TE Antonio Gates (Stephen Dunn/Getty)
The San Diego Chargers are a team of streaks, ripping off eight straight wins in 2007 and 10 straight in 2006. If the Bolts have another streak in store, this would be the week to get started. Samantha Fillerup profiles five players to watch during this week's pivotal matchup.
1. Jamal Williams played a strong game against the Indianapolis Colts; San Diego needs a repeat performance this week to steady a run defense that ranks No. 13 in the NFL (103.9 yards per game). Williams posted 10 tackles against the Colts, including the team's only sack.
Williams will anchor the run defense against former Charger Michael Turner, who led the Atlanta Falcons with 24 carries for 117 yards and four TDs against the Carolina Panthers last week. Atlanta's ground attack is ranked No. 2 in the league and averages 151.5 yards per game. Turner drives the machine and is one of only three backs in the NFL to have topped 1,000 yards already (1,088).
2. Antonio Gates has been quiet the last two games, but the Chargers need him to make some noise this week, especially on third down and in the red zone. Gates has just five catches for 38 yards over the last two games. If Gates makes a trip into the end zone this week, he will reach 50 TD catches faster than any tight end in history.
Pass defense is not Atlanta's strong suit, as the Falcons allow an average of 230.7 yards per game (No. 23). Coach Norv Turner will try to get Gates matched up against 35-year-old safety Lawyer Milloy, whose aggressive tendencies can be exploited.
3. Jacob Hester is set to start in place Mike Tolbert, who is out with a shoulder injury. Hester comes off a successful showing last week where he tallied three catches for 16 yards and one touchdown, all in the fourth quarter. Another productive outing will help alleviate some of the premature "bust" label pressure.
The Falcons' rush defense is permeable and could be what the Chargers need to jump-start their attack. Atlanta ranks No. 21 against the run and allows an average of 120.9 rushing yards per game. However, the Falcons have forced six fumbles this season, and Hester fumbled one of his two carries this season.
4. Eric Weddle will patrol centerfield and ensure that no one gets behind him, which means no biting on Matt Ryan's potent play-action passes. Weddle is coming off a 10-tackle game but has gone eight games without an interception.
One of Weddle's primary charges will be Roddy White, who is third in the NFL with 62 catches for 973 yards (15.7 avg) and six touchdowns. White added four receptions for 70 yards against the Panthers.
5. Anthony Waters needs to solidify his role on special teams or run the risk of being relegated to the inactive list. He has played in just four games this season and recorded one tackle versus the Colts.
This week, Waters will face rookie punt returner Harry Douglas, who brought back a punt 61 yards for a touchdown last week. Jerious Norwood is also a weapon as a kick returner; he is seventh in the league with 31 returns for 787 yards (25.4 avg).