Rivers, Smith continue toward playoffs

A statistical preview of tonight’s matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and the San Diego Chargers.

It is expected that Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers will be without tight end Antonio Gates tonight. The Rivers-Gates combination rates as the second-most efficient in the NFL (among tandems with at least 30 attempts) behind only Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski. Rivers-to-Gates has resulted in 10 touchdowns and a 143.1 passer rating this season.

Phillip Rivers This Season
Passing by Personnel

When it comes to San Francisco’s offense, do they have the wrong Smith under center? Alex Smith, who recently regained the starting job, has struggled when throwing 15 yards or more downfield this season. That might not improve Thursday against the Chargers, who have the best opponents’ passer rating on throws at least 15 yards down the field.

Smith’s passer rating on such throws is a measly 48.5, just barely better than half his rating when throwing shorter. And the Chargers defense allows an NFL-low 52.9 passer rating when their opponents attempt passes 15 yards or more from the line of scrimmage.