Game-by-Game Analysis: Top Matchups, Part II

LB Shawne Merriman (Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty)

SDBoltReport.com continues its two-part series breaking down all the top individual matchups in-store for next season, one from every contest. Learn which Chargers players will have to step up to help San Diego take down the competition.

Chargers vs. Eagles: LB Shawne Merriman vs. OT Jason Peters

The Eagles revamped their passing game this offseason by adding bookend tackles Peters and Stacy Andrews, as well as explosive WR Jeremy Maclin. Adding these three players with Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook and DeSean Jackson gives Philadelphia a vaunted passing game. This is where Merriman's return means so much to the Chargers. He must apply heat off the edge, keep Peters on his heels and prevent McNabb from getting comfortable in Philly's pass-first attack.

Chargers at Broncos: NT Jamal Williams vs. C Casey Wiegmann

The Broncos beefed up their running game this offseason with the additions of Knowshon Moreno, LaMont Jordan and Correll Buckhalter. The running game had better be as good as advertised, as Kyle Orton is a big step down from Jay Cutler. The Chargers, led by Williams, will look to shut down the run, put Denver in obvious passing situations and force Orton to beat them.


DE Luis Castillo
Stephen Dunn/Getty

Chargers vs. Chiefs: DE Luis Castillo vs. OT Damion McIntosh

Castillo underperformed as much as any Chargers player last season, failing to register a sack in 15 of 16 games. He's determined to bounce back this season and prove he's worthy of the $43 million extension he earned last offseason. The matchup vs. McIntosh, a former Charger, could be key, as the Chiefs may be the greatest threat to San Diego's quest for a fourth consecutive division title.

Chargers at Browns: FB Jacob Hester vs. LB D'Qwell Jackson

Hester knows he must make significant strides in his second season. He's off to a good start, as he's spent his offseason studying film, adding weight and earning the trust of his teammates. One of Hester's greatest challenges this season will be Jackson, an instinctive defender who's averaged 116 tackles over the last three seasons.

Chargers at Cowboys: LT Marcus McNeill vs. DE Igor Olshansky

McNeill has a lot of questions to answer as he enters the final year of his contract. Can he rebound from offseason neck surgery? Can he cut down on his number of sacks allowed (12.5 over the last two seasons)? He'll be under the spotlight more than ever in Week 14 as he goes one-on-one with Olshansky, who had a contentious divorce from the Chargers after spending his first four seasons in San Diego.


CB Antonio Cromartie
Harry How/Getty

Chargers vs. Bengals: CB Antonio Cromartie vs. WR Chad Ochocinco

Some fuel was thrown onto this fire when Ochocinco, apparently upset because his name had not been in the headlines for upwards of seven days, decided to call out both Cromartie and Merriman via Twitter. The off-the-field antics are fun, but the on-the-field action could be just as entertaining. Last time these teams met in 2006, the Chargers overcome a 28-7 halftime deficit for an improbable 49-41 victory in Cincinnati.

Chargers at Titans: TE Antonio Gates vs. FS Michael Griffin

Gates is one of the most athletic tight ends in the NFL, so much so that his presence forced opposing teams to look for corner-safety hybrids like Griffin to slow him down. Gates had a down year by his standards last season, finishing with the fewest receptions (60), yards (704) and touchdowns (eight) since his rookie year in 2003. The Chargers will need him to be at his best against Griffin and the physical Tennessee defense.

Chargers vs. Redskins: WR Buster Davis vs. CB Fred Smoot

By this point in the season, the Chargers will know whether Davis has a future with the organization. If Davis falters, it will be Malcom Floyd or Legedu Naanee serving as the No. 3 receiver. If Davis lives up to his promise as an explosive slot receiver, the matchup between he and former first-round pick Smoot would be one to watch.


What matchups are you most excited about? Talk about it in the message boards.


Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.

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