The question, in this game, really is not if the San Diego Chargers will gets lot and lots of yards against the New England Patriots. They will. By the bucket-load. Is 650 a lot of yards? It feels like it is. I could see the Chargers getting that easily. The real question is whether the Chargers can avoid mistakes (i.e. turnovers) and turn yards into points, which will be harder to do with Nick Novak kicking the ball in place of Nate Kaeding.
Last year's matchup between these two teams saw the Chargers lose for two very distinct reasons.....
Number one, turnovers. Philip Rivers threw an interception and fumbled one on a sack while Richard Goodman and Kris Wilson also lost the ball by way of fumbling it (or, in Goodman's case, putting it on the ground and walking away from it). These four turnovers become much more important when you find out that the Patriots turned the ball over zero times.
Number two, the running game. This one could also be called "poor WR health". With Patrick Crayon and Buster Davis as the Bolts' top 2 WRs that day, the Pats focused on stopping the Chargers rushing attack and did just that. Mike Tolbert finished with 5 yards and 1 TD on 2 carries (was he injured? I don't remember), and Ryan Mathews got all of 15 yards on 8 carries before Norv abandoned the ground game.
When the Chargers Run the Ball
The Bolts will need to be better on the ground than they were last year, and all signs point to that being a possibility. Having Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd out there should keep that Patriots from being able to play the run so much, and Mathews and Tolbert both have seemingly grown from the backs they were less than a year ago.
Last week, the Dolphins did alright on the ground with Reggie Bush (who has no business being a starting RB in the NFL) before abandoning the ground game completely pretty early on. Bush finished with 38 yards on 11 carries.
Albert Haynesworth and Vince WIlfork form something similar to the old Minnesota Vikings "Williams Wall" that was so difficult to run on. If the Chargers are going to get anything going on the ground, it's most likely not going to happen with running plays right into the teeth of that powerful Patriots defensive line.
When the Chargers Pass the Ball
Here's where the advantage comes in. The Patriots don't have much of a pass-rush to speak of, and the secondary is as bad as it's always been since the departure of Ty Law in what feels like 1999. In Week 1, Chad Henne had a field day throwing to the likes of Brandon Marshall, Devone Bess, Anthony Fasano and Reggie Bush out of the backfield. The Chargers' group of Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd, Antonio Gates and Ryan Mathews is arguably better than that group, and Philip Rivers is certainly better than Chad Henne. The Patriots will need to improve if they want to force the Chargers to punt.
What Norv Turner and Rivers need to realize, before Sunday even gets here, is what the Patriots are going to do. They will not allow big plays and they will wait for mistakes to be made. The Chargers need to take the position of taking what's there early on, and focus on taking care of the football, because what they don't want is to have the fate of the game resting on the leg of Nick Novak.
Weekly WR Height Matchup:
Vincent Jackson (6'5") vs. Devin McCourty (5'10")
Malcom Floyd (6'5") vs. Leigh Bodden (6'1")