Jerome Bettis, NBC Sports: For the Chargers it's a must win. It's at home and these teams don't like each other. If they are going to turn it around... It's going to be now.
Tiki Barber, NBC Sports: We're starting to see San Diego falling behind the 8-ball. Obviously we all know the situation New England is in because of Tom Brady's injury, but I think San Diego is in a much worse state because they can't win the close games.
Bruce Allen, Boston Sports Media Watch: The Patriots and Chargers have developed a bitter rivalry over the last few seasons, with New England coming out on top in the last three meetings, including last season's AFC Championship game. The soundbites of LT saying that Belichick and the Patriots have "no class" and Nick Hardwick's accusations that Richard Seymour is a dirty player will likely be revisited this week.
However this particular matchup is lacking a bit of the firepower of the previous meetings. There is no Tom Brady, there is no Shawne Merriman, LT hasn't been himself yet this season, and both teams have lost to a Miami Dolphins outfit that only won a single game all of last season.
Cris Collinsworth, NBC Sports: He's getting there. It's taken some time for this offense to come along with an inexperienced guy. Everyone knew it was going to take some time. And it's definitely better than it was.
Allen: Matt Cassel improved as the game went on last week, overcoming a shaky start to lead several impressive drives, including one just before the first half. He also connected on his first long-bomb TD pass to Randy Moss, which really helped open things up underneath for the rest of the game. Cassel faces a challenge from the aggressive San Diego defense, and his performance will go a long way to determine if the Patriots can stay in this game with the Chargers, who are facing almost a "must win" situation for their season.
Collinsworth: The Patriots needed to show that they can go deep because defenses react back. Randy Moss is one of the biggest difference-makers in this league but if you're not hitting him deep you don't have a chance to stretch the defense.
Inside word on San Diego
Allen: Recently retired Patriot Troy Brown, now working as analyst for a Comcast SportsNet, had some interesting comments about the Chargers this week, perhaps giving some insight as to how the Patriots feel about them. He talked about LT's immense talent, but also his habit of crying about the wrong things. He also said that he doesn't place Philip Rivers among the elite quarterbacks in the game, citing poor mechanics, and how having LT, Antonio Gates, Chris Chambers and Vincent Jackson make him look better than he really is.
Bettis: I look back and I think about Shawne Merriman and this is the reason they are in this situation. If he would have had the surgery in the offseason this would have been a different San Diego defense. This defense doesn't have any teeth and I think it's a direct reflection on Merriman not having the surgery then.
Collinsworth: The story of the game against the 49ers was the defense of the Patriots. They dominated in every category and that took the pressure off of Matt Cassel.
Allen: The keys for the Patriots will be to get an early lead, while also doing all they can to kill the Chargers' running game. This was what the Patriots tried to do against the 49ers last week, with Bill Belichick stating that the idea was to force San Francisco to be one-dimensional. Mike Martz and Norv Turner have similar offensive tendencies and formations, so we might see a repeat of that plan this week as well.
Allen: I think the Chargers are going to be fired up for this one, in front of their home crowd, and desperately needing a victory. We'll be able to tell early on in this one whether it's going to be a game, or if San Diego is going to be able to put it together and run away with this one. If the Patriots get an early lead, or can stay within a touchdown going into the fourth quarter, I like their chances. If they fall behind by a couple scores early, this could be an ugly one.
ProFootballTalk: Patriots QB Tom Brady addressed Wes Welker’s decision to head West to Denver. Brady says he isn’t surprised by anything after being in the league for so long and hopes that Welker has a great season with the Broncos.