Game Scout: Chargers-Jaguars

Jeff Reynolds, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

San Diego Chargers (3-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-6)
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at EverBank Stadium, Jacksonville, Fla. TV: CBS
*TV announcers: Spero Dedes, Steve Beuerlein
*Keys to the game: The winning formula for San Diego is simple -- play with the lead, bleed the clock and protect the ball. The Chargers are making a rotation of niche backs work well behind Philip Rivers, who is forming a sound bond with rookie WR Keenan Allen, his first serious outside threat to go with TE Antonio Gates since Vincent Jackson flew the coup for Tampa Bay. Allen is a nifty route-runner, comes back to the ball when plays break down and has enough size to win in traffic. In three losses, turnovers debilitated Rivers as play-calling became transparent. Jacksonville stuck closer to the Broncos than many projected -- 35-19 last week -- but that's a miniscule moral victory. Jacksonville lacks explosive playmakers outside of WR Justin Blackmon and gets below-average quarterback play on a weekly basis. It will need to maximize every opportunity and score early to stem the San Diego ball-control beast. With the NFL's bottom of the barrel running game, the offensive line is under fire to open lanes for Maurice Jones-Drew.
*Matchup to watch - Jaguars SS Johnathan Cyprien vs. Chargers TE Antonio Gates: A rookie with a lot of potential, Cyprien is a big hitter and smooth mover. But the Jaguars have had trouble covering tight ends this year and Gates has been in vintage form.
*Player spotlight - Jaguars WR Justin Blackmon: Tongue-wagging after being the top dog in two games since returning from suspension, Blackmon was battling leg soreness at midweek. He is tops in the NFL since Week 5 with 19 receptions for 326 yards, including a 14-catch game at Denver. The Jaguars are hungry for a game-changer who can flip the field consistently.
*Fast facts: The Jaguars have been outscored 105-30 in the first half this season. ... The Chargers are converting 48 percent of third downs.
A fourth 400-yard passing game in seven starts this season? It's doable for Philip Rivers against Jacksonville's greenhorn secondary, which is prone to selling out to stop the run.
*Our pick: Chargers 24-16

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