Air Rivers heads back to the field Sunday, ready to pilot the San Diego Chargers against the Philadelphia Eagles in a key game for both teams.

The Chargers and Eagles are both 5-3 and both one game out of first place in their respective divisions. The Chargers have won three straight games, while Philadelphia is coming off a nationally televised loss to Dallas, the team that leads the NFC East.

The Eagles are beat up defensively in the secondary and at linebacker so it would be no surprise to see the Chargers potent passing attack riding high. With the 30-year-old version of LaDainian Tomlinson no longer being a premier running back — Tomlinson’s 289 rushing yards rank 38th in the NFL — San Diego’s best chance to roll up points is by relying on Philip Rivers’ right arm.

Vincent Jackson has emerged as one of the top wide receivers in the game — he’s third in the NFL with 722 receiving yards and tied for the touchdown lead with seven. Tight end Antonio Gates should find some mismatches Sunday with Philadelphia’s long list of injured linebackers.

Kind of funny to think the Chargers might be more healthy at linebacker even though Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips are questionable and Tim Dobbins will likely miss the contest. The Chargers do get Kevin Burnett back.

Philadelphia’s Brian Westbrook returns but he’s not the same multipurpose threat this season after missing time with a concussion and knee and ankle injuries. Donovan McNabb and the Eagles’ offense were miserable in their last visit to the West Coast when they lost to the Oakland Raiders last month.

There are some things about this matchup that causes real debate: Who is the bigger gamebreaker — Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson or San Diego’s Darren Sproles? And which team’s head coach is worse at clock management — the Chargers’ Norv Turner or the Eagles’ Andy Reid?

Oh yeah, which team has the better stadium? Ha ha, just kidding. No contest there — this game will be played in the decaying venue in San Diego.

Back to the serious stuff. The Chargers visit the Denver Broncos the following Sunday and the Broncos play the pathetic Washington Redskins this week so it is imperative that the Chargers beat the Eagles to keep pace with Denver.

The best way to do that is rely on Air Rivers.

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