Jackson another weapon at Rivers' disposal

Chargers at Colts

From 2008 to 2009, no player caught more passes thrown 21 yards or more down field than the San Diego Chargers' Vincent Jackson's 23. He's scheduled to make his season debut Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. Jackson also led the league in receiving yards and first downs on such plays.

This season, Malcom Floyd has filled the void left by Jackson on deep passes. Floyd has seven receptions, 276 yards and two touchdowns on balls thrown at least 21 yards this season.

While Rivers will have another deep threat, Peyton Manning has struggled throwing deep this season. Six of his seven interceptions have been on throws that traveled at least 15 yards. Not only that, but the Chargers defend the deep pass well. Only two of the nine TDs they have allowed this season have been on throws that were at least 15 yards.

Eagles at Bears

Something’s gotta give in a matchup of one of the best offenses against one of the best defenses in the NFL.

The Eagles are averaging 28.4 points per game, second in the NFL. The Bears are allowing 14.6 points per game, tied with the Green Bay Packers for fewest in the NFL. Chicago has allowed only one opponent this season to score more than 20 points, while Philadelphia has scored at least 26 points in all seven of its wins.

The key will be containing Michael Vick, both in and out of the pocket. Vick has the NFL’s best passer rating this season inside the pocket at 114.3. His passer rating outside the pocket drops to 83.5; however, Vick has scrambled 22 times outside the pocket for 218 yards.

Packers at Falcons

Matt Ryan has yet to lose a home start in his career against an NFC opponent (13-0). However, Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons are playing a Packers' team that has allowed one touchdown and a total of 10 points in the last three games.

Both Ryan and Aaron Rodgers became their team’s full-time starting quarterback in 2008. Since then, they have been two of the most efficient passers on throws between the hash marks. Ryan has a passer rating of 111.7, while Rodgers’ is 102.2. Among quarterbacks with at least 150 attempts between the hash marks, those ratings are second and fifth, respectively.

With injuries on defense, the Packers have taken a more conservative approach this season to rushing the passer. Through 10 games in 2009, the Packers sent five pass rushers or more on 43.8 percent of pass plays. In the first 10 games of 2010, Green Bay has sent added pressure on 31.1 percent of pass plays.

Clay Matthews has three sacks when part of a three-man pass rush, four sacks when four defenders rush the passer, and 4.5 sacks with five pass rushers.

Atlanta's pass defense has done a much better job of protecting leads in 2010. Last year when leading in games, the Falcons allowed 12 touchdown passes and had just two interceptions in 190 attempts. This season, Atlanta has five interceptions on 89 pass attempts when protecting a lead and has allowed only three touchdowns. When protecting the lead against three or more wide receiver sets, their opponents’ passer rating has dropped from 99.7 last season to 54.8 in 2010.

Jaguars at Giants

With Brandon Jacobs getting the start at running back for the fumble-prone Ahmad Bradshaw, you might expect the New York Giants to pound the ball between the tackles.

Passing Outside the Numbers
This Season

Jacobs averages four yards a carry up the middle, while the Jaguars allow 4.9 yards. Only the Detroit Lions (5.4 yards per rush) allow more yards on runs up the middle.

One area of the field you can expect Manning to throw the ball to is outside the numbers. Twelve of his 21 touchdowns have been outside the numbers. However, six of those 12 TD passes went to Hakeem Nicks, who will not play Sunday because of a leg injury.

Buccaneers at Ravens

One reason for the Bucs’ improvement this season has been QB Josh Freeman's ability to get the ball to his wide receivers between the numbers. Last season, Freeman completed less than 50 percent of his attempts to wide receivers between the numbers, with 10 interceptions and no touchdowns. This season, Freeman is 44-for-65 (67.7) with five touchdowns and three interceptions.