(Sports Network) - This is the time of year Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers are at their best. Known for second-half surges over the past few seasons, the Chargers face a formidable foe in Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts Sunday night from Lucas Oil Stadium.
San Diego won eight of nine games to close out the 2007 season, prevailed in five of the last six contests the following year and ripped off 11 wins in 12 tries at the conclusion of the 2009 campaign. Another season has passed and the Chargers are starting to heat up, having won three in a row since dropping three straight to fall to 2-5.
In Monday night's 35-14 victory over the AFC West-rival Denver Broncos at Qualcomm Stadium, Rivers tied a career high with four touchdown passes and hit four different receivers for scores to even San Diego's mark at 5-5. He didn't have All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates in the lineup because of a balky foot and hit Darren Sproles, Patrick Crayton, Malcom Floyd and Jacob Hester for his second straight four-TD game. Rivers is expected to get another weapon back on Sunday, as disgruntled wide receiver Vincent Jackson is eligible to play after the Chargers signed him to the active roster Tuesday.
Jackson spent the previous three weeks on the Roster-Exempt list after signing a one-year contract last month. Jackson, who held out for an extended period of time, had to serve a three-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. He started all 15 games he played in last season, catching 68 passes for 1,167 yards and nine touchdowns to establish career highs in each category. Head coach Norv Turner is excited about his return.
"I'm excited to get Vincent back. I think (because) he's had three good weeks of practice to get ready that he's going to be ready to go play at a high level," Turner said. "Everyone's expecting some big explosion (but) to me it's going to be the production he has over the next six weeks and hopefully into the playoffs that's going to help us."
The four-time defending AFC West champion Chargers are in search of their eighth straight win in November and sit tied with Oakland for second place in the division behind 6-4 Kansas City. They haven't fared too well as the visitor this season as evidenced by a 1-4 record, and this weekend's showdown in Indy may not be the most ideal place to start winning on the road.
Indianapolis is coming off its second loss in three weeks, as it suffered a tough 31-28 loss at New England last week. The Colts rallied from a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter and Manning threw two of his four touchdown strikes in the final stanza, but was picked off late by Patriots defender James Sanders. Manning, the leading vote-getter for this year's Pro Bowl, had a season-high three picks and was upset with himself postgame.
"I'm just sick about not extending the game," said Manning. "There's just no excuse not to extend the game there, and give (kicker) Adam Vinatieri a chance for the field goals. Certainly, we were going for the win. We had some time, had some timeouts. We felt like we had a good play called. Just a poor throw ... it's just really sickening."
Manning's lack of heroics on this particular day dropped the 6-4 Colts into a first-place tie with Jacksonville atop the AFC South. The Jaguars hold the tie-breaker since they defeated the Colts in Florida back on Oct. 3.
The Colts played without starting running back Joseph Addai and reserve running back Mike Hart because of injury, but aren't really considered a threat on the ground. They haven't been since Edgerrin James departed for Arizona a few years ago and probably won't start now with San Diego's third- rated run defense paying a visit. Indy running back Donald Brown started his third consecutive game for Addai and rushed for a season-high 68 yards on 17 carries against the Patriots.
Wide receiver Austin Collie missed the previous week's win over Cincinnati with a concussion and was forced to leave the New England game in the first half. Collie, who suffered a bone-jarring hit in the loss at Philadelphia on Nov. 7, will not play when the Colts try to push their home record to 5-0 versus the Chargers. Indy, owners of the NFL's best regular-season record (134-52) since the start of 1999, has won six straight home games.