The Tennessee Titans (10-6) will limp into the playoffs for the first time since the 2003 season. The San Diego Chargers (11-5), the AFC number three seed, will host the Titans Sunday afternoon at 3:30 PM CT.
Next to the Patriots, the Chargers are the hottest team in the league. Last week San Diego beat the Raiders 30-17 for their sixth win a row and tenth in their last twelve games.
Weather may play a huge role in this playoff battle. The forecast calls for rain, heavy at times, from Friday through Sunday. A flash flood watch has been issued and the field conditions may approach those seen in the Monday night mud game in Pittsburgh six weeks ago.
I’m not going to rehash a scouting report on the Chargers, since little has changed for them since the teams met four weeks ago. For reference, please review my preview of that game. The most notable change since then has been the return of RDE Luis Castillo to the starting lineup.
The Titans, on the other hand, have lost two of their top three receivers for the year. Bo Scaife and Roydell Williams are out, which definitely limits Tennessee’s offense. To add to the problems, QB Vince Young has reinjured the quad that was hindering him.
Turnovers will be a key in this game. San Diego finished the season leading the NFL in interceptions (30), total takeaways (48) and giveaway-takeaway margin (plus 24). The Titans broke even with 34 giveaways and 34 takeaways.
LaDainian Tomlinson finished with 1,474 rushing yards for back to back rushing titles. Amazingly, he didn’t fumble this year. One interesting stat — the Chargers have lost both playoff games in which Tomlinson has played.
Chargers scoring offense 25.8 ppg (5th) vs Titans scoring defense 18.6 ppg (8th)
Chargers rushing offense 127 ypg (7th) vs Titans run defense (92 ypg, 5th)
Chargers passing offense 188 ypg (26th) vs Titans pass defense (199 ypg, 10th)
Chargers total offense 315 ypg (20th) vs Titans total defense (292 ypg, 5th)
Titans scoring offense 18.8 ppg (22nd) vs Chargers scoring defense 17.8 ppg (5th)
Titans rushing offense 132 ypg (5th) vs Chargers run defense (107 ypg, 16th)
Titans passing offense 180 ypg (27th) vs Chargers pass defense (213 ypg, 14th)
Titans total offense 312 ypg (21st) vs Chargers total defense (320 ypg, 14th)
With the weather forecast looking worse, the chances increase that this will be a sloppy game. Since it rarely rains in southern California I wonder how much consideration was given to drainage when the field was being planned. It could become a swamp, a quagmire.
Of course, playing in a bog favors the Titans. A muddy field will slow down Tomlinson and neutralize the Chargers’ overall team speed. LenDale White doesn’t have any speed to lose but if this game turns into a grind it out in the mud contest he could be the most effective back on the field… if he can hold on to the ball. Throw the ten point spread out the window.
San Diego 13
Titans fans, for more information and opinion from the other side’s point of view, check out MVN’s Chargers Confidential.