The Justice Files

Well, it's official. I moved 13 years worth of junk out of Manhattan yesterday set up shop in Long Island. Sadly, that means that I am no longer receiving the NFL Network. As I mentioned last week, I watched the "Game of the Week" program that chronicled the December 12 San Diego Chargers game against Tampa. Even though that game was played a week before the division clincher in Cleveland, it was really our final step towards taking the AFC West.

As I am sure you recall, the Bucs were streaking at that time and needed to run the table to make the playoffs. This was a game that most people expected us to lose.

The Bolts seemed to have their own doubts at first. They had a real tough time putting Tampa away. This was also the game in which Keenan McCardell was going to have the opportunity to face the team he left under less than amicable circumstances.

However, his hamstring pull from that Sunday would keep him out until the playoffs. You could really see the Bolts coaching staff trying to rally the remaining receivers on the sideline once it was clear McCardell wasn't coming back.

This is going to be an important area this season since the Chargers need the other guys in that group to step up. Gates was blanketed by every team after he humiliated Oakland on Halloween. Jackson will still be a rookie. Parker, Caldwell and Osgood will all be needed. Remember, these were the guys everybody wondered about when David Boston was released last offseason.

One of the most interesting clips from the sideline footage was Roman Oben trying to alert Marty Schottenheimer of Gruden's tendencies. He told Marty that when Gruden "gets pissed, he likes to go long."

Of course, Schottenheimer didn't feel too comfortable saying "pissed," so he phrased it a little more delicately when he passed the insight along to the defense. Sure enough, Greise tried to go up top and the play resulted in Jammer's lone interception of the season. You knew we'd need some advance info for QJ to actually get a pick.

It was also interesting to see how the sideline reacted after Tomlinson fumbled on a run that would have sealed the win. There wasn't even a moment where the other Bolts looked discouraged. They were immediately focused on getting Tomlinson to forget about it.

You could also really see how much Donnie Edwards has become the leader on defense. Not only was the Tampa game the one where Edwards finished the Bucs off with an interception run back for a touchdown (with a little help from Steve Foley's pancake block on Brian Greise), but he was clearly the guy who Schottenheimer looks to set the tone. Obviously, his time in Kansas City makes it easy for Marty to trust him. But Edwards was having a tough time assuming the leadership mantle after Junior was released.

He never had to be "the man" before in Kansas City and even though he made the Pro Bowl in his first season in San Diego, a lot more was expected out of him once Seau was gone.

Last year, he really stepped it up. He unquestionably should have made the Pro Bowl and the Tampa game showed everybody why.

In my first day as a Long Island resident, I treated myself to a tasty Dominican cigar while I perused a copy of Football Digest. I've never really looked at the magazine. It's easy to overlook since it's pretty small, thus the "digest" distinction.

When I was at the newsstand, I was amazed at the amount of fantasy football magazines there are. I should not have been surprised when I saw that LaDainian Tomlinson was on at least 75 percent of them.

As has been the case with every other season preview I've read, Football Digest suggests that this year the Chargers will have to prove that they weren't a fluke. Just like every other publication I've seen, Football Digest seems to think that we will win the division.

They weren't specific on how they see the playoffs unfolding, but they weren't picking us to make the Super Bowl. I guess I will need to decide before the season starts whether simply making the playoffs this season would be considered satisfactory.

With this schedule, I'm tempted to say yes. However, I really think we need to win a postseason game this year.

As I said on last week, it's amazing how much difference a year makes.

Talk to you next week from suburbia,


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