A year ago, the San Diego Chargers were 2-3, just as they are now. They went on to the AFC championship game against New England, which just happens to be the team they play Sunday night at home.
“It gives you a confidence that you can do it, but you know that it’s obviously different,” LaDainian Tomlinson says of the challenges of overcoming a slow start.
“At this time last year it wasn’t New England, Buffalo and the Saints on the schedule the next three weeks. It’s a different year and for us we’ve just got to find a way to put it together.”
The Chargers are favored by six points, in large part because the Patriots quarterback is Matt Cassel instead of Tom Brady, who wrecked his knee in the season opener. Cassel is breaking out of coach Bill Belichick’s “be careful” box, though, throwing a 66-yard TD pass to Randy Moss in San Francisco last week.
The Patriots are staying in the Bay Area for the week rather than spending nearly 12 hours in the air flying home and back over the weekend. Arizona did the same on the East Coast a couple of weeks ago after losing in Washington and ended up getting blown out by the Jets in the second game.
Don’t expect that in a game that’s becoming an annual fixture _ its the fifth time the Chargers and Patriots have met in the last four seasons. The Patriots have won the last three, including their 21-12 win in Foxborough in last season’s title game and 24-21 the year before in San Diego, a playoff game the Chargers gave away.
San Diego is perfectly capable of giving away games: it did so in its first two, against Carolina and at Denver, where referee Ed Hochuli helped a bit. So LT is right with his words of caution.
Especially against the Patriots.
Carolina (plus 1 1/2) at Tampa Bay
Carolina may be on a par with the three top NFC East teams.
New York Giants (minus 8) at Cleveland (Monday night)
The Browns want “revenge” because New York’s starters led 30-3 after 17 minutes of an exhibition game.
Jacksonville (plus 3 1/2) at Denver
Everything’s breaking right for the Broncos. Not so for the banged-up Jaguars.
Baltimore (plus 4 1/2) at Indianapolis
This year’s Colts are NOT the Colts of the past five seasons.
Dallas (minus 5) at Arizona
If the Cowboys don’t get to Warner, this could be an upset …
Philadelphia (minus 4 1/2) at San Francisco
A must-win for the Eagles? We said that last week and they lost.
Chicago (minus 3) at Atlanta
Two teams that shut down Michael Turner, Tampa Bay and Carolina, have each beaten the Falcons 24-9.
Miami (plus 3) at Houston
The Dolphins have only two turnovers this season. The Texans had three in the final four minutes last week.
Green Bay (plus 2) at Seattle
At least the Seahawks are back on Pacific time.
St. Louis (plus 13 1/2) at Washington
The Rams may play harder for Jim Haslett than for Scott Linehan. Doesn’t really matter, does it?
Oakland (plus 7 1/2) at New Orleans
The Raiders seemed to have liked Kiffin, which makes JaMarcus’ homecoming a tough debut for Tom Cable.
Cincinnati (plus 6) at New York Jets
The last time the Bengals were at the Meadowlands, they took the Giants to OT.
BENGALS, 26-23 (OT)
Detroit (plus 13 1/2) at Minnesota
Millen’s gone and Marinelli says he won’t quit. Figure that the next Lions’ coach won’t have a last name starting with “M.”
LAST WEEK: 9-4-1 (spread); 8-6 (straight up)
SEASON: 44-29-1 (spread); 47-27 (straight up)