Chargers expect cold, snowy shoulder

The forecast for Sunday calls for a high of 21 degrees Fahrenheit and a low in the teens as the Chargers travel to their first true cold weather affair of the year. There is also snow in the forecast, 10-to-15 inches expected at some point this weekend.

The question is weather it will be on Saturday or Sunday. On Thursday, the forecast called for "heavy snow" on Sunday but that has since been pushed up a day.

Playing in sunny San Diego has its drawbacks as there is no way to prepare for the blistering wind and frost of the Midwest.

When the Bolts played Denver in San Diego two weeks ago, it was the coldest weather they had faced this year – and that was coupled with rain, which changed the gameplan slightly.

The cold does things that cannot be quantified. It makes appendages hurt and a hard football being thrown at them doesn't seem as appealing to catch.

Throw in the fact that sure-handed Keenan McCardell, who played in Cleveland for three years, may miss the game and the Chargers are in uncharted waters.

"I try and tell them, ‘you thought it was cold in Kansas City, wait till you get to Cleveland," tight end Antonio Gates said. "They will get a chance to see."

So will Gates who spent his time on the hardwood while at Kent State – a few hops away from Cleveland.

"Cold, very cold," linebacker Steve Foley echoed. "It is freezing."

Foley played in Cincinnati so he knows a thing or two about how the weather can affect a game.

"I always thought it was harder to go into real hot weather," head coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "You can prepare yourself for the cold. I remember the coldest game I have ever been in – minus 32 with the wind chill factor back in 1980. I was coaching the defense at the time. You never really noticed the cold.

"The heat gets you though. That really saps your strength."

Schottenheimer knows a thing or two about the cold. He coached for nine years in Cleveland. He also spent a considerable amount of time in Kansas City, another place where cold weather is a common foe.

What isn't known is how his team will react when the hand warmers come out. It is easier to say that the cold isn't a factor but time on the field and throughout the game will wear on the will of a player. That jolting hit reverberates through the spine when the cold is attached. It makes the next tackle hesitant.

The Chargers do have some players who have a familiarity with the cold but have they gone soft? Without a playoff berth since 1995, that was one of the things pundits claimed about San Diego – it was too easy to get caught up in the scenery than playing a good football game.

Things have changed for the AFC West leading Chargers.

"It is Big Ten weather," quarterback Drew Brees said with a knowing smile.

And regardless of the weather conditions, the Chargers have a job to do. They still have not wrapped up a playoff berth and they are not counting on anyone helping them. Cleveland is a team they feel they should beat. It doesn't matter if it is rain, sleet or snow that they have to traverse. The Bolts are on a quest for homefield advantage and the Browns are an obstacle that must be overcome.

"It is important to win going into the playoffs if you are a contender rather than clinch and end up losing your last couple games of the season," Foley said. "As long as we end this season on a positive note we should be fine."

Momentum in the NFL isn't something that can be taken lightly. Right now the Chargers are playing as good as any team in the NFL. The team can make it eight in a row on Sunday and a little thing like the weather isn't going stop them now – rain, snow or sleet.

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