They are two teams at opposite extremes.
The San Diego Chargers are coming off a gut-wrenching loss, the result of one of those fate-altering moments to be compared to the one that ruined the Giants’ season a year ago. A Chargers team that was jockeying into position for a game-winning field goal that would put them firmly in the race for AFC homefield advantage, is now at a crossroads in its season. The Chargers are desperate for a win this Sunday.
Their opponent will be the NFL’s lone undefeated team. Everything in the life of the Green Bay Packers is rosy this week. They are the toast of the league. Their quarterback has just won another offensive player of the month award, which means that no player in the NFC other than Aaron Rodgers has claimed the NFC’s OPOM award since last November. Is that really possible?
Rodgers’ Packers are coming off a bye week. They are rested and ready for a trip west to face a team against which the Packers franchise has an 8-1 all-time record. The Packers lost to the Chargers in 1984, two months before Rodgers’ first birthday.
The Chargers are on a short week. They arrived in San Diego at 4 a.m. on Tuesday, fresh off the sting of a game-losing fumble. They began their preparation for the Packers dazed and bleary-eyed.
Back in Green Bay, Mike McCarthy, Dom Capers and company were continuing game-planning that no doubt began the previous week, the Packers’ bye week. When McCarthy met with reporters on Wednesday, he presented the most positive injury report of the season. Meanwhile, the Chargers sent out an injury report that included nine players that didn’t participate in practice.
OK, so why is all of this making us nervous? Are the circumstances surrounding this game so one-sided as to create an us-against-the-world advantage for the Chargers?
That’s exactly what it is. Now, here are 10 things the Packers have to do to cancel that anxiety.
1. Do it Dom’s way—Dom Capers espouses the virtue of winning the battle of passer ratings, which is exactly what the Packers have done during their 13-game winning streak.
2. Win the turnover battle—It goes without saying for any game, but it’s especially true for this one. The Chargers are minus-five in turnover differential, the Packers are plus-eight.
3. Get off the field—The Packers defense has not been good on third down and the Chargers are No. 2 in the league in time of possession. This is a major statistical confrontation.
4. Win the battle of special teams—The Chargers had the worst special teams in the league last year, and they are down at the bottom of the rankings again this season.
5. Neutralize Gates—Injury has cost Antonio Gates three games this season, but he’s back in the lineup and he has long been Philip Rivers’ go-to guy. You beat the Chargers by stopping Gates.
6. Break their spirit—The Chargers are a proud team that will summon everything they have for the start of this game, but coming off a tough loss on a short week is a stern challenge.
7. Stop the run—The Chargers’ running game is not to be taken lightly. It’s 13th in the league and that’s more than respectable for a team that wants to throw the ball.
8. Be the best—The Packers have earned that distinction and they must defend it every week.
9. Start fast—That has long been a Chargers trademark, especially at home. It has also been the Packers’ trademark through their 13-game winning streak. The team that starts fastest will probably win this game.
10. Rush the passer—It’s about time the other team’s quarterback starts going down. Additional coverage - Nov. 3