Yesterday I posted my numerical analysis that determined that the Chargers have, in fact, outperformed NE down the stretch and into the playoffs. I said at the end that I would delve further into my opinions of the game at a later time in order to keep the thread from getting too bogged down. Well, guess what?! That time is NOW! :rocker: * I keep hearing about this fabulously opportunistic defense that the Chargers possess. Despite some impressive numbers over their final 6 regular season games (even according to the points for/against) I haven't been all that impressed with their defense in the playoffs. First, the Chargers allowed three long red zone drives to a completely neutered TN team - at home. I have to admit that the fumble was a very nice defensive play, but what the hell were the doing allowing that much yardage in the first place? TN was playing without their top 2 WRs and with a hobbled running QB. It was probably the worst 6 point performance I have seen in a while. I said at the time that Indy would drive all over that defense and put up 35 points on them. Obviously this prediction came out wrong, but I don't think I was far off at all. Indy moved the ball almost at will against the Chargers, but were ultimately undone by their own errors. I'm sure that someone will counter this by saying that SD is great at forcing TOs, but that simply was not the case. Harrison fumbled on the most benign of hits. Wayne was open for a big gain and Manning just missed him. For all the accolades that Cromartie gets for making this int, he wasn't in any position to make a play if this is a better throw. This is similar to a C making a key rebound at the top of a key. Sure he made a nice play to get the ball, but why wasn't he under the basket where he was supposed to have been? The worst one was Keith's drop. Every relevent defender was sealed off from the play and Keith would have strolled into the EZ had he made the catch. The reason Weddle's catch was so amazing was because he was blocked completely out of the play! * Further along these lines, it wasn't just the TOs themselves that killed the Colts, it was the lost time. In a game where the TOP was basically even, Indy wasted 12 minutes of their offensive possessions by driving all the way down the field only to turn it over. Add in another 70 yard drive that ended in downs inside the 10 and you get a whopping 14:17 TOP and 223 yards on 4 drives that ended in 0 total points. 35 of Indy's 66 total plays were on these non-scoring drives. No matter what my feelings about the TOs are, SD definitely deserves credit for the final drive. But Indy could easily have kicked a FG had they chose to, even under those circumstances. So, for all intents and purposes, Indy put up 27 points on SD in effectively 18 minutes of possession. Why should I fear this defense again? Hell, even Indy's final drive could easily have ended in points had Clark made a relatively easy catch. My point here is not to make excuses for anyone. I am just pointing out that opportunities were more prevelent than the final score may have indicated. And this isn't "the guy was open and Manning didn't have time to see him but I saw him on the replay" type opportunities. * Last year, with less healthy TEs, an OL playing at a lower level, signifacantly worse WRs and a less effective running game NE still kept SD's pass rush at bay. And, frankly, their pass rush was quite a bit more fierce at that point than it is now. In fairness to SD, both Philips and Merriman left that game at various times. * All that said, the biggest reason why I am extremely confident that NE's offense will not be thwarted by SD's defense is......... Ted Cotrell. Ted Cotrell is a terrible scheming DC. I'm sure that he might be a fabulous guy at teaching schemes or motivating guys or something, because I can't see how else he would keep getting jobs. The guy just doesn't scheme for various offenses well at all. Some of this showed with a reluctance to put more than 6 guys in the box against the team that ran the ball the most in the entire league, but it was never a hinderance against Indy because Indy just doesn't alter their objectives much. Fortunately for SD, they run a defense that happens to give Indy trouble without mixing stuff up. Against NE, however, this just won't work. Even if SD's defense comes out with a few packages that NE wasn't expecting, Cotrell will keep running them long after NE has adjusted and he will not readjust until it is too late. NE's weapons are as plentiful as Indy's, but NE has the edge because they have more diversity of strengths, allowing them to tailor just about any type of offense needed. * I am worried about SD's offense. Regardless of whether NE has been playing extremely simplistic schemes, I don't see NE holding SD under 17 points, and frankly I can see them going over 20. However, I think this might be the first game in a while where NE takes a few pass rush tricks out of the bag. Rewatching some of those plays from Jax, it seems as if NE was focusing on keeping Garrard in the pocket. Against SD, no matter what QB plays, this won't be nearly as much of an issue against SD, but it is particularly so if Rivers plays. Scrambling and throwing on the run with two bad knees isn't exactly a winning formula. Additionally, in the past couple games, NE has basically sent AD and Vrabes on outside rushes every passing down. This is the game that I can see them being more exotic and disguising where the 4th and 5th rushers are coming from. * Many people have brought up the issue of the weather and how it affected the Baltimore game. I would like to point out a couple things: 1) The wind was much gustier against Baltimore than it projects to be this weekend. 2) Despite that and Baltimore's defensive tactics, NE was two dropped TDs - neither having anything to do with the defense - away from slapping down 35 points. On the road. In their 3rd straight night game. 3) Watson's drop was the worst because it was both the most eggregious and because it gave Baltimore some life after NE drove right down the field on their opening possession. Against Philly, NE again did themselves in with a handful of drops with, amazingly enough, three of them coming on perfectly set up screens. Two of these happened on the same drive! Again, just like the Indy/SD paragraph, if NE makes several unforced errors then SD will most certainly capitalize. The past has shown that they aren't above having a few drops, but make no mistake. It wasn't the weather that stopped NE from putting up 30+ against Baltimore. * After the Jax game, I made a comparison to the TN playoff game if 2003. Well, this game is pretty damn close to the next one in 2003 as well. You have a #3 seed that plays extremely well down the stretch that wins a rematch in the first round and then takes down the #2 seed on the road. After the game, feeling a little too good about themselves, one of the players makes a (jestful?) comment that the NE could interpret as disparaging. Whether you take Olshansky's comments as a joke or not, you can be sure that NE took them very seriously. Just like last time. So, all that said, what is my actual prediction? For some reason the number 35-24 keeps jumping out at me. I don't particularly like it because I can't see NE scoring a TD every time they score, but I'm going to run with it anyway.