The San Diego Chargers have yet to climb over the .500 mark in their first six games under coach Mike McCoy. A matchup with the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars might help them finally break through.
After beating a division-leading team, the Chargers will try to drop the Jaguars to 0-7 in Sunday's visit to Jacksonville.
Following an inconsistent start to McCoy's tenure, San Diego (3-3) might have gotten just the spark it needed with a 19-9 victory over AFC South leader Indianapolis on Monday night. The Chargers held the Colts nearly 19 points under their season scoring average and got another strong performance from rookie receiver Keenan Allen.
Allen had a season-best nine catches and topped 100 yards for the second straight game. He also scored the game's lone touchdown on a 22-yard pass from Philip Rivers early in the second quarter.
Running back Ryan Mathews contributed a season-high 102 yards on the ground after averaging 46.8 in his first five games. Mathews was forced to exit San Diego's previous contest, a 27-17 loss in Oakland on Oct. 6, because of a concussion.
"I thought this was a turning point for our season," Rivers said. "That doesn't mean it's going to take care of itself, but 2-4 would have been quite a bind to be in. We've got to get Jacksonville next week before the bye and find ourselves at 4-3 and see what happens the rest of the way."
San Diego will try to improve to 4-3 by adding to Jacksonville's worst start in franchise history. The Jaguars (0-6) are the first team since the 1984 Houston Oilers to lose each of their first six games by double digits but might have gotten a boost from last week's performance against unbeaten Denver.
Jacksonville entered last week's game against Denver as a 27-point underdog, one of the largest in NFL history, but trailed by only two points in the third quarter before the Broncos pulled away.
McCoy is among those who aren't taking Jacksonville lightly.
"This is going to be a very good football team we're playing. Everyone gave (Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning) a lot of flak last week for saying hey, this is a very good football team and his comments were correct, I believe, about what type of team it is,'' McCoy said.
Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne finished with a season-high 303 yards against Denver while starting in place of an injured Blaine Gabbert (hamstring). Justin Blackmon caught 14 of his 27 completions for 190 yards.
"There were some positives that we can take from this game," linebacker Paul Posluszny said. "Moving forward, we can learn from this game. We definitely need some improvements in some areas. We're definitely headed in the right direction."
Henne is expected to start again Sunday and Blackmon will try to add to his 326 yards since returning from a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Blackmon's play could prove pivotal if leading receiver Cecil Shorts III is out with a shoulder injury.
"I'm very hopeful (about playing)," Shorts told the team's website. "I'm very stable structurally – nothing broken or cracked – but it's a lot of pain. It's a matter of how much I can handle and take. We still have time to improve between now and Sunday. My goal is definitely to get prepared like I'm playing."
Blackmon was starring at Oklahoma State and Shorts was a rookie the last time the Jaguars faced the Chargers on Dec. 5, 2011. Shorts scored a 5-yard touchdown on his lone reception in a 38-14 home loss while running back Maurice Jones-Drew had 97 rushing yards and a team-best 91 receiving.
Jones-Drew hasn't topped 71 yards on the ground in any game this season and hasn't caught more than two passes.
Rivers connected on three touchdowns in the win over Jacksonville and has totaled seven in three career matchups while averaging 312.3 passing yards. Unlike Jones-Drew, Rivers hasn't seen a drop in production this season as he's third in the NFL with 1,847 yards and tied for second with 14 touchdowns.
Rivers topped 400 yards in three of his first five games before finishing with 237 in the win over Indianapolis.
San Diego has won the past two meetings with Jacksonville by a combined 76-27 margin. The Jaguars will also try to avoid their fourth loss in five matchups with the Chargers before next week's game in London against San Francisco.