Posted by Barrie on Friday, 25 December 2009

San Diego Set to Spoil Tennessee's Christmas Party

The Tennessee Titans entertain the San Diego Chargers with kickoff only a few hours away. After seeing our NFL Tipster's Picks for this week's games, I couldn't resist elaborating on this matchup, being a keen admirer of the Titans myself.

I'm surprised the Titans are favourites for this match, albeit just by 3 points. Perhaps a long journey on Christmas day for the visitors had something to do with the bookmakers odds, because I am one of many backing the underdog tonight.

Preparation could be a key I have not taken too seriously. Jeff Fisher's side are always well-prepared, but I remember them losing 37-16 at home to the Denver Broncos on Christmas Day 5 years ago.

The San Diego Chargers are one of the best teams in the NFL right now and a genuine contender for the Superbowl. A 9-game winning streak has seen them take the AFC West after a gloomy 2-3 start that saw them far behind the 6-0 Denver Broncos. Both teams have gone in different directions since Broncos won the first battle in week 6. The San Diego Chargers were confirmed as division champions last weekend when the Oakland Raiders beat the Denver Broncos. If the Chargers win tonight they will wrap up a bye week as the number 2 team.

A dreadful 0-6 start to the season for the Tennessee Titans seemed to eliminate any post season opportunity in the opening weeks of the season. Only 2 of those sides they lost to are sitting in a playoff position currently. Since then they've been on a long recovery, winning 7 of their last 8 matches. Only one of those victories came against a playoff-bound team and that was thanks to a magical drive and final play touchdown pass from Vince Young against the Arizona Cardinals. Truth be told, they're beating the teams they can be expected to beat. But they're not beating the good teams. And the Chargers are a good team.

If San Diego can give Philip Rivers time in the pocket he will have a big game tonight. The Titans defence has already allowed 300+ yard passing games from 7 quarterbacks this season, including 349 yards by Chad Henne last weekend in their overtime victory over the Miami Dolphins after letting slip of a big 4th quarter lead.

Keith Bulluck, one of the best all-around linebackers in the league is gone for the season now and his loss may well be exposed tonight. He can play both the pass and running games very well and Tennessee can't replace him. Antonio Gates is already over 1,000 yards on the season and will benefit from Tennessee's loss. LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles will also benefit in the running game.

As for Tennessee's offence. Chris Johnson needs another 270 yards in his final 2 games to reach the 2,000 yard mark. He will find it tough against the Chargers defence that will load the box. Johnson is always one missed tackle away from a big gain, so the Chargers will need to play it perfectly. Johnson is looking for his 10th straight 100+ rushing yard game this evening although his numbers have come down in the past 3 weeks. This defence are setup to bring that run to an end.

That leaves work for Vince Young to do. A mobile quarterback, he may have a hard time finding room to run when nothing's opened downfield against this defence. He has shown good touch on deep passes and limited the number of bad decisions this season. He will need Nate Washington to catch the deep passes this week as they may look to stretch the Chargers defence if the running game is taken away. Justin Gage has been a reliable receiver for Young, and dumping the ball off to Chris Johnson has always been a good option.

This match pits two of the in-form teams going face-to-face. As optimistic as I have been in recent weeks, I think this is the game that ends any final hopes of a playoff spot for the Tennessee Titans. I can't look past the San Diego Chargers and am taking them at 13/10. You can also take them at 10/11 with +3 on the points spread, with Tennessee very unlikely to win by more than 3 points in anyone's optimistic mind.

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