Chargers right at home

For the Chargers, the second season will start with a first-class challenge. The Patriots, who have gone 11-1 during postseason play under the guidance of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, will travel to Qualcomm to take on LaDainian Tomlinson's So-Cal posse.

A quick look back at the last couple of meeting between these squads gives Chargers fans reason to be optimistic. In 2005, the Chargers won in New England 41-17, ending the Patriots 21-game home winning streak. The teams also met in 2002, when the Chargers beat the then-defending Super Bowl Champions 21-14 in San Diego. In those two games, Tomlinson ran for over 350 yards and scored four touchdowns.

The Patriots have plenty of reasons to be hopeful, too. As the most successful postseason team in the modern era, New England must be overjoyed to be playing a squad led by Marty Schottenheimer, the antithesis of postseason success. Schottenheimer's teams are just 5-12 during the playoffs.

Additionally, New England is playing its best football right now. The Patriots have won four games in a row and seven of their last eight.

"The defense has been playing great all year," Tom Brady said. "Offensively, I think we have kind of found a nice identity. We know what our guys do really well, guys we have incorporated. We are running the ball really well and spreading the ball around to a bunch of different guys."

Statistically, both teams represent the league's upper echelon. The Chargers are No. 1 in points scored and No. 7 in points allowed. The Patriots are No. 7 in points scored and No. 2 in points allowed. San Diego and New England are the only teams in the AFC to rank in the league's top-ten in both categories.

Speaking of stats, San Diego will see a familiar face when it breaks down New England's statistical leaders. Former-Charger Reche Caldwell led his new team in receptions (61), receiving yards (760) and receiving touchdowns (4).

Caldwell knows first-hand how talented a team San Diego really is.

"The Chargers are a good team," he said. "They have one of the best running backs probably ever to play the game, they have a lot of young talent, and they make plays, so it's going to be a tough game."

That last point can be agreed on by most, as both teams appear evenly matched. San Diego will hope its homefield advantage can put it over the top. The Chargers are 8-0 at home this season.

However, the Patriots went 7-1 on the road and Qualcomm Stadium is not exactly known as a hostile environment.

"Everyone seems to be taking their vacation in San Diego," Nick Hardwick said. "You always have to look downfield when the crowd cheers to see who caught the ball, because it might have been an interception."

The Chargers will be playing at home against a team that feels right at home in the playoffs. On Sunday, something will have to give.

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