As Chargers fans talked smack this week in preparation for Sunday's AFC Championship game against the Patriots, they made sure to let New Englanders know of the ideal conditions in their hometown.
Seventy degrees. Light ocean breeze. Surf's up.
Of course, conditions will be nothing of the sort at Gillette Stadium come Sunday afternoon, which should see a high of 25 degrees, with whipping winds up to 30 miles per hour.
How ironic that the weather will do them no favors when it counts.
They don't get it, these San Diegans, spoiled by the monotony of sunshine. Football is a game built for conditions like these, like those last week in Green Bay, where memories of the Foxboro Stadium finale came to mind. That's how we want to watch playoff games, not beneath swaying palm trees, sipping on a pina colada.
"To me, here's the ideal forecast for a football game: Storm clouds gathering at 300 feet, an arctic front barreling in from Duluth, a 20% chance of frostbite. Football was never fashioned to be played indoors, in some billionaire's giant living room, with starlets in the stands. From its earliest days, football was always served raw. It appealed mostly to guys named Bronko and Otto and Dutch. Men from mill towns played it on weekends instead of brawling with their brothers."
As one San Diego radio host said this week at the outset of an interview, "Hey, if we lose this week, we'll just hit the beach." He meant it as a putdown of New England, which they typically see as a miserable place to live. But that statement says all you really need to know about Chargers fans.
If they lose, they'll forget about it in the time it takes to get to the shore.
The true California sports fan.
The beach should be crowded Sunday evening.
Who they're picking
How folks from around the country see this Sunday's Patriots-Chargers game:
- Jim McCabe, Boston Globe: Chargers (vs. 13 1/2-point spread). “And after the game, stop by the Bass Pro Shop at Patriot Place for all your ice fishing needs.”
- Boston Globe staff: 4-1 for Patriots. (vs. spread)
- Cold, Hard Football Facts: Patriots 38, Chargers 21. "The Chargers don't have a clear edge anywhere on the field – even their greatest strengths are matched by New England strengths – and they're playing in very un-San Diego-like conditions in Foxboro. As if that weren't enough negative reinforcement, they're also hurt at some of the most critical positions on the field."
- Peter King, Sports Illustrated: Patriots 30, Chargers 13. “I would never say San Diego doesn't have a chance -- especially after giving up 12 points a game over the last eight games. They'll send the house at Brady and hope to force some turnovers. But we've read that script throughout this season, and it always ends the same way.”
- Dr. Z, Sports Illustrated: Patriots 34, Chargers 17. “So give me a medical report and I'll predict a score for you. You won't do that? OK, I'll predict one anyway, but bear in mind that I'm the same bloke who swore that Indy would win in a blowout last weekend.”
- Mike Tanier, Football Outsiders: Patriots. “Anything can happen. A Merriman sack can turn Brady into Matt Cassel. A Sproles punt return, an Antonio Cromotie interception ... these are the straws we grasp for when trying to justify a Chargers upset. The Chargers' front seven is great, but the Steelers' and Giants' front sevens barely put a dent in the Patriots. Tomlinson and Michael Turner are great runners, but the Patriots withstood the best 1-2 running punch in the league last week, holding Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew to 66 yards. The Chargers need breaks, they need flukes, they need two lightning strikes, one from each side of their helmets, to win this game.”
- Jeremy Green, Scouts Inc.: Patriots
- Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Patriots 27, Chargers 20. “The Patriots are big favorites here and they should be. The Chargers are limping in with their key players hurting. If Philip Rivers can't go, it will be up to Billy Volek to win it. I think Rivers will play. The key will be how well the Chargers' two lines can handle the Patriots. I think they can have success on both sides. Look for LaDainian Tomlinson to run for 100 yards and keep the sticks moving. The San Diego defense will tackle well and keep Randy Moss in front of them. In the end, though, the Patriots are just too good. Tom Brady throws for three more scores and the Patriots will get to 18-0.”
- Jeff Zillgitt, USA Today: Patriots 35, Chargers 20. “With a backup quarterback, a backup running back and a star tight end playing on basically one leg, San Diego beat the Colts in Indianapolis. Impressive indeed, especially San Diego's defense, which is why the Chargers are in this game. But where does that leave the Chargers against the Patriots? In a tough spot, even if Philip Rivers and LaDainian Tomlinson play.”
- USA Today staff picks: Patriots, 7-1.
- Cris Carter, Yahoo! sports: Patriots. “Let's see: The Pats are too good, too well-coached, too focused and too talented to be denied a trip to Super Bowl XLII.”
- ESPN.com staff: Patriots across the board (Merrill Hoge, Sean Salisbury, and Mark Schlereth yet to pick).
- Jay Novacek, MSNBC: Patriots 34, Chargers 21. “The Chargers can’t make any mistakes and still win. The Patriots can. Also, the Chargers have to fly across the country, play in front of a partisan crowd and maybe even in nasty weather. And when you may have to do all of that without your three offensive stars in LaDainian Tomlinson, Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, that’s too much to overcome.”
- Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Patriots 34, Chargers 23. “There is no stopping these Patriots. None whatsoever."
- Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Patriots 34, Chargers 23. “It comes as no surprise the Patriots are in the AFC title game for the fourth time in seven seasons. Nor will it be a surprise when they win their fourth Super Bowl in that span. The only surprise will be if Chargers QB Philip Rivers acts like something other than a moron.”
- Jerry Magee, San Diego Tribune: Chargers (vs. 14-point spread). “Their rivals haven't caught up to the New Englanders, but the wagering numbers have. They have covered just once in their past six games. They won't this time, either. Norv Turner's guys can score enough to fit within this figure, if not win straight-up. They just have to limit what that Brady boy can do.”
- Terry Bannon, Chicago Tribune: Patriots 30, Chargers 13.
- Our pick: Patriots 30, Chargers 25. Glendale awaits.
NFC pick: Giants 27, Packers 21. A nation rejoices over avoiding two weeks of Brett Favre mania.