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Three reasons why the San Diego Chargers will defeat the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night.
Ha! You're real mad right now, seeing Clary's name up there, aren't you? Don't be. It's not all about Clary, but it's somewhat about Clary. In case you missed it, here's what Pro Football Focus said about Clary in 2012:
Last season saw right tackle Jeromey Clary (+3.6) put up only three positive performances all year en route to his worst performance since PFF starting grading. If the past two weeks are any indication, he may be in for a superb comeback year. Clary's draw on Sunday may have been his hardest all year, as he faced sophomore sensation Justin Houston who was coming off of three straight games of at least three combined hurries, hits, and sacks. For the day, Clary denied Houston of any of those stats in an excellent performance. After being handed the lead early, all the Chargers needed to do was work the clock and run an efficient offense. Clary's lights-out play allowed them to do that.
Between Clary becoming a real Right Tackle and the return of Jared Gaither (who looks as good as he did at the end of 2011), there is a real possibility that Philip Rivers will have all the time he needs in the pocket on Sunday night. Not to mention, outside of getting 3 sacks against Matt Cassel (which is pretty easy to do) and 2 sacks against Robert Griffin III (in his first NFL game), the Saints haven't put any much pressure on anyone.
Two-Headed Rushing Monster
Are you ready for the most important part of this game? Here it is, strangely enough: The San Diego Chargers rushing attack.
The Saints are really bad at stopping the run (so much so that Kansas City let Jamaal Charles and his recently-reconstructed knee to carry the ball 33 times against them) and the Chargers are really bad at not turning the ball over when they throw it a lot.
An ideal game for Norv and Co. is getting an early lead and running it 40+ times with Ryan Mathews and Jackie Battle. It would keep Drew Brees off the field, it would prevent any dumb interceptions, and it would allow San Diego to attack New Orleans' biggest weakness all game.
Unlike the Chiefs (who should've lost to NO) and the Packers (who almost lost to NO), the Chargers have more than one option at tailback. So they don't have to worry about running one guy into the ground and they don't have to start passing the ball (which is what the Packers did because they have nobody behind Cedric Benson).
San Diego's Pass Rush
If anything is going to stop Drew Brees from tearing the Chargers' secondary to shreds, it's going to be the pass rush.
San Diego's pass-rush was hyped before the season, with lots of people talking about the impact that Melvin Ingram and Larry English could have in addition to Antwan Barnes and (a healthy) Shaun Phillips. So far, it has resulted in sporadic bursts of pressure, typically when the Chargers have a lead and John Pagano starts blitzing corners and Safeties, but not the consistent and dominant force that this group seems to have the potential for. In front of a national audience, they'll want to step up and try and dominate the game.
(Bonus) Redemption Game
- Robert Meachem - In his first game against his former team, he'll be out to prove that he was worth the money that NO wasn't willing to pay him.
- Aubrayo Franklin - After failing to do much as a Saint in 2011, he'll be out to prove to his former squad that he is a good player that was simply misued by their coaching staff.
- Philip Rivers - The Brees comparison will linger on for a while, and playing well in head-to-head matchups will go a long way towards shutting up those people that think the Chargers should've kept Brees.