The Indianapolis Colts have an amazing passing attack which keys off of Peyton Manning. With knee surgery in the off season Manning had a rough start to the year, but since then has been playing great and the Colts have now won nine games in a row. As you would imagine he has a number of terrific receivers to complement his skills. Reggie Wayne is his prime wide receiver target and has more than 1,100 yards on the season. Marvin Harrison on the other side has tapered off a bit with just about 600 yards on the season, but is still a threat. Anthony Gonzalez is the last wide receiver, also with about 600 yards of receiving. They are all complimented by Tight End Dallas Clark who has 850 yards on the year and will often line up in the slot position. One of the keys to winning this game is clearly going to be getting pressure on Manning, if he has time he will pick the Charger secondary apart.
The Colts running game has faltered badly this year; they are rushing only 80 yards per game good for 31st in the league. Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes split the carries, but with Jamal Williams clogging up the middle for the Chargers I wouldn't be surprised to see a lot of nickel coverage. When the Chargers played them earlier in the season the Colts were much more successful throwing, even for short yardage situations.
The Colts defense is very good against the pass; they allowed only six passing touchdowns this season; two of those were to the Chargers. It should be noted that their Pro Bowl safety Bob Sanders didn't play that game. Opponents average 188 yards through the air, but 121 on the ground. To be successful the Chargers will need to establish some kind of running game. This will also eat clock and keep the ball away from Manning & Co., the question is if LT's injury is going to be severe enough to hamper his performance. This is the week we may finally get a look at Michael Bennett; he was claimed from Tampa Bay off of waivers back in November. Darren Sproles may also get more touches this week coming off a terrific performance against Denver. The other thing the Colts will have to worry about is the reverse which Norv called several times against the Broncos with excellent success.
Indianapolis is very much like Tampa Bay; they keep the two deep safeties and the middle linebacker has big responsibilities for coverage in the middle of the field. The areas of attack will be seams between the coverages; Gates or Manumaleuna should be prime targets. The Chargers are lucky that Gary Brackett, the Colts usual MLB will be out. Also medium passes in the area between where the corners coverage ends and the safeties take over; if they end up blitzing the safety Rivers will take deep shots if he has time.
This brings us to the pressure Indy brings; which is phenomenal. Defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis from the other side bring massive heat and combined for 22 sacks on the season. The Charger Tackles are going to be hard pressed to keep them off Rivers; in the game five weeks ago Mathis got to Rivers for the sack and forced fumble which was a massive momentum changer. If those two can be contained, Rivers should have a good day but that is a tall order. It does look like Malcom Floyd will be back, so Rivers will have him, Vincent Jackson and Chris Chambers as his primary targets. With VJ and Floyd there will be a bit of a height mismatch against 5'10" Tim Jennings. These are two teams that match up well; both have amazing franchise quarterbacks, it could well come down to who has the ball last.