By Curtis Egan
<em>BoltTalk Staff Writer</em>
<img src="http://graphics.jsonline.com/graphics/photographer/20/2043_large.jpg" title="Brett Farves get's sack by the Chargers." alt="Brett Farves get's sack by the Chargers." align="right" height="213" width="221" />It is not often that the team that represents Southern California rolls into the hallowed grounds of Lambeau field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. That is exactly what will be happening this weekend and the battered 1-1 San Diego Chargers limp in to challenge the 2-0 Green Bay Packers lead by Quarterback Brett Favre who is in his 17th season in the NFL.
Favre and the Green Bay Packers are coming off a very well played second half of football against the New York Giants. The Packers moved the ball almost at will, scoring four touchdowns in five possessions to pull away for a 35-13 victory over the Giants.
This is a contrast to the San Diego offense that they will face who has been struggling to get points on the board, and has yet to score in the first half of a game in 2007. San Diego Quarterback Philip Rivers is coming in with a very ordinary passer rating of 73.7 over the two games, and reigning league MVP, Running Back LaDanian Tomlinson has a per carry yard average of 1.9 yards through two games.
The Chargers seem to be a frustrated young team that is trying to control its emotions as well as adjust to the schemes of the new coaching staff. But to write this team off at this point is a dangerous thing to do. Though their confidence is a bit shaken, one play here, a recovered fumble there, perhaps a punt return is all it will take to get these players focused and on the right track.
San Diego comes in with the 27th ranked offensive attack, and the 15th ranked defense. They are 27th in the league in passing offense and 29th in the league in rushing offense. The defensive side finds them ranked 10th against the pass and 18th against the run. The Packers are ranked 13th on offense, and 14th on defense, coming in 13th in passing attack and 29th with the runs. Their defense is registered 14th against the pass and 13th against the run.
I do not look at the Packers to try and run the ball too much against the Chargers, not with the Patriots putting on an aerial display in the last game. The Packers coaching staff will try and see if they cant exploit a weakness in the Sand Diego defense by protecting Favre, and letting the wide outs work themselves into he soft middle of the San Diego coverage.
The Chargers on the other hand will seek to get Tomlinson going against a Packers defense that he has had some success against in the past, in combine yards. The Chargers will not give up on the run this early and will need to establish a running game to allow Rivers to remain calm and work in the play action pass. However one thing is clear. The Chargers will have to figure out a way to stretch the field to give Tomlinson some breathing room at Lambeau field.
The Chargers last faced the Packers in the regular season, in 2003, when the Packers visited Qualcom Stadium in December. The warmer climate did the Packers some good as they beat the Chargers 34 to 21 that day. The Packers defense was able to hold Tomlinson on the ground to 51 yards on 20 carries, but not through the air. Tomlinson hauled in 11 passes from then Chargers Quarterback Drew Brees for 144 yards and 2 touchdowns. Bret Favre though proved to be the difference maker, meeting the Chargers challenge by completing 23 of 33 passes for 278 yards, 4 touch downs and 1 interception.
<strong><em>Chargers on Offense:</em></strong>
The San Diego Chargers have to get some holes opened for Running Back LaDanian Tomlinson. So far the Chargers have shown a willingness to rush Tomlinson up the middle into a mass of humanity in the form of 8 or 9 defenders on the line. Head Coach Norv Turner for some reason does not have many plays to the outside. The wide outs were more involved in the last game against the Patriots, but still Tight End Antonio Gates is the main receiving threat on the Chargers offense.
The Chargers offensive line will have to give Rivers more time to allow plays to develop, Rivers has been pressured in both games this season and has not been able to settle into any sort of a rhythm.
Green Bay does have a weakness in the fact that their speedy, pass rushing defensive ends have been leaving holes and opening lanes because of their desire to get to the passer. To exploit this the Chargers will have to pull their guards and try to run with a lot of power to the gaps. San Diego also has it's jumbo package which includes blocking specialists FB Lorenzo Neal and TE Brandon Manumaleuna who will have to lead Tomlinson through a very athletic front seven of the Packers.
Rivers struggled at the end of last season identifying blitzes and had difficulties against rushes. Green Bay will attempt to get after him. Rivers has struggled to get into rhythm so far this season as stated before, will have to get the wide outs involved and keep the Packers athletic front 7 off balance to be able to find that rhythm.
The Chargers wide outs should find themselves mostly facing man to man coverage's in the secondary. If the Packers blitz, and the Chargers can recognize this it should allow for some good passing lanes to develop. The Chargers will have to use the middle of the field, crossing receivers to pull the safety or linebacker in coverage out of position.
LT Marcus McNeill will face stiff challenges from the likes of Cullen Jenkins and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, who is moved in and out of position by the Packers for passing plays. McNeil should be able to handle both of these players without help, although both are very good defensive ends. On the other side, Defensive End Aaron Kampman will be facing Chargers backup Right Tackle Jeromey Clary, who replaced Shane Olivea last week. Kampman is an excellent pass rusher, and having Clary to hold him off will not make things easier for Rivers. Look for the Chargers to work in extra help for Clary.
<strong><em>Chargers on Defense: </em></strong>
The Chargers will look to pressure Favre to give their beleaguered secondary some help. The Chargers should be able to work in a few blitzes without compromising the coverage by dropping one of their athletic line backers back into coverage.
Favre has been getting the ball out very quickly this season, and has been able to thus far cut back on the number of interceptions he has thrown. With an aggressive defense and mobile quarterbacks they can rattle Favre, so long as they are able to limit the Packers rushing attack.
The Chargers will need to make the Packers offense one dimensional, and reliant on the passing attack. Then with the proper amount of pressure on Favre, the turnovers will start happening as he resumes his habit of trying to force things by throwing the ball up for grabs. If the Packers can establish a running game the Chargers defenders job becomes much harder.
<p id="post_message_296403"><strong><em>Packers on Offense: </em></strong>
The Packers have had troubles in the running game so far this season and have not been able to get any reliable production on the ground. They attempted rushing the ball only 16 times in Week 1 and gave up on the ground game rather quickly. Despite dominating the game statistically in Week 2, the Packers were only able to get 83 yards from their ground attack. The Packers offensive line hasn't been very good at opening holes for the runners either. Vernand Morency may not play due to a knee injury, but DeShawn Wynn is gaining the respect of the Packers coaches and is getting more and more opportunities to carry the ball. Brandon Jackson, who has been the starter, has done very little to keep his starting position, accumulating only a 2.3 yard per carry average with 32 carries thus far on the season.
Packers Center, Scott Wells is is very good in the Packers zone-blocking system. He is however 53 pounds lighter than Chargers Nose Tackle, Jamal Williams. Williams who is listed as probable for Sundays game is one of the elite Nose Tackles in the league, and with a sore elbow this could prove to be a very interesting battle. Wells will not be able to move Williams off the line by himself, sore elbow or not. If Williams cannot play, the Packers' will try the run early to see if the loss of the big man in the middle gives them more success and Favre some breathing room..
The key offensively for the Packers will be the play of the offensive line, and their ability to beat the pass rush. They must get the ground game established to take pressure off Favre from the San Diego front seven who are very mobile, and dangerous. The Packers will have to keep people in to deliver maximum protection for Favre on passing plays, and this might tip their hand a bit as to which play they will be running.
<strong><em>Packers on Defense: </em></strong>
The Packers will have to stop Tomlinson first and foremost. Though Tomlinson has not been producing at his regular level so far this season, you can't rely on him not getting the yards. If they can limit the running game, and drop a middle line backer into coverage their job of slowing down the struggling San Diego offensive attack becomes much easier.
In the passing game the packers will attempt to focus on Gates, who is the Chargers leading receiver, and main receiving threat. While this might create opportunities for the wide outs, the Packers might be confident that with the pressure from the defensive end position, Rivers will not have the time to go through his progressions properly to identify the open receiver.
Rivers will have to get the ball out quickly to neutralize the Packers pass rush, as they will want to rattle Rivers and make him throw the ball from his back foot or make bad decisions.
The monkey and the wrench:</em></strong>
Charles Woodson will be returning punts for the Packers. Most teams would not like to have their starting cornerback as the top punt returner, but their normal returner has a thumb injury and is having problems in fielding the punts. This could work in the Chargers favor, especially given the punts that San Diego Punter Mike Scifres has been booming out. He has given his coverage team the time to get to the returner and is forcing fair catches with regularity. San Diego will have to decide whether to use Michael Turner and Darren Sproles, as both can be dangerous in the return game.
<strong><em>Concudan's Prognostication: </em></strong>
This is not the frozen tundra of Lambeau field the Chargers are visiting. While it will be cool, there will be no snow or wind chill factors. This game is a level playing field, while the Packers are favored by 4.5 points, I think the Charger will come out of the New England game focused, angry and wanting to prove something..
Chargers 23, Packers 16.</font></strong>
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