Game Primer: Chargers vs. Jets

RB Jackie Battle (USA Today Sports)

The playoffs are out of the equation, but the Chargers still have a chance to finish the season with wins over two of their most hated rivals: the Jets and the Raiders. To set the table for Sunday's game, we break down each phase of the intra-conference contest.

When The Chargers Run

Ryan Mathews is done for the season after breaking a clavicle bone for the second time this year. The Chargers are always prepared to go without the injury-prone Mathews, as Ronnie Brown and Jackie Battle are on standby.

Brown was back to full participation this week after being limited by a hamstring injury. Primarily a third-down back, Brown has a career-high 46 receptions for 360 yards. San Diego's second-leading rusher is Jackie Battle, who has 225 yards and three touchdowns despite limited opportunities.

Seventh-round pick Edwin Baker got the call-up from the practice squad for the first time. The former Michigan State power runner gives San Diego added depth.

David Harris (108 total tackles) anchors New York's run defense. The Jets, once known for their dominant defensive front seven, rank No. 29 against the run (138.7 yards per game).

San Diego has been held without a rushing touchdown for nine straight games.

When The Chargers Pass

Norv Turner came out this week and stated Philip Rivers is not the problem.

"In games where we've protected him and gotten people open, I think he's shown that he's capable of doing all of the same things he's done," Turner said.

That still doesn't get Rivers off the hook for his league-high 47 turnovers over the past two seasons.

Antonio Gates is no longer the Antonio Gates of old, but he's still one touchdown away from breaking Lance Alworth's franchise-record for career touchdowns. Gates tied Alworth last week with his 81st touchdown.

Danario Alexander becomes the Chargers' No. 1 receiver with Malcom Floyd going on injured-reserve. In his last three road games, Alexander is averaging 106 yards and has scored five touchdowns. Floyd narrowly misses out on playing in all 16 games for the third consecutive season.

Alexander will be matched up against former Charger Antonio Cromartie, who leads the Jets with three interceptions.

Mike Willie is another practice squad call-up. The Chargers have 16 players on injured-reserve, seven of whom are former starters.

When The Jets Run

Shonn Greene has had the Chargers' number. In two meetings (including the postseason), Greene has run 43 times for 240 yards and one touchdown. Greene is 41 yards away from his second consecutive 1,000 yard season.

The Jets will run the ball frequently with Greg McElroy starting in place of benched Mark Sanchez. The Chargers rank No. 7 against the run (97.0 yards per game).

San Diego has scored seven defensive touchdowns this season, tied for first in the league with Chicago. The play of Jarret Johnson has been a huge factor. Johnson needs to continue to control the edges to contain any QB scrambles.

In the final home game, Rex Ryan might be feeling the holiday spirit and give Tim Tebow the gift of playing time. The Jets should go to the Wildcat more often than usual to help McElroy. Expect any Jets possession to go to Tebow inside the 10-yard line.

When The Jets Pass

McElroy's start will be the first by a Jets QB that isn't Sanchez since 2009. As the new fan favorite, he should have the crowd's support.

Corey Liuget has been a monster for the Chargers in what has been a stand-out sophomore year for the 2011 first-round pick. Liuget has a career-high five sacks and nine passes deflected, second in the league among defensive linemen (J.J. Watt).

Eric Weddle leads the team with 82 tackles and is tied for first in the NFL with 10 interceptions since 2011. Weddle should have a hay day going up against the Jets, who have thrown 17 interceptions this season.

Just For Kicks

Jets punt returner Jeremy Kerley has 189 return yards and one touchdown on only 17 attempts.

Since taking over for Nate Kaeding at the end of September, Nick Novak has gone 15-for-17.



How will Sunday's Chargers-Jets game play out? Discuss in the message boards.




Brian Ducoffe is in his second year of covering San Diego sports. He has been previously published in University Link Magazine and wrote as an NBA columnist for Gacksports.com. Follow Brian on twitter @brianducoffe.

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