The Green Bay Packers come off their bye and return to action in Week 9 to take on the San Diego Chargers. Taking their undefeated record on the road, the Packers look to knock off what could be one of the AFC's best teams.
Since 1970, the two teams have played only nine times with the Packers dominating the series 8-1. Looking for their first win against the Packers since 1984, the Chargers will be coming off a heated Halloween edition of Monday Night Football in Week 8 against the Kansas City Chiefs for first place in the AFC West.
The teams are quite unfamiliar with each other as Aaron Rodgers has never faced the Chargers and Phillip Rivers has only faced the Packers once. A challenging game to predict, the Chargers could pose a bigger threat than anybody left on the Packers' schedule.
James Starks has yet to top the 100-yard mark this season, but will do so against the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers are average against the run ranking 16th overall in total rushing yards allowed.
When Starks has had opportunities to get a rhythm going this season, he has been excellent. Against the Panthers in Week 2, Starks carried the ball only nine times, but gained 85 yards. With more carries, it certainly would have reached the century mark.
With Aaron Rodgers slinging the ball as well as he has been, it may be a stretch to think the Packers will run the ball enough to get Starks 100 yards. While this may be the case, if Starks gets going and the Packers start quick, there could be a heavy dosage of Starks late in the game.
Through their first six games, the Chargers are only giving up 175.7 yards per game through the air. This is quite the contrast from the numbers that Rodgers has put up so far this season. Against the Chargers, Rodgers won't put up massive numbers, but will be efficient enough to win the game.
With how well Rodgers takes care of the ball, it seems unlikely that he will turn it over. If he is able to take care of the ball, the Packers will not need huge numbers to win this game if they can get the ground game going.
Relying more heavily on the run than in previous weeks, it will take pressure off Rodgers against one of the league's best passing defenses.
For weeks now, the Packers' pass defense has slowly improved and will look to build on this against the Chargers. The Packers should be able to contain Phillip Rivers with a healthy Tramon Williams, Sam Shields and Charles Woodson.
While the Packers defense has survived on the ability to create turnovers, it would be nice to see the Packers put it together in the secondary and shut down one of the league's better quarterbacks. This means not giving up as many yards in addition to coming up with takeaways.
In order for this to happen, the Packers need to do a better job up front and get pressure on Rivers. It has been an Achilles heel for the defense, but should be much better against the Chargers.
Much has been made about Clay Matthews' production so far this season. He has been praised for getting to the quarterback and criticized for not getting sacks. Against the Chargers, Matthews will come up with his best game of the season.
The Chargers are giving up 2.3 sacks a game this season, but when the Packers' pass rush gets going, they can be hard to stop. With extra time to prepare, defensive coordinator Dom Capers has most likely used the time to get creative in ways to bring pressure.
Against the Vikings in Week 7, the Packers blitzed more than any other game this season and found success against rookie QB Christian Ponder. While Rivers is much more experienced and fairly good against the blitz, the Packers will look to get in his face.
Throughout the season, Matthews has been hampered by a quad-injury which has limited him in the practice week. With some extra rest, Matthews will have a good game and create fits for the Chargers upfront.
Going into San Diego to face the Chargers is thought to be one of the toughest challenges remaining on the Packers' schedule. Coming off a bye week to play the Chargers who will be coming off short rest, will mean the Packers cruise through California.
The Packers will win this game big with a dominant defensive performance, a solid rushing attack and the consistent play of Aaron Rodgers. Phillip Rivers and Co. will struggle against the Packers' talented corners in what will be the breakout game for the Packers' secondary.
While the Packers will be rested and re-focused, the Chargers will be facing a short week following their Halloween night matchup. Their Week 8 game will be high-intensity contest against a division rival for first place in the AFC West.
Coming off such an emotional game (win or lose) will make it tough for the Chargers to get back up again and face the NFL's current powerhouse.