RCA Dome
Indianapolis, IN

Why the Colts Will Win
It’s going to be up to the Colts offensive line to keep the Chargers aggressive defense off of Peyton Manning. It’s going to be up to Manning to find ways to get receivers Reggie  Wayne, Marvin Harrison and Dallas Clark the football in the face of a solid San Diego secondary.

Defensively, the Colts are led by safety Bob Sanders who is going to have to play big to stop the Chargers excellent ground game. The Colts have played the second half of the season without Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney and are going to have to continue to find alternative ways to get pressure on the quarterback, this includes bringing Sanders up to the line and causing havoc in the backfield.

Why the Chargers Will Win
Usually, the Chargers can win on the legs of LaDanian Tomlinson. However, for San Diego to keep pace with the Colts high-octane offense, they’re going to need quarterback Philip Rivers to complete passes down the field.

Historically, the Chargers 3-4 defensive scheme has given the Colts offense fits. The three down linemen are good run stoppers and you never know which of the four linebackers are going to be blitzing.

The ball-hawking Chargers cornerbacks, Antonio Cromartie and Quentin Jammer, will give Manning fits by taking chances that the average defensive back wouldn’t. In 2007, Cromartie set a franchise record with 10 interceptions and if he can get his hands on a couple picks this Sunday, the Chargers will be on their way to the AFC Championship.

Familiar Foes
Since 2004, the two teams have met three times with San Diego holding a 2-1 edge.

They last met Week 10 of the 2007 season, the Chargers won, 23 -21. This was perhaps the worst game of Peyton Manning’s career as he threw six interceptions.

San Diego’s last trip to the RCA Dome came in 2005, a 26 – 17 win that ruined the Colts perfect 13-0 record.

These two talented teams have made it to the divisional round despite injuries to key players. Neither team can afford to lose anybody else.

If anything, the 2007 season has taught Manning how to evade a pass rush and improvise. The Colts offensive line has had trouble staying healthy, both tackles Ryan Diem and Tony Ugoh have both missed time. Tight end Dallas Clark and future Hall of Fame wide receiver Marvin Harrison have been out with injuries, forcing Manning to throw to inexperienced receivers like rookie Anthony Gonzalez.

The Indianapolis defensive line has been without Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney; Freeney is out for the season. Linebackers Freddy Keiaho and Tyjuan Hagler also missed games due to injury.

The Chargers offense was forced to play most of the AFC Wild Card game without tight end Antonio Gates, who left the game in the first half with an injured toe. Gates’ status for Sunday is still uncertain.

Tomlinson will have his backfield partner, fullback Lorenzo Neal returns after missing time with a broken leg.

On defense, run stuffers Jamal Williams and Luis Castillo will play but both have been hobbled with ankle injuries.

The Heckler’s Pick
Peyton Manning has been the sole reason the Colts franchise is what it is today and, on Sunday, is going to be the reason the defending champs return to the AFC Championship. I see Manning throwing many, many touchdown passes.

34 –  24  

By Jon Redmond