By Dave Thomas
Two teams in the same conference but currently with different goals.
That would best describe this Sunday night's much anticipated meeting between the 9-3 New England Patriots and the host 8-4 San Diego Chargers.
In one corner, the perennial power Patriots and Tom Brady.
Winners of three Super Bowls (Eli Manning and the New York Giants ruined two others on the Brady watch), the Patriots are like the long-lost cousin who discovers you after you hit the lottery; they just won't go away.
In the other corner, Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers.
When you face the Chargers and Rivers, you get a team that nine times out of 10 (let's throw out that 37-0 loss to Miami a few weeks back) will give you 60 minutes of hard-fought competition.
So, who has the edge when the two teams collide in what will likely be a raucous and sold out stadium in San Diego on Sunday Night Football?
Experience Or Determination?
While the Chargers are coming off of a thrilling 34-33 win over Baltimore on the road this past Sunday, the Patriots saw their seven-game winning streak snapped in a 26-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. That loss, coupled with Denver's impressive 29-16 win at Kansas City Sunday night, left the Patriots and Broncos tied at 9-3 (New England owns the tie-breaker due to a win over Denver earlier this season).
For the Chargers, they come into this Sunday's showdown at 8-4, one game behind Denver in the AFC West and one game in front of Kansas City (7-5). There is also a logjam of teams sporting 7-5 records in the AFC right now, all the more reason the Bolts would love to upset the Patriots (New England enters as a four point favorite) at home.
Even though Brady and company (namely Bill Belichick) have the rings, Rivers and company (namely head coach Mike McCoy) have the ability to pull off a big win in front of the home crowd.
In his comments following the win over the Ravens, McCoy (in only his second season as head coach) noted on Chargers.com that, “We never gave up, we kept on fighting. It didn’t always look perfect, but this was a very good football team. They created some turnovers; we had too many penalties; we had some mistakes in the kicking game that didn’t execute exactly how we’d like it. But the players never gave up, and we just kept on plugging away. And that’s what good teams do.”
When you watch the Chargers, you're not always going to get pretty football for 60 minutes.
The lack of a sustainable rushing attack, an oft-injured offensive line, and a secondary that makes some opposing quarterbacks salivate is all part of San Diego's DNA.
That said what you will get when Rivers and McCoy are on different parts of the field is a full effort for 60 minutes.
Come Sunday night, it will take a full effort to beat Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.
For more Chargers news and updates, visit Chargers Central.
Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.
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