Chargers vs. Buccaneers 2012 game preview: Battle of completely opposite teams

Ezra Shaw

The Chargers started 3-1, but have lost three of their last four games, while the Buccaneers started 1-3 and have won three of their last four games.

Finding any similarities between the 2012 Chargers and 2012 Buccaneers is certainly difficult, as they are seemingly perfect opposites after the first half of the season. While the Chargers won three of their first four games, the team has since lost three of its last four to slide to a 4-4 record. Alternatively, the Bucs have rebounded from a 1-3 start with wins in three of their last four to get back to 4-4. Whatever the Chargers do well, the Buccaneers do poorly, and vice versa.

If momentum is to be a factor, the winners will almost certainly be the Bucs, but history certainly favors the Chargers. The two teams have faced each other nine times and the Buccaneers have managed just one victory in those games. In 1996, the Buccaneers rallied from down four points in the fourth quarter to earn a win in San Diego, but have never won another game against the Chargers, including their last matchup, which featured the Chargers scoring 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to win, 41-24.

Meet the Buccaneers

During their slow start to the season, Josh Freeman showed many of the same struggles that has drawn the quarterback many criticisms through his four-year career with the Buccaneers. Particularly bad was a 10-of-28 performance against the Cowboys, in which he accumulated only 110 yards passing. In the last four weeks, though, Freeman has tallied 11 touchdowns with just one interception and four games with 100+ quarterback ratings. Couple that production with 486 yards of total offense and six touchdowns in just two weeks for rookie Doug Martin and all of a sudden the Bucs have the fifth highest scoring team in the NFL.

They've needed all the points the can get, though, as their defense has struggled at times. Without much of a pass rush, they've been shredded through the air on a consistent basis. Only the 1-7 Chiefs have been unable to throw for more than 225 passing yards. However, they've done a very good job against the run and have forced the fourth most turnovers in the league, including six turnovers in the last two games.

Meet the Chargers

Where the Chargers have traditionally dominated offensively, it's been the defense that has been the better group in 2012. The defense ranks in the top 10 in both yards and points against, as they've been particularly strong against the run. They are tied with the Buccaneers in turnovers forced, although 10 of the 17 turnovers forced by the team came against the remarkably turnover-prone Chiefs.

On offense, the Chargers are still led by four-time Pro Bowler Philip Rivers, who hasn't been having a terrible season. With 66.5 percent of his passes completed, more than any season in his career, and more touchdowns than interceptions, Rivers has decent stats. However, those stats haven't translated into yardage and he hasn't been helped by a running game that has contributed just four rushing touchdowns. The combination of struggles has the Chargers as the No. 26 offense in the league.

Local Takes: Buccaneers

JC De La Torre from Bucs Nation says Vincent Jackson has been the best player for the Buccaneers so far in 2012:

Yes, I know -- everyone has Dynamite Doug hysteria after the past two weeks performance -- but I don't believe Martin would be as effective without the contributions of Vincent Jackson. Jackson has -- and forgive me for using the newest most overused cliche in football -- blown the top off opposing defenses and forced teams into a cover 2 shell.

Local Takes: Chargers

John Gennaro from Bolts From The Blue says that hiring Jon Gruden to coach the Chargers would accomplish nothing because he's essentially the same guy as Norv Turner:

Gruden worked some magic with the Raiders. He turned that into a job with Tampa where he did what Norv did in San Diego, just with more luck, in that first season. He then proceeded to destroy everything good about the Buccaneers organization and has spent the last four years as a television broadcaster.

Follow the Fun

Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Bucs Nation and Bolts From The Blue, for more analysis and highlights from the game.

Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:

Bucs Nation manager, Sander Philipse: @Bucs_Nation

Bolts From The Blue manager, John Gennaro: @BFTB_Chargers

Buccaneers beat writer, Stephen Holder: @HolderStephen

Chargers beat writer, Kevin Acee: @UTKevinAcee

Prediction

From the Week 10 picks:

Two teams headed in opposite directions. The Chargers are losers of three of their last four, and the fan base wants Norv Turner fired. The Bucs are winners of three of their last four and suddenly have the fifth-ranked offense in the NFL. (Really, they do.) I'll side with momentum in this pick.

The pick: 31-27, Buccaneers

Odds

The Buccaneers are favored by 3 points and are 6-2 against the spread in 2012, according the OddsShark.

Next Week

The Chargers will next travel to face the Denver, where they'll attempt to avoid losing a third consecutive game to the Broncos. The Buccaneers will also have a divisional rematch, as they'll travel to Carolina to try and earn a season sweep over the Panthers.

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