of the ball so far.
The return of Jackson will be a welcomed sight for Rivers after losing Patrick Crayton to an injury last week. Malcom Floyd is battling a hamstring injury, and as mentioned before, Gates is far from healthy.
It hasn't mattered who's been catching Rivers' passes this season because he's had success with whoever's been in the lineup. But it definitely will help to have the Pro Bowl receiver back. It's a trusted target that Rivers can go to when in doubt.
The Chargers have reported being very impressed with how in shape Jackson was for a guy who hasn't played a down this season. He will be very motivated on a national stage as he is in a contract year.
Dallas Clark's replacement has been one of Manning's favorite targets since the Pro Bowler went out to a season-ending injury. Tamme's tallied 31 catches to go with over 300 yards receiving in just four games.
Tonight's game should be no different for the third year pro out of Kentucky. San Diego has a solid pass defense and will devote most of their attention to stopping Reggie Wayne on the outside. That should leave the seams open for Tamme in the middle of the field.
His season-high in yardage was 108 against Philadelphia, and he has a great chance of coming close to that tonight.
Wayne may be Manning's No. 1 option in general, but tonight, it will be the young tight end.
Mike Tolbert had his second 100-yard game in the Chargers' last game against Denver, but don't expect another tonight. Same can be said for Donald Brown of the Colts, who has become the default starter due to the injuries of Joseph Addai and Mike Hart.
Neither one of these teams have been particular successful running the ball, and that should continue. This game is being hyped as a QB duel, and for good reason too. Both QB's will have to win this game on their right arms and not the legs of their running backs.
There's no doubt Rivers belongs in the MVP conversation despite San Diego's 5-5 record. Yes, he has come up small in some spots this season, but you could argue that if he had all of his weapons healthy, it may have been a different case.
Nevertheless, the Chargers desperately need to win this game to avoid falling below .500, and mostly because Kansas City took care of business against Seattle. Falling two games behind a Chiefs team that is seeing improved play from Matt Cassel is not something the Chargers can afford to do.
Not to mention that KC already has beaten San Diego once this season putting an added emphasis on every game the rest of the season. It's unlikely the Chargers will be able to win the rest of their games without having a slip up eventually. A loss here by San Diego could seal their fate putting too much pressure on the team to win out. It would also give the Chiefs a cushion and even more confidence heading down the stretch.
Rivers and co. need this game more than the Colts do and they are playing the best football in the NFL right now. San Diego pulls of the upset and remains a game behind the Chiefs behind Rivers' arm.