AFC West: Chargers-Titans 122509

Colts must worry about San Diego

December, 26, 2009
12/26/09
12:15
AM ET
AP Photo/John RussellQuarterback Philip Rivers made a strong case for MVP consideration Friday night in leading the San Diego Chargers to a convincing 42-17 win over Tennessee.
If they didn’t realize it before Christmas evening, the Indianapolis Colts now know they have more to concern themselves with than achieving a 16-0 regular-season record.

The San Diego Chargers are not perfect, but they are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. The Chargers used the holiday 42-17 rout of the host Tennessee Titans to let the nation know that they are entering the playoffs with bad intentions.

Are you ready, Indianapolis? It had better be.

The Chargers toyed with Tennessee in every phase of the game. It was the Chargers' 10th straight win. It is the second-longest win streak in the NFL behind the 14-0 Colts’ streak. San Diego has won 18 straight games in December dating to 2006 -- an NFL record.

Most importantly, San Diego’s win clinched the No. 2 seed. Thus, the Chargers joined the Colts as the AFC teams that will enjoy first-round byes in the playoffs.

The teams are on a collision course to meet in the AFC Championship Game in Indianapolis. That thought can’t thrill the Colts.

San Diego has dispatched Indianapolis in the past two postseasons. The Colts were the hottest team in the NFL last season when the Chargers ended their season in the wild-card round.

The Chargers are not afraid of the Colts. It seemed to me Friday night that San Diego’s destruction of the Colts’ AFC South competition was a message being sent to Indianapolis.

In recent weeks, the Colts have struggled at times in their victories. The Chargers mostly have been dominant in their 10-game win streak. San Diego seems to be a team squarely focused on the Super Bowl. The team played well in every phase against the red-hot Titans, who had won seven of their previous eight games.

Here are some other quick thoughts on San Diego’s win:

Rivers is elite: San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers must get some MVP consideration. He is the leader of this team and makes the Chargers go. He has been the sparkplug to the team’s win streak. He can make nearly every play on the field. He connected with nine different receivers Friday night. He completed 21 of 27 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns. He simply wills San Diego to win.

The San Diego defense contained Tennessee’s top weapons: On paper, Tennessee running back Chris Johnson had a solid game as he had 142 yards on 21 carries. But Johnson never really hurt San Diego when it mattered. The Chargers did a nice job of bottling him up. Tennessee quarterback Vince Young was frustrated all game. He rarely hurt San Diego’s defense. Young finished with 89 yards passing and two interceptions.

The Chargers kept their cool: These two teams have a history. Two years ago, San Diego's Shawne Merriman suffered a knee injury against the Titans on what the Chargers said was a dirty play. Both teams did some talking this week. Yet in this game, the Chargers stayed composed. They didn’t let their emotions get the better of them.

San Diego was on a mission to clinch the No. 2 seed and it did its job. It had to get the attention of the Colts in the process.

Wrap-up: Chargers 42, Titans 17

December, 25, 2009
12/25/09
10:46
PM ET
The San Diego Chargers just clinched the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs in grand style.

Using a Christmas night game as a vehicle to show off its firepower, San Diego destroyed the host Titans. San Diego is now 12-3. The Chargers needed to win one of their final two games or New England to lose one of its two final games to wrap up the No. 2 seed. The Chargers didn’t want to wait.

They blew past the Titans. Tennessee, which has been one of the hottest teams in the NFL, was no match for San Diego.

The Chargers, who clinched the AFC West division last week, have won 10 straight games after starting 2-3. San Diego have now won an NFL-record 18 straight games in December dating back to 2006.

San Diego’s last three opponents were a challenge, but San Diego dispatched Dallas, Cincinnati and Tennessee to continue its hot streak.

The Chargers, who will have a first-round bye, are a home win away from the AFC championship. After watching Friday’s demolition of Titans, you have to like the Chargers' chances of making a serious Super Bowl run.

Hardwick will play

December, 25, 2009
12/25/09
7:17
PM ET
San Diego center Nick Hardwick is playing Friday night for the first time since Week 1 when he suffered an ankle injury.

Hardwick was listed as questionable on the injury report to face Tennessee. He practiced all week.

Below are the inactives for the game. It includes Chargers starting defensive end Jacques Cesaire, who has an elbow injury. San Diego linebacker Shawne Merriman is active and is expected to start. He didn’t practice all week with a nagging foot injury.

Chargers

" Quarterback Charlie Whitehurst

" Cornerback Dante Hughes

" Running back Michael Bennett

" Free safety C.J. Spillman

" Defensive end Jacques Cesaire

" Receiver Buster Davis

" Inside linebacker Kevin Burnett

" Center Eric Ghiaciuc

Titans

" Receiver Dominique Edison

" Running back Javon Ringer

" Return man Alvin Pearman

" Cornerback Rod Hood

" Linebacker Keith Bulluck

" Offense lineman Troy Kropog

" Tight end Craig Stevens

" Defensive end Jevon Kearse

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