|Running back Jackie Battle rushed for 39 yards and a touchdown in San Diego's win over the Chiefs in Week 4. (US Presswire)|
Chargers at Saints -- Week 5
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans (indoors, turf)
When: Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET (NBC)
Spread: Saints by 3.5
Records: Chargers (Overall: 3-1, AFC West: 2-0); Saints (Overall: 0-4, NFC South: 0-1).
Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Oct. 26, 2008, played in London's Wimbley Stadium: Saints 37, Chargers 32; Nov. 7, 2004: Chargers 43, Saints 17. Series record: Chargers lead 7-3.
What matters: Throw the records out. This will likely be an exciting game with an unpredictable outcome. The Chargers forced six turnovers last week against the Chiefs and it will need to continue that trend for San Diego to escape New Orleans with a win. Saints QB Drew Brees has hit his stride, as he is coming off his best performance of the season. Brees completed 35 of 54 passes for 446 yards for three TDs vs. the Packers last Sunday. The passing yards were the second highest for a game in his career and Saints' franchise history. Chargers QB Philip Rivers completed 18 of 23 passes for 209 yards and two scores last week.
Who matters: It was a bit of a surprise when RB Jackie Battle started over RB Ryan Mathews last week. Battle got the bulk of the carries through the first three quarters and finished the game with 15 carries for 39 yards and a TD. Mathews received the majority of the touches in the fourth quarter when the Chargers already had a big lead and the Chiefs were expecting the run. Mathews finished the game as the leading rusher with 14 carries for 61 yards. Battle is listed as the starting RB, but Mathews could easily receive the start and be a difference-maker. Regardless of who starts, Battle and Mathews will also be used in the passing game. Last week, the Saints' defense struggled to defend short sideline passes. Rivers will likely take the same approach and spread the ball around in the process.
Key matchups: The Chargers O-line vs. the Saints D-line. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was sacked 16 times through the first three weeks of the season, but the Saints didn't sack him last week. If the Chargers O-line can hold the Saints D-line off, then Rivers will have time to be smart with the ball. This will enable the offense to go on long drives which will keep the ball out of Brees' hands. “We don't want the [Saints] offense to get back on the field,” LT Jared Gaither said. “We have to ground-and-pound. Do everything efficiently. It plays a big role when you can demoralize those other guys a little bit, keeping them on the sidelines watching us work.”
Injuries of note: CB Shareece Wright (right ankle sprain) and K Nate Kaeding (groin) are listed as out. The Chargers are deeper at CB than they were a week ago because CB Chris Carr was signed on Tuesday to give them a fourth healthy player at the position. K Nick Novak was 3 for 3 on FGs against the Chiefs. The Saints will be without WR Lance Moore (right hamstring). This is a significant blow for New Orleans. Moore has 19 receptions for 287 yards and two TDs this season. Moore's absence will mean Brees will be forced to rely more on TE Jimmy Graham and his running backs including former Chargers RB Darren Sproles.
Inside stuff: WR Robert Meachem (free agent, Saints) has not yet made a significant impact for the Chargers. He only has six receptions for 92 yards and no TDs. Meachem, however, said he is looking to have a big day against his former team and acknowledged it will be emotional returning to New Orleans.
Connections: WR Robert Meachem was a first-round pick of the Saints in 2007 and played for New Orleans form 2007-11. DT Aubrayo Franklin played for the Saints in 2011. S Brandon Taylor attended LSU and is from Franklinton, La. TE Ladarius Green went to Louisiana-Lafayette. P Mike Scifres is from Destrehan, La.
Stat you should know: TE Antonio Gates has four TDs in just two career starts against the Saints, including his first three-touchdown game in 2004.
Record watch: Brees has thrown a TD in 47 straight games, tying Johnny Unitas for the NFL record. The record was set by Unitas in 1960 and many believed it was untouchable, but Brees will own it alone with one TD pass on Sunday. Chargers OLB Jarret Johnson is expected to make his 100th career start.
Looking ahead: A win would match the Chargers' 4-1 start of a year ago before they lost six straight. Next week, the Chargers host the Broncos (2-2) for Monday Night Football, before going into the bye week.
Prediction: Saints 20, Chargers 19
Follow Chargers reporter Dan McLellan on Twitter @CBSChargers and @sandiegosports.