Five to Watch: Bolts vs. Patriots

The Bolts' goal to sever the Patriots' winning streak is at the forefront and no mistakes can be tolerated. With injuries dangling on the Chargers' roster, their strong bench will be tested. These five players might give the Chargers the edge needed to punch their ticket to the Super Bowl.

1. Michael Turner is one of the best backup running backs in the league. Turner's reliability is now the Chargers' saving grace. He jumped onto the field at the RCA Dome last week and carried the ball a season-high 17 times for 71 yards. With LaDainian Tomlinson still hampered by a knee injury, anticipate Turner to toe the line.

Turner's powerful north-and-south style is complemented by the shiftiness of Darren Sproles. It was Sproles' 56-yard touchdown catch that kept the Chargers in the game last week against Indy. Another big play this week would go a long way towards delivering the upset.

2. The Pats have faced Antonio Cromartie before, but never quite like this. Cromartie has taken his game to another level over the last few months. He leads the NFL with 11 interceptions but was not even a starter the last time the Chargers and Patriots met. This first-time Pro Bowler is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.

Cromartie will have his hands full on Sunday as he tries to lessen Randy Moss' impact on the game. Moss' 23 touchdown receptions this season established a new NFL record. If anyone is capable of causing the four-time All Pro some trouble, it is Cromartie.

3. As Philip Rivers staggered off the field with a knee injury last week, backup QB Billy Volek delivered beyond all expectations. Volek's poise gained his team's confidence and won him a game ball. He wowed fans after scoring the winning touchdown with 4:50 left on the clock. Although Rivers is expected to start on Sunday, Volek will be waiting in the wings.

"Just to know that those guys have faith in me gives me even more confidence," Volek said.

His confidence must be in tact if Rivers is sidelined. Volek has the talent -- he is one of four quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for more than 400 yards in consecutive games -- now, he might have another opportunity.

4. Mike Scifres, an alternate on the Pro Bowl team, has shown there is nothing "alternate" about his talent. He averaged 59.0 yards per punt last week against the Colts, his last kick sailing 66 yards and setting a postseason team record. In regular season, he landed 36 of his punts inside the 20, the second most in the NFL.

In the last meeting between the Chargers and Patriots, Scifres averaged 49.6 yards per punt. It is imperative he repeat that performance on Sunday, as the last thing Tom Brady needs is a short field to work with.

5. Look for Stephen Cooper to establish a solid defensive wall. "Coop" tallied 16 tackles against the Colts, which was not only the game-high but also his season-high. He has recorded 10 or more tackles in 15 of the Chargers' 18 games. As the team leader with 108 tackles during the regular season, Cooper will be charged with slowing a Patriots ground game that churned out 145 yards last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars.


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