With no disrespect to the NFC's Giants-Packers undercard, top billing this weekend goes to the AFC's main event, where the surprising challengers from San Diego try to knock out the NFL's undefeated heavyweight, the Patriots of New England.
The NFL has never seen an 18-0 team. To keep
Yes, San Diego won last week at Indianapolis without LT playing a large role. The odds of duplicating that feat are astronomical. The Chargers are his team, and they need him at his devastating best, hyper-extended knee or not.
They need him to gash New England with big plays in the running game and as a receiver, and maybe even throw a touchdown if he has to. They need him to put the entire San Diego offense on his back and carry it for as long as necessary. Most importantly, they need him to channel all that passion and anger he felt last January when the Patriots knocked the Chargers out of the playoffs, and transform it into the payback from hell.
As one AFC personnel man told me this week: "If Volek has to play, he'll scramble around and make some throws for San Diego. He's a very good backup in this league, because he's a guy who can go in and carry you for two or three games. Rivers is a better quarterback, but it's not a huge drop-off. Volek has some moxie to him. He's the son of a football coach. He's extremely bright and he knows where to go with the football. He plays within his abilities, and he's a better athlete than people give him credit for.''
Watching Volek last week on the game-winning drive against Indy, I got the feeling he didn't know he wasn't supposed to be doing that to a Colts defense that had looked so superb all season. Rather than the high-strung Rivers, maybe he's just the guy to handle the suffocating atmosphere of Gillette Stadium in January.
But the next time New England gets sloppy with the football will be the first time New England gets sloppy with the football this season. The Patriots turned the ball over just 15 times this season, a franchise record and the fifth-lowest total in league history. New England lost a mere six fumbles this season and didn't have a fumble by a running back. Four of the team's six fumbles were by quarterback
That's a remarkable statistic, and if the turnover trend holds for New England, the Chargers' upset chances are greatly reduced. But if San Diego's defense can keep its ball-hawking ways going, especially if it prevents New England from scoring in the red zone as it did to the Colts last week, the Patriots could be beat.
My point is they've been around for quite a while now. Seau turns 39 Saturday, and Harrison is 35. And while they take excellent care of themselves and almost always play well from the neck up, at this point in the year they do show signs of wearing down. Harrison has been hurting the Patriots by drawing too many needless personal foul penalties in recent games, and Seau is often part of the problem when the interior of the Patriots defense struggles against physical opponents.
What if the two ex-Chargers are players that San Diego's offense hope to exploit? You have to figure that somebody who's still around in San Diego knows how they best can be had.
So what's a little 17-0 perfect season to deal with compared to that? And it's not like these Chargers don't remember that 2005 game. Tomlinson ran for 134 yards and two touchdowns,
I wouldn't be surprised if current Chargers coach