Source: USA Today
Could Vincent Jackson being playing himself into another season with the Chargers? That was among the chatter points with the Chargers looking to keep their postseason hopes alive with a win Sunday in Cincinnati.
Jackson's three-touchdown game in the recent win over the 49ers underscored just how good — and important — he is to the Chargers' offense.
But both sides — it was thought — burned bridges when Jackson held out this year and general manager A.J. Smith refused to give-in on a long-term contract.
So the two-time Pro Bowler Jackson sat and the two sides won't make the other side's Christmas card list.
But since his return Jackson has been productive on the field and a good boost to an already solid locker room. Jackson's issues have come away from the facility as he's thought of fondly by teammates and especially quarterback Philip Rivers.
It's easy to see why. Rivers was able to hoist one of those jump-ball specials it seems he and Jackson often hook up on in the last game. Jackson caught the ball at its highest point, shed an overmatched defensive back and went in for a 58-yard touchdown.
Rivers never has hid his pleasure in having Jackson as a target — the two formed a bond when riding the bench early in their careers. But Rivers knows he can't play GM in regard to Jackson. And he can't do more than hope that the AFC West-leading Chiefs stumble.
"We've got to win," Rivers said of Sunday's trek to Cincinnati. "That's the only one we can control and that's the only one we really have to worry about. Trying to figure out all those scenarios, it doesn't help you. Certainly we know we've got to win the next two to have a chance and then we'll see what happens."
The same goes for Jackson and Chargers. If there's a franchise tag and Jackson is eligible in the new labor agreement, the Chargers could use it as a means to retain of the NFL's most dynamic receivers.
UNDER THE RADAR: Cornerback Dante Hughes continues to see increased action in passing packages. He had four tackles and added two on special teams in the last game. With Carson Palmer figuring to throw often Sunday, Hughes should get more chances.
BY THE NUMBERS: Can the Chargers reverse their trend of not playing well on the road? With a possible playoff berth in the balance, the Chargers need to reach .500 on the road with two straight wins. The Chargers lost their first four road games at Kansas City, Seattle, Oakland and St. Louis. After Sunday's game at Cincinnati, the Chargers finish at Denver.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
—LB Brandon Moore, who last played in the NFL in 2007 in the 49ers, signed with the Chargers. He spent the past two years with Las Vegas in the UFL. Moore, 31, played for the 49ers from 2002-07, and he had 6.5 sacks in 2006.
—LB Darry Beckwith, who was signed from the practice squad for last Thursday's game, was waived. He could land back on the practice squad.
—OT Eric Young, waived by St. Louis with an injury settlement in September, signed with the Chargers' practice squad. He spent a large part of the 2009 season on the Rams' practice squad.
—QB Philip Rivers had a gaudy 150.5 ranking in the win over the 49ers, thanks in part to three touchdown passes to Vincent Jackson. One more 300-yard game and that gives him a career-best six such games in one season. Dan Fouts has the franchise mark with eight in 1980. Rivers continues to have a sensational season.
—TE Antonio Gates (foot) is doing his weekly wrestling act with his injury. Some think Gates could shut it down until a possible playoff game; others that he will go if at all able. This guy is hurting, big-time, either way.
—WR Malcom Floyd (hamstring) is showing signs of being able to play Sunday. Floyd, if he can stay on the field, could be in for a big game if the coverage rolls toward Vincent Jackson.
—WR Patrick Crayton (wrist) is out this week.
—RB Darren Sproles is splitting his punt-return duties with CB Antoine Cason. Sproles has shown a burst of late in the offense when not bringing back punts. But coach Norv Turner is leery of Cason taking the beating which comes with the full-time duties.
—TE Randy McMichael continues to take advantage of his chance with Antonio Gates being down with foot injuries. McMichael had five catches for 55 yards — those catches tied for a team-high.
—RG Louis Vasquez (neck) could be active this week, although there's no guarantee he reclaims his starting spot which is being held down by Tyronne Green.
—OLB Kevin Burnett continues to have the best year of his career after recording his sixth sack.
—ILB Stephen Cooper continues to battle a knee injury which will likely compromise him the rest of the season. It could cut into his playing time Sunday.
—ILB Brandon Siler would be in line to collect the extra snaps if LB Stephen Cooper is out; Siler is always in on short-yardage packages. His fourth-and-1 stuffing of the Niners' Anthony Dixon in the last game was significant. He also shines on special teams.
—CB Antoine Cason, in his first year as a starter, has played well down the stretch. He's also contributing in punt-returns.
—P Mike Scifres is OK and will punt Sunday. But he got rocked making a tackle in the last game.