SAN DIEGO -- Greetings from Qualcomm Stadium where the New England Patriots will take on the San Diego Chargers on a beautiful day for football with temps expected to be in the 70s.
With many fans traveling from New England to see the game, coupled with the high number of Boston transplants in Southern California, Patriots fans are expected to be out in full force today. They were tailgating early in the stadium parking lots where it wasn't hard to find someone wearing a Tom Brady No. 12 jersey. The game is now a sellout but was in danger of getting blacked out until Friday; the full 70,000 are expected to be on hand.
On the football side, we're looking at Week 2 of the post-Randy Moss era. And Week 1 of the new kinder, gentler NFL when it comes to vicious hits. Will the Tom Brady-Deion Branch chemistry continue? Are the Chargers a different team at home? And stronger than their 2-4 record indicates? Will the Patriots defense carry the momentum of the overtime win over the Ravens on the road 3,000 miles away?We'll have updates throughout in Extra Points and Twitter updates from the Globe's team of reporter that you can follow here in the right rail. To get you ready for some football, here's a quick preview:
Kickoff: 4:15 p.m.
Records: Patriots 4-1; Chargers 2-4
TV: WBZ-TV (Ch. 4); announcers: The CBS A-Team of Jim Nantz (play-by-play) Phil Simms (analysis) will be calling a Patriots game for the second week in a row
Projected starting lineups (based on depth charts):
A numbers game: The Chargers are ranked first in the NFL in offense averaging 433 yards per game, and first in defense, giving up just 255 yards per game. Here's the caveat: The Bolts have been putting up the solid numbers against the likes of the Chiefs, Jaguars, Seahawks, Cardinals, Raiders, and Rams. Not exactly the iron of the NFL. The Patriots are also putting up some big numbers on offense, against some much stronger defenses, averaging 30.8 points per game to lead the league.
Will the hits keep on coming?: The NFL's get-tough policy on hits to the head takes affect this week, and all eyes here will be on Patriots Safety Brandon Meriweather, who was fined $50,000 by the NFL for his hit on Ravens receiver Todd Heap last Sunday. Will Meriweather's play be as aggressive today? How will the other players respond to the new rules?
A charged rivalry: The Patriots and Chargers rivalry has heated up in the last decade when the Chargers ended a 10-game losing streak to the Patriots by defeating the defending Super Bowl champs, 21-14, in San Diego in 2002. Three years later, a 41-17 Chargers win at Gillette Stadium would end New England's NFL-record 21-game home win streak. The teams met in the 2006 AFC Divisional Playoff game here at Qualcomm, with the Patriots winning 24-21. Today's game will be the first time the two teams have met since a 30-10 Chargers win in 2008. Bill Belichick is 2-3 against the Chargers as Patriots head coach. Tom Brady has a 2-0 record over the Chargers in the postseason, and is 2-2 against S.D. in regular season meetings.
Shut Gates: Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, who has been injured but is expected to play today, is tied for the league lead with seven touchdowns. Chargers QB Philip Rivers and Gates are off to the fastest starts of their careers. Rivers is on pace to throw for 2,680 yards in the season's first eight games and Rivers and Gates have hooked up for 39 career TDs, the sixth-most between a QB and tight end in NFL history. Gates has 6,713 career receiving yards and needs just 29 to pass the venerable Kellen Winslow for sixth-most receiving yards by a tight end in NFL history. On the flip side, the Patriots have allowed 11 touchdowns via the pass this season. Beyond Gates the Chargers lineup will be a little light on the receiving end as WR Malcom Floyd and WR Legedu Naanee are both out.
Home and away: The Chargers have won seven straight regular season games here at Qualcomm. The Patriots struggled on the road last season, and in New York against the Jets this season, until they dismantled the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium in Week 4.
Officials: The referee this afternoon is Tony Corrente. The rest of his crew is umpire Fred Bryan, head linesman John McGrath, line judge Andrian Hill, field judge Gary Cavaletto, side judge Allen Baynes and back judge Greg Wilcon.