Pressure Is On San Diego

Ian Logue
October 09, 2008 at 11:04pm ET

No Brady or Gronk, but plenty of storylines at Patriots OTAs
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski not at the start of the team's OTA's today
NFL notes: Don't be surprised if Deatrich Wise Jr., Derek Rivers rise up for Patriots
New Patriots DL Danny Shelton preps to hit the hill
Patriots center David Andrews excited with his new Georgia Bulldog teammates

They're calling it a rematch of last year's AFC Championship game.  I just don't see it.

Yes, San Diego and New England are the two teams who faced off earlier this year.  However, obviously this contest holds nowhere near the importance that the game in Foxboro last January did that sent the Chargers home 21-12 and moved the Patriots on to Arizona.

Needless to say I always thought that type of rationale was funny to hear, but then again the more I think about it, I guess it depends what side of it you're on.

When the Patriots took on the Indianapolis Colts in 2007 after losing 38-34 in the 2006/07 AFC Championship game, I can honestly say I couldn't wait for Tom Brady and company to get a chance to get even.  The 24-20 victory was sweet because it kept the Patriots undefeated season going, and it also sent the Colts' faithful home unhappy.  Granted it was just one more step to an undefeated regular season, but obviously there were no championship implications involved.

Looking at this week's game the only bearing it has here in New England is whether or not the Patriots will be 4-1 or 3-2 when it's over.  For the Chargers I'm sure it's a chance to beat up on a Brady-less team and at least give their fans some form of satisfaction, since they're currently sitting at 2-3 and looking for something to believe in heading into Sunday's game.  I'm pretty sure that there is a fair amount of hatred toward this team in San Diego considering how New England has ended the Chargers' championship aspirations over the past couple of seasons.  But I doubt regardles of the outcome if it's going to heal the amount of heartache they've endured after coming so close to a chance at a title.

We've heard them call the Patriots "dirty", "classless", and "cheaters", so there's obviously no love lost between these two.  Not to mention the fact that to get beaten on their home turf by New England with quarterback Matt Cassel at the helm would likely be a disaster.   Let's face it, 3-3 can turn around a season while 2-4 could make every game therafter a "must-win" game.  Needless to say Sunday's game is pivotal for the Chargers.

While Sunday's game won't win San Diego any trophies, it could put a roadblock in the way of at least getting another shot at one. When it comes right down to it the Patriots couldn't ask for a better scenario.  For Cassel it's a game that will be played in front an extremely hostile crowd (and if past games are any indication a very loud one) in a game that at worst drops the Patriots to 3-2 with plenty of football left to be played.  For the Chargers it's a game that will cause them to lose whatever dignity they have left in a city that probably won't even care enough to show up if they're sitting below .500 a few weeks from now.

When you're sitting on the right side of a loss your expectations are definitely different.  All of us would love to see the Patriots win a tough game on the road without Brady, but the season is far from over if they don't.  Had the Chargers sent New England home back in January things might have been different. 

Patriot Nation will be watching Sunday's game because we want to find out if Cassel can play well in a big game because we haven't seen it yet.  However, we'll also be watching and hoping to see the look on LaDanian Tomlinson's face if he has to face the media after the game and explain how his team couldn't even beat the Patriots without Brady.  It's bad enough that the window for a title only stays open for so long, and for the Chargers that window appears to be closing.  Years from now if they never play in a Super Bowl, San Diego fans will likely look back and wonder if 2006 & 2007 were their best shots at winning it all.  They'll also probably blame the Patriots for keeping them from reaching the promised land. 

For Patriots fans, a loss this weekend isn't the end of the World.  But for Chargers fans, what will they say in San Diego if they don't finally get redemption?

Looks like we'll find out on Sunday.

Here's more on Sunday's game: