2008 NFL Playoffs: Colts at Chargers

Indianapolis Colts (12-4) at (4) San Diego Chargers (8-8), 8 p.m., NBC

Broadcasting Team: John Madden, Al Michaels, and Andrea Kremer (Field Reporter)

The two hottest teams entering the NFL playoffs face off in a crucial game that could have lasting organizational affects (i.e. Chargers head coach Norv Turner’s job maybe on the line).  The Colts and Chargers in their match-up will set a record for the combined winning streak for opposing teams in the Wild Card round (Combined 13 wins with nine for the Colts and four for the Chargers). Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said of the match-up with the Colts, “It’s always a great game against these guys, and it’ll be another great game, you can’t ask for anything more in the playoffs.” The Colts are the NFL’s marquee stable team – NFL record 6th straight year with 12 wins or more – and the Chargers though downtrodden earlier in the year, they have stormed back with four straight wins.

Even though these two teams are in separate divisions, they always seem to meet in the regular season and postseason — Saturday’s game will be the fourth time in the past two seasons the teams have met (Colts have won 4 of the last 6 meetings).  No matter the outcome, you know the game will be close — the first three games between the two have been decided by a total of nine points.  The last time these two teams met on November 23rd in San Diego, Indy won 23-20 as Peyton Manning drove Indy 37 yards to set up a game-ending 51-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri.  But when these two meet you can throw history out the window (met 23 times lifetime with the Chargers holding a 14-9 edge) as they are legitimate rivals.

To me this game revolves around quarterback play as Pro Bowl players Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers square off against each other.  Manning just extended his NFL record with his ninth 4,000-yard season and Rivers is just as dangerous as he is the only quarterback this year with a 100.0 passer rating (105.5). Unfortunately last year in the 2007 playoffs we were not treated to this marquee match-up as San Diego backup Billy Volek led the Chargers to a surprising 28-24 win in Indy.  But this time I am sure the fireworks from both signal callers will be aplenty. 

The key will be which team can also establish the run to go with their vaunted passing attacks.  The Colts are ranked 31st in rushing in the NFL, but you know Super Bowl veteran backs Joseph Addai and Dommenick Rhodes will be ready for action.  Conversely the Chargers will be led by marquee running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who has had a sub par season, but last week looked like his old self rushing for 96 yards and a season-high three touchdowns in less than three quarters  (left with a groin injury).

LV’s Pick:  This is a tough game to pick, because the Colts and Manning are so workman like in the playoffs, but the Chargers know how to beat the vaunted Colts.  To me the game will come down to leadership on the field and on the sidelines.  The Colts have former Super Bowl champions Manning and Tony Dungy, while conversely the Chargers have the beleaguered Norv Turner and volatile Philip Rivers.  With the cool and calm Manning at the controls expect the Colts to comeback for a 34-31 victory with an Adam Vinatieri field goal being the difference.

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