A year ago, they were each winless when they met in week five. The Jaguars and Chargers played a game some billed as a battle for the first pick of the draft. This Sunday, the Jaguars and Chargers will meet in another week-five game, but this time the two teams will be playing with an eye on first place in their respective divisions.
"The players are the same but it's a totally different team. They're a whole lot better team than we faced last year," Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich said of the Chargers. With a win over the Jaguars, the 2-2 Chargers would move into a first-place tie with Denver in the AFC West, should the Broncos lose to Carolina.
Meanwhile, the 3-1 Jaguars expect to need a win in San Diego to remain in a first-place tie with Indianapolis in the AFC South. The Colts host the Raiders.
"Three of our next four are on the road and they're all in the AFC," Leftwich said in providing perspective for the second quarter of the Jaguars' schedule, which will take the team up to its middle-of-the-season bye week. The Jaguars will host Kansas City on Oct. 17, then travel to Indianapolis and Houston in consecutive weeks.
"We're different We were also 0-4. We've both taken steps. They've just decided, like we have, to be a better football team and work at it," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said when asked about the transformation the Chargers have made from a 4-12 club that did win the first pick of the draft, to a team that has measured Houston and Tennessee of the AFC South in the first month of this season.
By and large, the Chargers are the same team that suffered a 27-21 loss to the Jaguars last season. Drew Brees is still the Chargers' quarterback, though it would only seem to be a matter of time before first-round pick Phillip Rivers settles in at the position.
San Diego's most prominent player is running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who is currently the league's fourth-leading rusher with 415 yards and a 4.9 yards-per-carry average. Last year, the Jaguars held Tomlinson to 38 yards rushing, which was clearly the deciding factor in the game.
"There's no question what Marty Schottenheimer likes to do: possess the football, run right at you, smash you in the mouth," Del Rio said of the Chargers' head coach. "They're very similar to us in that it's a young team that prides itself in being a physical team. They like power football. It ought to be an interesting matchup. It should be a physical football game."
The Jaguars established a reputation for being one of the league's best run-defenses last season, but that reputation has been soiled a bit this season, as the Jaguars have fallen to 16th in the league against the run.
"They run the ball real well and it's going to be a challenge for us. We have to come out a lot better than we did last week," linebacker Akin Ayodele said.
Del Rio's injury report lists tight end Kyle Brady as "out" for a fifth consecutive week. Brady is still battling the effects of a staph infection in the finger that underwent surgery prior to the start of the season. Brady did, however, participate in practice today.
Tight end George Wrighster is "questionable" with a sore back, defensive end Lionel Barnes is "probable" with a sore shoulder, and wide receiver Troy Edwards is "probable" with a strained groin.