Were you left confident by the Patriots/Dolphins game, or worried that New England won only because the Dolphins are not very good?
I was very confident after the game because of how well the Patriots played before the game was in hand. The defense held Chad Henne to 200 yards passing until the game was in control with 8 minutes to go and they held Chad Henne to 59 yards rushing (oh yeah, Henne led the Dolphins in rushing). The offense was clicking and only stalled when penalties disrupted the momentum- and you can bet they've been working on eliminating those mistakes.
All facets of the team was working at a high level and should be a good indicator of how they'll look against the Chargers.
The biggest change was the shift in defensive identity. The Patriots have been known as a 3-4 defense, but they spent the majority of their game against the Dolphins in their hybrid defense as a 4-2-5 or a 3-3-5. Look for more of the same against the Chargers. As for the new players. Ochocinco should see a couple more snaps this game than he had against the Dolphins as he learns more about the playbook and watch for Haynesworth to be an active contributor the entire game. Haynesworth looked dominant against the Dolphins.
I think, if the Chargers play to their potential, this matchup could be fairly similar to the shootout that the Patriots won against the Packers late last season. Can you explain exactly how New England pulled off that win?
The Patriots won that game because the Packers had their back-up Matt Flynn at quarterback. The offense was stellar, as it still is, and the defense lacked depth to compete against the high flying Packers' offense. Hopefully, the Patriots' defense has grown up since that game and are a little more experienced so that won't happen again.
Who is the one player, besides Philip Rivers, that you're most concerned about on the Chargers roster?
Antonio Gates. If the Dolphins' Anthony Fasano gave the Patriots trouble, Gates is going to have a field day. The Patriots tried to cover Fasano with linebacker Gary Guyton, and when he allowed 3 receptions on 3 attempts, they tried safety Pat Chung. End of the day, Fasano caught everything in his direction. Perhaps the Patriots were saving a weapon to unleash against Gate and the Chargers. Perhaps last year's hero, safety Sergio Brown, might reemerge after having a quiet day in Miami. Whatever happens, Gates needs to be stopped.
Give us one player from the Pats that doesn't get talked about much but will make a big impact on Sunday's game. And finally, give us your prediction for the game.
Dane Fletcher will be a guy to turn some heads in the game. He's a middle linebacker for the Patriots and is extremely versatile. He can stop the run, he can cover in the flat, and he can rush the passer. He was able to take Reggie Bush out of the game and he made some great stops up the middle of the field. He can wade through trash in the trenches and is just a gamer. Watch out for him.
Prediction: Patriots 35 - Chargers 27