Name any team in the NFL and it's hard to find a hotter one as of late than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. At 6-5, the Bucs are one game back in the NFC South and on a three-game win streak as they head to America's Finest City on Sunday.
Despite the Bucs' recent success, Head Coach Dirk Koetter knows his team is in for a challenge against the Chargers.
"They're a really good football team that's had some unfortunate breaks with injuries," Koetter said. "They're doing a great job of taking the ball away defensively, and they're also doing a really great job of disrupting opposing quarterbacks. Offensively, they can move the ball on anybody. Philip Rivers is as good a quarterback as there is in this league. Melvin Gordon is having a great season. They do an awesome job in the passing game (with) Head Coach Mike McCoy and Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt as two of the best offensive coaches in the league."
"They're led by a future Hall of Famer in Philip Rivers," mentioned DT Gerald McCoy. "They're just putting up big numbers. They have another future Hall of Famer in Antonio Gates and it's just a great offense to play against from a defensive standpoint. Especially for a person like me, who loves to compete against the top level of what we do. The offense is just very explosive and I'm just excited to go against them."
The high praise for San Diego's signal caller didn't end there.
"Alabama, baby," said quarterback Jameis Winston. "You grow up and hear about Philip Rivers, and he went to N.C. State, so I'm going to get that a lot from 'Glizzy' (Mike Glennon) this week. (He's) just a great gunslinger (and has) been one of the greats in this game for a very long time; I definitely look up to him. I can't wait to talk to him before the game so I can hear a little bit of that country twang because I know San Diego hasn't took it from him yet, so I'm looking forward to that."
"He's one of the best players in the world," Koetter added. "(He has) unbelievable timing and anticipation. He lets the ball go so early knowing exactly where his receivers are going to be, it makes it hard to get to him. His touch on his deep balls and double moves is just out of sight. He's like a coach on the field and does a great job of getting (his offense) in the right play based on the looks that the defense is giving them. He's hard to sack because he gets it out so quick. The ball comes out at all kinds of different arm angles and he's one of the best."
While the Bucs offense has been solid with Winston throwing five touchdowns in the last three games, Koetter said the Bolts defense is a unit to be wary of as well.
"San Diego's defense gives you a lot of issues because number one, they have multiple guys who can rush the passer. That's always an issue as they do a great job getting pressure and hits. They have a ball-hawking secondary and they really make you work with all their blitz patterns and substitution groups."
Koetter specifically cited Casey Hayward, who leads the league in interceptions (six), as a guy they're game planning for.
"We've gone up against Casey when he was in Green Bay and I always had a lot of respect for him. The thing that jumps out about him is just how much they're ball-hawking balls in the air. He's tied for the lead in interceptions and sometimes matching other teams' (top) receivers."