The Chargers will have a different look after suffering two key injuries in the opener. Nate Kaeding tore his ACL and was placed on injured-reserve. Nick Novak enters as the replacement; on Sunday, he will kick in an NFL game for the first time since 2008. His performance will be critical given that the Chargers will have to score a lot of points to outgun the Patriots.
Another change comes on the D-line, as Luis Castillo is out with a broken left leg. Third-year pro Vaughn Martin slides into the starting line-up and finally gets a shot to show the refinement he has paired with his elite athleticism. He dominated in training camp and the preseason and is prepared for the increased role. Ogemdi Nwagbuo, re-signed this week at the expense of FS C.J. Wallace, assumes Martin's place at the back end of the rotation.
In more positive injury news, Patrick Crayton is practicing this week and hoping to make his season debut in New England. The Chargers suffered without a proven slot receiver last week, too often relying on running backs at check-downs. While that worked against the Vikings, the dink-and-dunk method will not work as well versus a Patriots team that puts up points in bunches.
Newcomers Ready for Round Two
LB Takeo Spikes
San Diego added three defensive free agents this offseason and all three started Week 1: Bob Sanders, Takeo Spikes and Travis LaBoy. Spikes looked fantastic and led the team with 11 tackles. Sanders finished with six tackles but minus the kind of impact play the Chargers hope to get from No. 31. LaBoy had a quiet game (one tackle) and certainly opened the door for Larry English to win his spot back.
New England's big pickups were Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco. Haynesworth had a nice game in Week 1, recording two tackles and drawing a pair of holding penalties. Ochocinco, though, had but one reception for 14 yards on a day when his quarterback went over the 500-yard mark.
The Key to a Quick Start
The Chargers avoided yet another slow start to the season by rallying from a 17-7 halftime deficit to beat the Vikings. If they can win on the road in New England, it will give San Diego its first 2-0 start since 2006, when Marty Schottenheimer was coach.
More importantly, a win Sunday could lead to an early-season run for the Chargers. Their next two games are at home against the Chiefs and Dolphins, teams that lost by a combined score of 79-31 in Week 1. Week 5 is a road game versus the Broncos; the Chargers have only lost in Denver once since 2005 -- the infamous Ed Hochuli game.
Conceivably, a win in New England could be the springboard to a 5-0 start, which would be a huge deal given the team's penchant for early-season struggles.
How will the injury fill-ins fare against the Patriots? Discuss in the message boards.
Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.