By Jerrell Richardson

San Diego Chargers 8-6

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Head Coach: Mike McCoy

Players to Watch: Phillip Rivers, Antonio Gates, Keenan Allen, Ryan Matthews, Eric Weddle

Before the season began, several “experts” picked the San Diego Chargers to make a Super Bowl run. However, injuries have thrown a monkey wrench into the Chargers 2014 season, and for the time being they are one of the AFC teams on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. They are still well within striking distance of a wild card spot though, making this game a must win, for at least one team. The 49ers only need a win to avoid dropping under .500 for the season, and need to avoid losing to every other team in the state, but in terms of importance, it’s San Diego that views this as a must win, not San Francisco.

When San Diego Has the Ball: Advantage 49ers

Phillip Rivers is one of the most underrated players at his position. He has continued to put up big numbers throughout the years, despite limited options around him. This season he is completing 67.6% of his passes which is 3rd in the league, his 27 touchdowns is tied for 8th and his 3639 yards ranks him 9th. Rivers also ranks towards the top of the NFL with 11 interceptions, so he will also force the occasional ball, due in large part to him having only two real options to throw to.

When Rivers drops back he will look to Keenan Allen or Antonio Gates. Allen’s 77 receptions, and 783 yards are both team leads. However, when the team gets into the red zone, Rivers trusts in Gates, whose size and speed make him a nightmare to cover. Gates is not just a threat inside the 20-yard line however. He is 3rd on the team in yards and will be a player that the San Francisco secondary and linebackers will need to keep an eye on at all times. The 49er secondary continues to play stellar this year, ranked 4th in the league and should be able to at least take away Allen. Gates is another matter, and a player who the defense as a whole will need to work together to contain.

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The Chargers have been forced to use 6 different running backs this season due to injuries. For that reason alone, San Diego is one of the worst running teams in the NFL, averaging 82.6 yards per game on the ground. The San Francisco linebackers, along with their front 7 have been able to hold the opposition to just under 100 yards per game and should be able to keep whoever is in the Charger backfield under this figure this week.

When San Francisco Has The Ball: Advantage San Diego

The 49ers offense has not played well the second half of the season, and while they will welcome not playing the Seahawks, defensively, San Diego is no joke. Eric Weddle leads a defense that is ranked 8th against the pass, and at least on paper should have no problem dealing with Colin Kaepernick and the 27th ranked passing attack. However, the 49ers receiving core still has the names, (Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, Brandon Lloyd), that are all capable of a big day.

The 49ers rushing attack has been inconsistent to say the least. They have looked good at times, but nothing like the dominant running game that has led them to the top of the NFC the past 3 seasons. It’s a mystery as to who will even be the team’s running back for this game due to injuries and the lack of importance this game poises for San Francisco. With their recent performances and questions as to who will even play, it’s hard to imagine the 49ers running the ball effectively. The Chargers are slightly above the league average ranked 13th against the run and if Gore and Hyde are not on the field, San Diego will win this battle. However, if at least Hyde or Gore plays, then the 49ers will have at least a fighting chance to move the ball on the ground.

If They Can’t Make the Playoffs Nobody Can

The two teams have almost the same record, and both have seen injuries play a major role in their week to week game plans. However, there is still one of them with something to play for, which could make the difference in this game. Based on several factors its unsure who the 49ers will even have on the field, so that also has to be considered. Yes, the 49ers are looking to play spoiler to their in state rival, but it’s hard to imagine a close game in which San Francisco puts up the same type of fight that they will get from their opponent whose postseason dreams are still on the line.

 
For more 49ers news and updates, visit 49ers Central.

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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. Jerrell is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.