Chargers at Buccaneers -- Week 10

Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla. (grass, outside)

When: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

Spread: Tampa Bay by 3

Forecast: Passing clouds with temperatures in the high 70s.

Records: Chargers (4-4, 3-1 AFC West); Buccaneers (4-4, 1-1 NFC South)

Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Dec. 21, 2008: Chargers 41, Bucs 24; Dec. 12, 2004: Chargers 31, Bucs 24. Series record: San Diego holds an 8-1 advantage in the all-time series and is 4-0 in Tampa Bay.

What matters: This could very well be a defining moment for the Chargers. The Buccaneers are not an elite team, but they are a good team on the rise. San Diego has yet to beat a team with a .500 or above record this season. A win will quiet the critics’ talk of firing general manager A.J. Smith and coach Norv Turner. A loss, however, could signal another wasted season under their leadership.

Who matters: Former Chargers WR Vincent Jackson has a habit of performing well when it personally serves him best. Jackson had five receptions for 112 yards and three TDs on a Thursday Night game against the 49ers in Week 15 of 2010, his first full game back after a bitter contract dispute with general manager A.J. Smith. Jackson and Smith’s dysfunctional relationship ended this offseason when Smith decided against placing the franchise tag on Jackson for a second consecutive year. Jackson signed with Tampa Bay for five years $5,555,555. The all fives in the contract was a tribute to his new QB Josh Freeman, who wears number 5. Jackson would very much like to make a statement with this game, and he's capable of doing so by matching or exceeding his three TD performance of 2010. Jackson already leads the Bucs with 31 receptions for 710 yards and six TDs.

Rookie RB Doug Martin will be a big test for the Chargers fourth-rated run defense (84-yard average allowed). Martin ran for 251 yards and four rushing TDs in a 42-32 win over the Raiders last week and scored on runs of 1, 45, 67 and 70 yards. Martin has rushed for 794 yards and seven TDs this season, and nearly half of those yards (386) and five of the TDs came in the last two weeks. Martin also has 100 yards receiving in the last two games. His combined 486 yards from scrimmage is the most by any player in any two-game span since 1977 when Walter Payton topped the mark.

Key matchups: Jackson vs. Chargers secondary. With the exception of SS Atari Bigby (free agent, Seahawks), Jackson has faced the San Diego DBs countless times in practice. CB Antoine Cason doesn’t believe this gives either an advantage.  “You can’t think of it that way,” Cason said. “We practiced against him, but it‘s a different year. I can’t rely on that.” ... The secondary will also have their hands full with WR Mike Williams, who has 29 receptions for 504 yards and five TDs.

Injuries of note: OLB Antwan Barnes (hamstring) is listed as doubtful and will likely be out. LT Jared Gaither (groin) and DE Corey Liuget (hamstring) are listed as questionable; neither practiced on Thursday or Friday and appear they appear closer to doubtful. If Gaither is out, rookie Mike Harris (undrafted, UCLA) will start. Harris has had mixed results in four previous starts. Liuget has performed well of late; if he doesn’t play, the D-line will have one less man in their rotation. This could be problematic as the game progresses because a tired defensive front may allow Martin to break off big runs.

Inside stuff: The Chargers offense has only scored two touchdowns in the last 10 quarters. The defense scored twice in last week’s 31-13 win over the Chiefs. The Chargers passing offense has only averaged 217.2 yards per game (22nd) and the rushing offense has averaged 105.9 yards per game (19th). Therefore, the defense may have to find the end zone again this week in order to win. If the Chargers offense is to be successful, it would appear the best way is through the air. The Bucs pass defense is ranked last in the league (321.1 yards average), but their run defense is ranked first (77.2 yards average). QB Philip Rivers will need to be smart with the ball. He already has 10 INTs this season.

Connections:  WR Vincent Jackson played for San Diego from 2005-11. Chargers special teams  coach Rich Bisaccia coached the special teams for the Buccaneers from 2002-10.

Record watch: TE Antonio Gates (79) needs two touchdowns catches to match WR Lance Alworth (81) for the franchise record. OLB Shaun Phillips has 65.0 career sacks, fourth in team history. Phillips needs one half sack to tie Lee Williams (65.5) for third, and he needs 2.0 sacks to tie Gary “Big Hands” Johnson (67) for second.

Stat you should know: Raiders QB Carson Palmer threw for 414 yards and four TDs against the Buccaneers defense last week. If Rivers can come close to that performance, the Chargers should win.

Looking ahead: The Chargers will take on the first-place Broncos (5-3) in Denver next Sunday. If San Diego is able to beat both the Buccaneers and the Broncos, they will truly be in the thick of the playoff race. A loss in either game, especially against the Broncos, would dim any playoff hopes.

Prediction: Tampa Bay 31, San Diego 20

Follow the Chargers and Dan McLellan on Twitter @CBSChargers and @sandiegosports.