The Week Ahead

In a battle of undefeated teams, the 3-0 Chargers face the 3-0 Patriots at Qualcomm Stadium this weekend. The Patriots won last seasons battle in overtime, 29-26 with Tom Brady throwing for 364 yards and 2 TDs. On that day the Patriots scored twice in the final 3 ½ minutes and won in overtime on an Adam Vinatieri field goal. The Patriots are the defending Super Bowl Champions and both teams will look to keep the perfect season intact.

The Patriots come off an emotional win vs. Kansas City as they were down early came back to take a comfortable lead before having the Chiefs tie it up late in the 4th quarter. They went on to win, 41-38, on the first drive of overtime with a 35-yard Vinatieri field goal. Brady has orchestrated a beautiful start to the season. He leads the league passing attempts (132), completions (93) and touchdown passes (9). The Patriots also lead the league in points per game (38.3) and lead the AFC in yards per game (424). Brady threw for 410 yards last week alone and Troy Brown caught 16 passes for 176 yards before leaving midway through the fourth injury after getting a helmet to his knee. He did not play in the overtime period and is listed as questionable for this week's game, although surely he will play. Antowain Smith, while not asked to carry much of the load thrived with 16 carries for 92 yards including a 42-yard TD run.

The Chargers come into this game off a hard fought battle with the Arizona Cardinals winning 23-15. The Charger defense again came up big with Marcellus Wiley intercepting a ball that he ran back 40 yards to setup the first Charger score. Ben Leber then forced a fumble on the next Arizona possession that lead to 7 points. Carlos Polk then blocked a punt that went for a safety and Donnie Edwards intercepted a ball taking it 20 yards for a TD. The Charger defense leads the NFL in yards per game (206) and pass yards allowed per game (132), and ranks 3rd against the rush (74) yards per game. Ladainian Tomlinson rushed for 91 yards on 26 carries with 2 TDs. Curtis Conway again led the Chargers receivers with 7 catches for 92 yards.

The Chargers got Stephen Alexander the ball downfield in the game vs. Arizona and will need more players on offense to step up and make big catches. The Patriots defense is emerging as one of the better defenses in the league. For the Chargers to win Drew Brees will have to find open receivers quickly and those receivers will have to make the tough catches in traffic as the Patriots swarm to the ball. The Charger defense has to slow down the short passing game of Tom Brady and jam receivers at the line to throw off their timing. The Chargers will need to execute in all facets of the game to win this one. Brady utilizes all his weapons on offense which will make it tougher on the Chargers to defend as his vision allows him to find the open receiver and make accurate throws. The Chargers will hope to get pressure on Brady and disrupt him that way as well, but the 3-step drop Brady favors makes his release quick and the secondary and linebackers need to know their assignments to disrupt the pass.

Keys to a Charger Victory

1. The Charger offensive line. Cory Raymer is out for the season after having surgery on his Achilles tendon on Monday. Jason Ball, an undrafted rookie out of New Hampshire, steps in to take his place. Ball played well in Arizona and the line allowed 1 sack to Brees through the last 3 quarters Ball played. They will need to establish a strong running game to keep the Patriot offense off the field and that starts with the line of scrimmage. Getting a strong push will go a long way towards to controlling the tempo of the game.

2. Special teams. The Chargers have yet to get anything going from Ronney Jenkins or Tamarick Vanover. Between them their longest kickoff return has been 28 yards. Jenkins has been slow to his start this year and is needed more than ever. Vanover also handles punt returns and 5.5 average on 10 punt returns. Not the numbers that were expected from him when he was brought in. They will need to do better this week to give the Chargers good field position. Special teams is a weapon in the offense and they will need to use it.

3. Spread the ball around. Another week goes by and we preach the same. Brees will need to have confidence in his guys this week against a solid Patriot secondary. No longer can he just rely on Conway as he will see more and more double teams and it will be tougher to get him the ball unless someone else steps up.

4. Keep Brady off the field. When an offense is averaging 38.3 points per game the best defense is a good offense. This means controlling the clock from early on in the game. The less the defense has to defend against Brady the better off they are.

5. Tackle. Last week against Arizona saw 2 long pass completions that both went for touchdowns. The Patriots have even more playmakers and first hits need to be tackles. Rodney Harrison should return this week and he will help in this department but each and every defender must swarm to the ball and minimize gains.

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