Pre-game Thoughts: Chargers at Patriots

Derek Havens
September 17, 2011 at 07:35pm ET

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The San Diego Chargers come into Foxborough Sunday for the New England Patriots home opener. After the Patriots started their season in Miami on Monday night, they have a quick turnaround for a Charger team eager for early season success.

San Diego has started poorly each of the last few seasons and caught fire towards the end of the year. After both teams won last week, it's a clash of 1 - 0's and neither team are ready to put a tally in the loss column. This AFC match-up should prove to be the highlight game of week 2. Here are a few thoughts on the upcoming game -

- Pressuring Philip Rivers is key: I went into last week's game in Miami expecting more pressure on Chad Henne from the Pats defensive line. I am hoping Bill Belichick has something new in store for Philip Rivers and Norv Turner's offense. I would love to see them generate consistent pressure and force a couple of turnovers. With Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd available in the passing game, New England's pass rush should prove to be a huge factor in the game.

- Tight-ends are the match up to watch: Both the Chargers and Patriots have great talents at the tight-end position. Antonio Gates for the Chargers is widely considered the best TE in the league and is an absolute nightmare for opposing defenses. New England will have to draw up an excellent game plan to deal with his All-Pro abilities.

For the Patriots, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have established themselves in the offense. Hernandez's receiving skill set has proven to be deadly and Gronkowski is well on his way to becoming one of the NFL's elite at his position. San Diego will have to find a way to match up with both players and hope Tom Brady does not pick them apart.

Jerod Mayo and the Patriots defense will have their hands full Sunday with San Diego's offensive firepower. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

- Don't expect a lot of defense: In all aspects of this game, I am definitely not expecting to see a ton of great defense. With Belichick's new defensive scheme and the several additions the team made during the off-season, my expectations are higher than the team displayed last week. With both team's possessing some of the most potent offense's in the NFL, a defensive game would be surprising. I expect both team's to put up points, but whatever defense plays better could be the deciding factor.

- Don’t take your foot off the gas: This game has all the makings of a shoot out, so I do not want the Patriots to relax and play conservative offense. The Chargers have some serious firepower and can put up a lot of points in a short amount of time. The Patriots need to play their style of smart and disciplined football. Hopefully, if the opportunity presents itself, the Pats can capitalize.

With all of these thoughts taken into consideration. I believe the Patriots can win this game in a potential shoot-out. While I believe the Patriots could lose, I am confident they come out firing in their home debut. My prediction is Patriots – 31,  Chargers – 27.

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