Are the wheels falling off?

It's one thing to have a 2-3 record. It's one thing to have the New England Patriots at home Sunday night. It's another to have both, but possibly not the personnel to get to 3-3.

The Chargers' season -- even this early -- could be on the brink of going sideways.

After the shocking loss to Miami on Sunday, San Diego doesn't have much wiggle room as it tries to climb back into the AFC West race. It is already two games behind the first-place Broncos and has lost to them in the lone meeting.

What's meeting the Chargers front-and-center come Sunday night is a stretch of three games that would be challenging to the healthiest of clubs: Patriots, at Buffalo, at London to face a Saints team led by quarterback Drew Brees -- who is bent on sticking it to the Chargers after they let him go in favor of Philip Rivers.

"I don't think there is any question we are banged up," LaDainian Tomlinson said.

Tomlinson's toe continues to restrict him.

Tight end Antonio Gates, plus both guards, Mike Goff and Kris Dielman, top wide receiver Chris Chambers and outside linebacker Jyles Tucker all have one ailment or another.

TE Antonio Gates
Jeff Gross/Getty

And did we mention the team is absent three-time Pro Bowl linebacker Shawne Merriman?

"We have some guys who aren't 100 percent," coach Norv Turner said. "We have some guys that aren't able to do the things we're accustomed to seeing. I think they're getting closer and closer to doing that."

But the Chargers are living in the now -- and those players won't be fit that quickly.

The Patriots have their own issues -- no Tom Brady -- so the Chargers don't expect a sympathy card from them. The Chargers' bitter rival -- New England eliminated San Diego in the Chargers' past two playoff appearances -- is in no mood for charity.

The Chargers aren't in the mood to use their injuries as alibis. That's commendable, but it's also a fact that if the wobbly team wants to rekindle its Super Bowl dream this year, it needs to put the hurt on the Patriots.


--QB Philip Rivers is coming off two rocky outings heading into the New England game. Some of that can be attributed to his pass protection, which has shown some flaws over the past eight quarters. He was 13-for-28 for 159 yards and a touchdown. Rivers is also nursing some sore ribs, which is worth watching.

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson admits that his big right toe remains an issue. He said that it would take three weeks off to get better -- something he can't do. Tomlinson has rushed for 100 yards in but one of the team's five game; however, he's having trouble cutting and producing his signature spin move. He'll play but probably won't get 25 carries.

--WR Chris Chambers' return to Miami was bittersweet. He caught his team-high fifth touchdown pass but badly sprained an ankle. It wouldn't be a shock if Chambers -- who left the field Sunday on a cart -- missed Sunday night's game.

--WR Vincent Jackson continues to produce big catches downfield. His 56 receiving yards were a team-high Sunday; he had a long of 42. But he could see additional coverage if Chris Chambers is out.

--TE Antonio Gates is still bothered by a hip pointer and a sore toe. But it looks as if the hip pointer is a bigger concern, as it is obvious it's bothering him when he tries to break out of his routes and when he goes for yards after the catch. He had only one reception for 12 yards Sunday.

--OLB Jyles Tucker, the replacement for Shawne Merriman, will be down again this week with a hamstring injury. Marques Harris will fill in for Tucker, who could be out several weeks.

--ILB Stephen Cooper played his first game in Miami after a four-game suspension. Cooper displayed the physical toughness that marks his game. He had eight tackles, one of which was for a loss.

--SS Clinton Hart suffered a shoulder injury but should be able to go Sunday. Hart is having a decent year and had four tackles Sunday.

--RB Darren Sproles will see more action with LaDainian Tomlinson's toe bothering him. Sproles continues to supply good field position with his kickoff and punt returns.

--CB Quentin Jammer is hoping to rebound from a rough outing in Miami. He was burned for a touchdown and didn't supply his usual stout run support.

--P Mike Scifres continues to prove he is a weapon and a reason why Philip Rivers shouldn't force third-down passes -- let Scifres punt and live to play another series. Scifres was sensational in Miami when he averaged 50.5 net yards on six punts. He had a long of 67.

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