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Five Keys: Chargers vs. Buccaneers

Here are five keys to the game heading into the Week 13 match between the San Diego Chargers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

1. Can Hayward Contain Evans?– There may not be a better wide receiver in the NFL right now than 23-year old Mike Evans. Defensive Coordinator John Pagano called the 6-5, 231-pound Bucs star a top five wideout in the league as he ranks first in the NFL with 10 TD catches, second with 1,020 receiving yards and third with 73 catches.   Meanwhile, Casey Hayward has done a tremendous job all year long in coverage, leading the league with six picks.  The cornerback has faced tough tests all year long, but Evans might be the most difficult yet.  Head Coach Mike McCoy explained what makes the third year pro so special:

"He is one of those players that can make plays and change a game in a hurry. His explosive play-making ability, whether it's in the red area, whether it's catching some big in-cut, whatever that is (is impressive)...There is a lot of 'Wow Factor' to plays that he is making. You think he's covered, but with his size and strength he makes spectacular catches."

Here are five keys to the game heading into the Week 13 match between the San Diego Chargers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

1. Can Hayward Contain Evans?– There may not be a better wide receiver in the NFL right now than 23-year old Mike Evans. Defensive Coordinator John Pagano called the 6-5, 231-pound Bucs star a top five wideout in the league as he ranks first in the NFL with 10 TD catches, second with 1,020 receiving yards and third with 73 catches.   Meanwhile, Casey Hayward has done a tremendous job all year long in coverage, leading the league with six picks.  The cornerback has faced tough tests all year long, but Evans might be the most difficult yet.  Head Coach Mike McCoy explained what makes the third year pro so special:

"He is one of those players that can make plays and change a game in a hurry. His explosive play-making ability, whether it's in the red area, whether it's catching some big in-cut, whatever that is (is impressive)...There is a lot of 'Wow Factor' to plays that he is making. You think he's covered, but with his size and strength he makes spectacular catches."

2. Mind Grimes – Brent Grimes has been a thorn in Philip Rivers' side the past three seasons leading into Sunday's match.  Number 17 faced off against the cornerback as a member of the Dolphins from 2013-15 with Grimes picking the quarterback off four times in a trio of meetings.  Now in his first season in Tampa Bay, the 10-year veteran has shown no sign of slowing down as he leads an ascending Bucs' defense into the Q.  Rivers chimed in with what makes Grimes so dynamic while recalling their most recent showdowns:

"He's certainly (been) a handful. He is a good player. Some (of those INTs) were probably ill-advised throws and others were good plays on his part, but he is a good corner. He is still a good corner. He is very quick, his change of direction when he recognizes the pattern or when you start to let go of the football is really, really impressive. This whole defense is playing well. You saw what they have done the last few weeks. They had some points scored on them early in the year but they have really played well. They have taken the ball away and we definitely have a challenge ahead of us."

3. Slow Down Winston – Much has been said of Jameis Winston being responsible for a touchdown in every single game since being drafted first overall in the 2015 draft.  The former FSU star has either thrown or run for one in each of his 27 career games.  Winston has taken his game to new heights in his sophomore season, completing 249 of 406 attempts (61.3%) with 22 touchdowns and 11 picks for an 89.7 QB rating.  He's also carried the rock 37 times for 110 yards with one score.  Winston has been at his best over the Bucs three game win streak as Tampa Bay has defeated the Seahawks, Chiefs and Bears.  He completed a career-high 75% of his passes (21 of 28) against Seattle's vaunted "Legion of Boom" last week. Pagano weighed in with what he sees from the dynamic QB who has a knack for the big play:

"He's good.  You see a lot of explosive offense out there.  You see a quarterback that moves well in the pocket. He does a great job of extending the down, and not looking just to run. Looking to throw it down field, and he does a great job of that."

4. Pivotal Turnover Battle –Winning the turnover battle is always a priority, but that will especially be the case on Sunday.  The Bolts and Bucs are two of the top teams at forcing turnovers on the year heading into Week 13 as San Diego ranks second with 23 and Tampa Bay third with 20.  At the same time, both have struggled to protect the rock. The Bolts have the most giveaways with 23, only five more than the Buccaneers who rank 10th. Tampa Bay Head Coach Dirk Koetter summed up how his team lives and dies with turnovers:

"When Jameis takes care of the football, we're tough. We've got to take care of the football, that's everybody. The main thing that we're doing better in the last few weeks is we're getting turnovers and we're not turning it over as much, we're in the positive. So, I think our defense is all the way up to number three in the league in takeaways. We've still given it away. We could've put that Seattle game away if don't turn it over twice in the fourth quarter. They were ready to topple over for us if we could've just finished. So Jameis, that's something that to be a championship quarterback in this league, you've got to take great care of the ball."

5. Battle of Buckeye Rookies –Sundays' game features two of the league's top rookies in former Ohio State teammates Joey Bosa and Noah Spence. Bosa was named the Defensive Rookie of the Month for October while the NFL announced this week Spence captured the award for November.   Tampa Bay's second round pick tallied 11 tackles, 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles last month to bring his season total to 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles, both second-most among rookies. Spence spent two-plus seasons at Ohio State before being ruled ineligible for failed drug tests in 2014. Over that time, he formed a strong bond with Bosa. Now, each former Buckeye looks to give his team the edge on Sunday. Bosa said the two have texted back and forth this week while also providing a scouting report of the defensive end:

"His work ethic and his motor (are impressive). Noah can run literally for days, just training. I remember training, trying to keep up with him running and training and he's always just first of the line working. He was a good guy to watch when I was young at Ohio State, but I knew if he kept his head on straight and kept working like he knows how to, he would make something of himself and he is doing just that. I am proud of him."

2. Mind Grimes – Brent Grimes has been a thorn in Philip Rivers' side the past three seasons leading into Sunday's match.  Number 17 faced off against the cornerback as a member of the Dolphins from 2013-15 with Grimes picking the quarterback off four times in a trio of meetings.  Now in his first season in Tampa Bay, the 10-year veteran has shown no sign of slowing down as he leads an ascending Bucs' defense into the Q.  Rivers chimed in with what makes Grimes so dynamic while recalling their most recent showdowns:

"He's certainly (been) a handful. He is a good player. Some (of those INTs) were probably ill-advised throws and others were good plays on his part, but he is a good corner. He is still a good corner. He is very quick, his change of direction when he recognizes the pattern or when you start to let go of the football is really, really impressive. This whole defense is playing well. You saw what they have done the last few weeks. They had some points scored on them early in the year but they have really played well. They have taken the ball away and we definitely have a challenge ahead of us."

3. Slow Down Winston – Much has been said of Jameis Winston being responsible for a touchdown in every single game since being drafted first overall in the 2015 draft.  The former FSU star has either thrown or run for one in each of his 27 career games.  Winston has taken his game to new heights in his sophomore season, completing 249 of 406 attempts (61.3%) with 22 touchdowns and 11 picks for an 89.7 QB rating.  He's also carried the rock 37 times for 110 yards with one score.  Winston has been at his best over the Bucs three game win streak as Tampa Bay has defeated the Seahawks, Chiefs and Bears.  He completed a career-high 75% of his passes (21 of 28) against Seattle's vaunted "Legion of Boom" last week. Pagano weighed in with what he sees from the dynamic QB who has a knack for the big play:

"He's good.  You see a lot of explosive offense out there.  You see a quarterback that moves well in the pocket. He does a great job of extending the down, and not looking just to run. Looking to throw it down field, and he does a great job of that."

4. Pivotal Turnover Battle –Winning the turnover battle is always a priority, but that will especially be the case on Sunday.  The Bolts and Bucs are two of the top teams at forcing turnovers on the year heading into Week 13 as San Diego ranks second with 23 and Tampa Bay third with 20.  At the same time, both have struggled to protect the rock. The Bolts have the most giveaways with 23, only five more than the Buccaneers who rank 10th. Tampa Bay Head Coach Dirk Koetter summed up how his team lives and dies with turnovers:

"When Jameis takes care of the football, we're tough. We've got to take care of the football, that's everybody. The main thing that we're doing better in the last few weeks is we're getting turnovers and we're not turning it over as much, we're in the positive. So, I think our defense is all the way up to number three in the league in takeaways. We've still given it away. We could've put that Seattle game away if don't turn it over twice in the fourth quarter. They were ready to topple over for us if we could've just finished. So Jameis, that's something that to be a championship quarterback in this league, you've got to take great care of the ball."

5. Battle of Buckeye Rookies –Sundays' game features two of the league's top rookies in former Ohio State teammates Joey Bosa and Noah Spence. Bosa was named the Defensive Rookie of the Month for October while the NFL announced this week Spence captured the award for November.   Tampa Bay's second round pick tallied 11 tackles, 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles last month to bring his season total to 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles, both second-most among rookies. Spence spent two-plus seasons at Ohio State before being ruled ineligible for failed drug tests in 2014. Over that time, he formed a strong bond with Bosa. Now, each former Buckeye looks to give his team the edge on Sunday. Bosa said the two have texted back and forth this week while also providing a scouting report of the defensive end:

"His work ethic and his motor (are impressive). Noah can run literally for days, just training. I remember training, trying to keep up with him running and training and he's always just first of the line working. He was a good guy to watch when I was young at Ohio State, but I knew if he kept his head on straight and kept working like he knows how to, he would make something of himself and he is doing just that. I am proud of him."

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