What a strange start to the 2010 NFL season it has been. Who would have thought that week six would feature a match-up between the 1-3 Dallas Cowboys and 1-3 Minnesota Vikings? No one could have predicted Tony Romo may have thrown the Cowboys season away after a mere five games. And how about the Chargers? If someone told you before the season that the Chiefs and Raiders would be ahead of San Diego in the AFC West with less than two-thirds of the season remaining, you’d probably have laughed in their face.
Such is the nature of the National Football League, and the Chargers now must face the reality of a must-win game against one of the better teams in the AFC. The AFC West isn’t the strongest division so losing this weekend wouldn’t kill San Diego’s chances, but they certainly don’t want to start the season 2-5. If they’re missing Antonio Gates, they may not have a choice.
One player normally won’t make or break a team’s chances, but Gates is about as close as it gets on that front. The Chargers have already been without their top wide receiver in Vincent Jackson, who remains a holdout. Malcom Floyd has filled in admirably in Jackson’s absence, but he suffered a hamstring injury against the Rams on Sunday and isn’t expected to play this weekend. Legedu Naanee is battling a hamstring injury of his own and was unable to go on against St. Louis. The Chargers are “hopeful” Gates can suit up against New England with a toe injury, but if he can’t it could be a long day for San Diego.
It’s no secret that the Patriots’ weakest component is their pass defense. Without Gates, Floyd, and Naanee, it’s tough to imagine a Philip Rivers and the Chargers would be able to exploit that weakness. If San Diego’s slow start persists and the injury bug starts getting a hold of them, Chargers fans may be headed for the ledge.