The San Diego Chargers return from the bye week and kick off their stretch run when they visit the Houston Texans. Kickoff from NRG Stadium on Sunday is set for 10:00am PST.
What to Watch For…
On Offense for the Chargers
All eyes will continue to be on Antonio Gates as he closes in on Tony Gonzalez's NFL record 111 touchdown catches by a tight end. Number 85 is two shy of tying that mark as his five TDs are tied for the most by a TE in the NFL this season. Meanwhile, Philip Rivers ranks among the league leaders as well as he's completed 229 of 369 passes (62.1%) for 2,866 yards and 20 touchdowns for a 92.0 passer rating. His top weapon has been second-year wideout Tyrell Williams, who has caught 43 passes for 720 yards and four touchdowns. On the ground, Melvin Gordon is tied for third in the NFL with 11 total touchdowns (nine rushing, two receiving). He's carried the ball 217 times for 838 yards, averaging 3.9 yards per carry.
On Offense for the Texans
The Texans offense is led by a pair of free agent additions including quarterback Brock Osweiler and running back Lamar Miller. Osweiler is 216 of 363 (59.5%) for 2,061 yards, 12 TDs and 10 picks for a 74.9 passer rating, while Miller has 192 totes for 824 yards (4.3 ypc) and three touchdowns. Houston boasts one of the game's top wideouts as DeAndre Hopkins has 50 catches for 540 yards and three touchdowns. He's joined by a pair of rookie WRs in Will Fuller (26 catches for 389 yards and two TDs) and Braxton Miller (14 catches for 87 yards and one TD).
On Defense for the Chargers
Damion Square is expected to have a larger role with Brandon Mebane lost for the season with a biceps injury. There is also a chance the Bolts get back a pair of heavy hitters in Jahleel Addae and Denzel Perryman, although that won't become clearer until later in the week. Overall, Jatavis Brown continues to lead the defense with 52 total tackles despite missing the last two games. Melvin Ingram paces the Bolts with six sacks while Casey Hayward is tied for the NFL lead with five interceptions.
On Defense for the Texans
Even with J.J. Watt out for the year with a back injury, Houston's defense has powered the Texans to the top of the AFC South standings. Former first overall pick Jadeveon Clowney has been a force at defensive end, totaling 39 tackles and three sacks. Meanwhile, inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney has 89 total tackles, nearly double the next closest Texan, while outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus has a team-high 4.5 sacks.
The Chargers own a 4-1 all-time record against the Texans, including a pair of wins on the road. They did drop the last meeting between the two teams as the Texans rallied for a 31-28 win to open the 2013 season.
By the Numbers
The Chargers rank eighth in total offense (378.1 yards per game), fifth in passing (275.1 ypg), 18th in rushing (103.0 ypg) and second in points (29.2). The Texans rank 28th total offense (313.3 ypg), 30th in passing (191.6 ypg), fourth in rushing (121.7 ypg) and 28th in points (18.1).
Defensively, the Bolts rank 21st in total defense (361.9 ypg), 28th in passing (274.5 ypg), fifth in rushing (87.4 ypg) and 28th in points allowed (27.8). Houston ranks fifth in total defense (318.2 ypg), fourth in passing (206.6 ypg), 21st in rushing (111.6 ypg) and 12th in points allowed (21.5).
Milestones on the Horizon
Philip Rivers needs 279 yards to move past Drew Bledsoe (44,611) and into 12th all-time. Bledsoe played 14 seasons in the NFL (1993-06) with New England, Buffalo and Dallas.
Rivers has passed for 2,886 yards this season and he needs just 114 for an 11th consecutive 3,000-yard season. His 10 straight are ﬁfth-most in the NFL. The only players with longer streaks are Brett Favre (18, 1992-09), Peyton Manning (13, 1998-10), Drew Brees (13, 2004-16) and Eli Manning (11, 2005-15).
Rivers' next 300-yard game will be the 51st of his career, tying Dan Fouts for most in Chargers history.
Antonio Gates has 109 career touchdown catches, second all-time among tight ends. He needs two to tie Tony Gonzalez (111) for most all-time at the position.
Melvin Gordon needs one more rushing touchdown to record the 16th season in Chargers history in which a player has 10 or more. Mike Tolbert was the last player to do so in 2010.
Gordon needs 162 more rushing yards for the 20th 1,000-yard season in franchise history, and ﬁrst since Ryan Mathews had 1,255 in 2013.
If Gordon tops 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns, he'd become just the 11th player in franchise history and ﬁrst since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2008 to reach each in a single season.
Noteworthy vs. the Texans
Philip Rivers has thrown 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions in three career games vs. Houston. His 119.7 career passer rating against the Texans is his fourth-highest against any single opponent (Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville).
Antonio Gates has played in three career games against the Texans and he's caught 13 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns. Both scores (49 and 31 yards) came in a game in San Diego in 2007. In the 2004 season opener, Gates had a season-high 123 yards against Houston.
As a rookie with Green Bay in 2012, Casey Hayward had a career-high two interceptions and four passes defensed.
Playing for New England in 2015, Asante Cleveland made his first NFL start against the Texans.
Chargers defensive tackle Damion Square is a Houston native.
Running back Kenneth Farrow and practice squad safety Adrian McDonald both played at the University of Houston from 2012-15. Each were two-time All-American Athletic Conference picks.
Quarterback Kellen Clemens spent time with the Texans in 2011.
Cornerback Craig Mager is from Luling, Texas and he played collegiately at Texas State.
Safety Adrian Phillips is from Garland, Texas and he attended the University of Texas.
Assistant Linebackers Coach Bobby King joined the Chargers after spending three seasons (2011-13) with the Texans, including two (2012-13) as their assistant linebackers coach.
Texans kicker Nick Novak was born in San Diego and he spent time with the Chargers from 2010-15. Novak is the second-most accurate kicker in franchise history (101 of 117). In 2013, Novak hit a franchise-record 91.9 percent of his kicks (34 of 37).
Tackle Andrew McDonald spent time on the Chargers' practice squad in 2015.
Offensive Assistant Pat O'Hara spent time with the Chargers as a quarterback during the 1992-93 seasons.
Know Your Opponent
Take a detailed look a who the Chargers will face on the road this week for game 12.
CBS (KFMB, Channel 8 in San Diego and KCAL-TV, Channel 9 in Los Angeles and Orange County) – Kevin Harlan (play-by-play) and Rich Gannon (analyst)
Rock 105.3 FM, XTRA Sports 1360 (San Diego) and AM 570 KLAC (Los Angeles & Orange County) – Josh Lewin (play-by-play) and Nick Hardwick (analyst)
Spanish Radio –XHFG 107.3 (San Diego)– Jorge Villanueva (play-by-play) and Tony Alvarez (analyst)
All Chargers radio broadcasts are now being streamed live on the team's official website, www.chargers.com. XTRA Sports 1360 Broadcasts with Josh Lewin (play-by-play) and Nick Hardwick (analyst) will begin two hours before kickoff and continue for 90 minutes of postgame coverage.
Download the Chargers Official Mobile App for live game coverage, stats, and game day news.