Chargers@ Pats: Which Trio of Impact Players Will Matter Sunday?

Gates and Volek

San Diego

1. TE Antonio Gates: Whether Gates is more involved in the passing game will depend on his bum toe, injured in the Titans-Chargers Wildcard Game. Going against a lethal Pats D, Gates must be involved on the field to lure defenders, including S Rodney Harrison, his way to further open up the pass for QB Volek/Rivers’ receivers in Vincent Jackson and Chris Chambers. If Gates can stay on the field and handle New England’s disguised and surprising defensive packages, then I expect Gates to have an impact on the Chargers ball movement on the ground and in the air.

2. RB Michael Turner:
Although LaDainian Tomlinson’s knee injury shouldn’t keep him out of Sunday’s game, the Pats D will try to put him out of his misery. Expect the Pats to bring the heat and attack LT’s knee on his runs and blocks. If he can’t make it through, it will be up to Turner the Burner to take the Chargers to victory. Last Sunday Turner, filling in for LT, proved his worth to the upcoming FA market. And this week he could solidify the big bucks if he can take it to the aged yet youthful Pats D. Hmm, I wonder why Rodney Harrison said last week that age doesn’t matter although he was caught using HGH earlier this season?

3. K Nate Kaeding: Kaeding hasn’t had the best of luck in the playoffs, but he must come up clutch on Sunday. The weather conditions according to Weather.com hold that this Sunday will be windy with a 10% chance of precipitation. The high is 22 degrees Fahrenheit and the low is 9. This means Kaeding has to be on his “A-Game” and ready to put points on the board when the team needs him.

Patriots

1. QB Tom Brady: What’s not to say about Brady and his multitude of receivers? Last week Brady routed Jacksonville’s powerhouse D. His loyal O-Line protected and masked plays that gave Brady the time he needed to pull away with a “W”. This week, his O-Line faces another tough challenge. Not only are the forces on S.D.’s D-Line rough, but OLBs Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips can give the Pats reason to worry. I expect the Pats to open the pass early to ease Merriman and Phillips into coverage, thus allowing Maroney to carry the rock in the second half after the Pats look to go up big early in Foxboro.

2. OLB Adalius Thomas: Remember Thomas’ “Pick 6” to the house in the Pats-Bolts last meeting? Don’t think this beast forgot. He’ll want to prove that the Pats’ undefeated streak lays on the shoulder of their defense as he loves handling Belichick’s blitzing, coverage, and run D.

3. TE Benjamin Watson:
The Chargers will have to pick their poison Sunday while covering Brady’s weapons. Watson may be utilized throughout the field as Brady quickly identifies defenses and coverage types. Brady’s accuracy combined with Watson’s leaping ability makes Watson an ultimate goal line threat. Can the hardhitting Bolts D handle Watson’s ability to get open? The Chargers better be ready for an all out aerial attack in Foxboro if they can keep up with the undefeated Pats.


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