It's that time again! Each week we do a series of questions with a blogger covering the Patriots' next opponent. Up this week, representing the Chargers is SBNation's Bolts from the Blue. Blogger John Gennaro is representing the site and gave us his insights into what New England will be facing this Sunday on the West Coast.
1. Who is the main person to blame for San Diego's 2-4 start, including being winless on the road?
The coaches. Norv Turner's offensive play-call has been erratic and ill-timed, as seems to be the case at the beginning of each season. Ron Rivera's defensive play-call (mixed with a complete lack of pass rush) has made the defense weak when it needs to be strong. Steve Crosby's Special Teams may just be the worst Special Teams unit in the history of the NFL. Fumbles have killed this team as well. This Chargers team has been uncharacteristically careless and undisciplined this season, and I put the on the coaches.
2. What are your thoughts on the whole Vincent Jackson saga? Is it a problem with the player or the GM?
The player values himself far too highly and is upset that the GM has no interest in paying top-dollar for a replaceable headcase. Vincent Jackson's agents saw what Brandon Marshall got after forcing himself out of Denver, and had plans on doing the same thing with Jackson. The problem here was that the Chargers GM doesn't give in to players that try to force his hand, and has no issue with sitting on VJ for an entire season.
3. With the injuries yesterday to Antonio Gates and Malcolm Floyd, if both do not play, who do you see being the primary target for Rivers against the New England secondary?
Patrick Crayton is really the only reliable WR that's guaranteed to play in this game. Randy McMichael will probalby get his fair share of passes thrown his way if he takes Gates' spot.
4. Does this team miss LaDanian Tomlinsom and Antonio Cromartie? Why or why not?
Tomlinson - Yes and no. Obviously the team would like to have this 2010 Tomlinson on the team, but it was never an option. He was not going to be happy with a young kid being brought it (Ryan Mathews), groomed to take his spot, and splitting carries with him but he's okay with it in New York. He was not going to be happy to take a pay-cut, but took one in New York. I think these was some real bitterness between him and the Chargers coaches/Front Office that wasn't going to allow him to have the same success here that he's having in New York, and that's fine, but all of that needs to be said when I say that the team misses him and misses the fact that he never fumbled the ball.
Cromartie - No. He is a bad player that people are convinced is good because he makes highlights. Antoine Cason is the better CB and has proven as much this season.
5. Can I get your thoughts on first round pick Ryan Mathews?
He has the talent to be great. Part of me worries if he's going to be buried by the passing game in San Diego the way Joseph Addai has been in Indianapolis, but outside of a rough first few weeks (filled with fumbles and an ankle injury) he's shown that he's the real deal and ready to play at this level. With the right amount of opportunities and a good offensive line, his potential is almost limitless. There's nothing he can't do unless he doesn't get his chances.
6. What are the weaknesses in San Diego that New England can exploit? What are the weaknesses in New England that San Diego can exploit?
Without much of a pass-rush, I imagine Tom Brady is going to have a good day of sitting back and waiting for guys like Deion Branch to get open. The secondary is good, but they can't hold coverage forever. Also, with the league's worst Special Teams I have to imagine the Pats will find a way to use that to their advantage. San Diego is, strangely enough, 2-0 at home and 4-0 on the road. They've looked like a completely different team at home, and if that team shows up they have a chance in this game because their biggest strength (throwing the ball) seems to be the Patriots biggest weakness.
7. When all is set and done, will the San Diego Chargers make the playoffs? If not, do you see Norv Turner getting fired?
I still believe so. 1.5 games back with 10 games to play, and Norv Turner's teams have never lost a game in December? It seems like the Chargers will squeak in as the best team in a bad division, but it's not going to be nearly as easy as it's been in years past. If they don't make the playoffs, almost nobody is going to want Norv Turner back. However, since he just received a 3 year extension I find it hard to believe that they'd let him go after this year unless the team finishes below .500.
8. What were your thoughts on the Randy Moss trade from the Patriots to the Vikings?
I liked it. I always like when the Patriots trade away players. Moss, Deion Branch, Richard Seymour. It always sends this great message of "If you don't want to be here on this team, go the hell away. Who needs you?" I've always liked Moss and actually thought he handled the situation well (although the alleged fights would change my mind if I found out they were real). His speech about not getting a long-term, big-money contract from the Patriots was dead on the money....and in a contract year he was probably more than worried about getting his touches and stats so that he could get that contract elsewhere. Now he'll have his opportunity to either get the stats or blame a broken-down Favre, and either way he'll get his money. Good for him.
Side note: Randy going back and forth with fake-Randy on the jumbotron last year might've been my favorite NFL moment of the 2009.
9. Do you think the Patriots will make the playoffs?
Toughest division in football, but I have a hard time believing that a team that so closely resembles the 3-time SB Champion team is going to miss out on the dance.
10. What is the most important key to this game in your opinion, and can I get a prediction of who comes out on top Sunday in this rivalry?
Discipline. If the Chargers can not turn the ball over or kill drives with penalties, it will be tough for the Patriots to out-score them. Just based on the fact that the "good" Chargers team is the one that usually shows up at home, and that Norv finally changed his tone from "Everything is alright" to "This team freaking sucks" this week.......it will either be a great Chargers win (35-30) or a terrible Chargers loss (21-35). That's as much as I'll predict.