Steamrolling Into Playoffs
For the second straight season, the San Diego Chargers are on a roll heading into the playoffs. This time around, they're trying not to be overconfident, especially with a matchup against a Tennessee Titans team that is thrilled to be getting another crack at the AFC West champions.
San Diego brings another long winning streak into the postseason on Sunday when it meets visiting Tennessee for the second time in five weeks.
Oddsmakers from Bodog have made San Diego –9.5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game, the over/under has been set at 40.5 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 65% of bets for this game have been placed on San Diego –9.5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
The first matchup between these teams resulted in a 23-17 overtime victory for San Diego in Nashville on Dec. 9 - the Titans' only loss in their last five games.
In that contest, the Chargers (11-5) rallied from 14 points down in the fourth quarter, tying the game at 17 on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Philip Rivers to tight end Antonio Gates with 9 seconds remaining. San Diego won on LaDainian Tomlinson's 16-yard TD run in overtime.
The game was extremely physical, with four players getting fined a total of $32,500 by the NFL and Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman accusing the Titans of a cheap shot that left him with an injured knee.
"I know that there's a lot of things that went on a few weeks ago when we played them at our place, a lot of bad blood in this game," said Tennessee center Kevin Mawae, who was docked $5,000 for a hit on Merriman. "So it'll be interesting to see. We're going to try to stay focused this week and not get caught up in the locker room trash talk and just focus on ourselves.
"We go out to San Diego and give them our best shot."
Tennessee (10-6) is still upset about the last meeting, believing it was on the wrong end of a call on a crucial fourth-and-5 play for San Diego during the final drive of regulation. Rivers threw a pass downfield to Chris Chambers, who had to dive back for the ball, and the officials ruled it a catch.
It was replayed because it came in the last two minutes, but not overturned because of a lack of camera angles.
"If people missed the first one that we played, tune in," Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck said.
Rivers, though, isn't ready to label this wild-card game as a grudge match.
"Nah, I mean, we won the game. That's all that matters to us," he said. "It's a new game now. We get to play them at home. It's going to be another fun, physical game. I'm looking forward to it."
San Diego was also looking forward to its playoff opener last season after finishing on a 10-game winning streak and earning the top seed in the AFC. The Chargers, however, lost 24-21 at home to New England - their fourth straight defeat in the postseason since reaching the Super Bowl in 1995.
The Chargers now bring a six-game win streak into the playoffs and enter having won 10 of 12 following a 1-3 start.
"Last year, the season we had, it felt so easy throughout the year, winning something like 10 straight," said Tomlinson, who won his second consecutive rushing title this season with 1,474 yards. "You had to get to that point where we were kind of a little arrogant, and saying, 'You know what? We don't think nobody out there can beat us.' We won 10 straight. You can have a tendency as human nature to do that. We did that last year and we paid for it.
"This year things have come tougher for us. We have really been in some tough games. We have lost some tough games, some close games, and we have had games where we just got embarrassed. So I think all that, you go into the playoffs with a newfound respect, somewhat."
San Diego's recent playoff failures led to the firing of coach Marty Schottenheimer after last season. Norv Turner took over and he's coaching just his third postseason game, having gone 1-1 with Washington in 1999.
"By the nature of what both teams do, it's going to be an extremely physical game," Turner told San Diego's official Web site. "Then when you look at the players involved, there are some real physical players and very competitive players. I said it after that game (in Nashville), the intensity level was like a playoff game. The intensity level in this game I imagine will be even higher."
Tennessee needed a 16-10 win at No. 2 seed Indianapolis last Sunday night to secure its first playoff spot since 2003, but saw starting quarterback Vince Young get hurt in the process.
Young is day-to-day after re-injuring his right quadriceps muscle, but coach Jeff Fisher said Monday he expects Young to play in this game.
"I have a good feel that he will be back on the practice field," Fisher said. "We'll just see how it goes."
If he starts Sunday, the 24-year-old Young would become the youngest quarterback in franchise history to start a playoff game.
"Just talking to the veteran guys, they keep saying it's one of the greatest feelings ever," the second-year pro said of being in the playoffs. "The tempo, the fans, the people. It's like a different edge to the game. I'm just looking forward to being a part of it. I'm just happy."
San Diego did a good job against Young in the Dec. 9 matchup, picking him off twice and holding him to two yards on two carries.
The Chargers led the NFL with 30 interceptions and finished fifth in scoring defense, allowing 17.8 points per game.
"Their defense is playing very, very well," Fisher said. "They're healthy. They're getting turnovers. Their offense has a running back that's pretty good. They've got pretty good receivers and an All-Pro tight end, and a quarterback that knows what to do with the football."
San Diego has won five straight in this series, including a 40-7 win at home last season. The Chargers, though, are 0-3 in the postseason against the former Houston Oilers, including a 17-14 loss in their last playoff meeting on Dec. 29, 1979.
By: Staff Writers - Email Us
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