Bucs at Chargers: Who to Watch

Three players to watch Sunday afternoon at The Q

The last time the Chargers played the Buccaneers was in November of 2012 in Tampa Bay. Philip Rivers threw what will go down as one of the worst interceptions of his career, an ill-advised shot down the sideline that was picked off and returned 83 yards for a touchdown by Leonard Johnson.

On the sidelines you could read then-head coach Norv Turner’s lips when he said “Why did he throw that?” The Bucs won that game 34-24, the Chargers limped to a 7-9 record, and the next season Mike McCoy was the head coach.

Now we are in a similar situation. The Bolts play the Bucs, this time at home, in a game where a loss will likely spell the end of their playoff hopes and possibly be the final nail in the coffin of their head coach. To avoid that from happening the Chargers are going to have to win a few important matchups, and that leads us to this week’s three players to watch:

Casey Hayward, CB

The NFL’s interceptions leader is going to spend a lot of time looking across the line at Mike Evans, one of the most unique weapons in the league. Evans is 6-foot-5, weight 230 pounds and runs a 4.4. That is a combination of size and speed you don’t encounter all that often. Perhaps it’s why Evans is already over 1,000 receiving yards with 10 touchdowns this season. Since Jason Verrett’s injury the Bolts don’t typically like to just have one corner follow around one guy for a whole game but they may have no choice but to leave Hayward on Evans, who is coming off back-to-back 100-yard games. Hayward doesn’t have to outright stop Evans, just slow him down enough and maybe steal his 7th pick of the season.

D.J. Fluker, RG

This is really for the entirety of the Chargers interior line, along with Matt Slauson and Orlando Franklin. Those are the guys who get to deal with Gerald McCoy, one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. McCoy can wreck the middle of a line. McCoy has 6.0 sacks but he’s also added four passes defensed. If the guy can’t get to the QB in time he’ll just knock the ball out of the air, something that has been known to happen to Philip Rivers at times. Fluker and Co. need to keep that cat from collapsing the pocket and give Rivers clean throwing lanes for the Bolts to have success on Sunday.

Isaiah Burse, KR

I am going to continue doing this until the Chargers get a good return of some kind! Come on Special teams return units. Hook us up with a special play this week and make it a little easier on the other two phases.

Derek’s Prediction

This is going to be one of those high-scoring affairs. Both offenses have the ability to put up points and both defenses are vulnerable to big plays. The Chargers are fighting for their post-season lives and at home, which I think will push them just barely over the top.

Final score: Chargers 34, Bucs 31

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