The team we've watched for the past two weeks is not the one that will show up at Lambeau Field in Week 3.
These Chargers will run the ball effectively. They will throw it with success. They will score multiple touchdowns. And their defense will make big plays.
In short, these Chargers will look a lot more like the Chargers of 2006, the team that seemed destined to reach -- and win -- the Super Bowl.
Crazy, you think?
How in the world is a team that barely showed an offensive pulse in Week 1 against the Chicago Bears and embarrassed itself in Week 2 against the New England Patriots going to right itself on the road against the undefeated Green Bay Packers, you ask?
I know the Packers are playing well on defense, but let's take a closer look at this unit that ranks 14th in the NFL. Green Bay's defenders are young, athletic, and do a terrific job of swarming to the ball. They play with aggressiveness and do a nice job of forcing the action. They also have a fatal flaw -- an inability to stand tall against the run.
Look for LaDainian Tomlinson to get upwards of 30 carries and pile up 100-plus yards. He should find plenty of holes running to his left, behind tackle Marcus McNeil and guard Kris Dielman, and with the added help of his sledge-hammer escort, fullback Lorenzo Neal.
With the running game firmly established, the Chargers should find a good deal of space to exploit in the passing game. I know quarterback Philip Rivers has been extremely shaky. He has looked uncomfortable and confused and has killed his team by putting the ball in the hands of the opposition. That stops against the Packers.
Rivers will have an easier time in this game because, in addition to the help Tomlinson's running will provide, he will benefit from facing a zone-coverage scheme that is ripe for him to exploit. And the key to that exploitation will be tight end Antonio Gates. At 6-foot-4, Gates towers over Packers middle linebacker Nick Barnett. Barnett is quick, but the exceptionally talented Gates should be able to run by him, as well as Green Bay's safeties, and provide a consistently open target for Rivers. When the Packers blitz, which will be often, Gates is going to be an ideal "hot read" for his quarterback.
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In addition, 6-foot-5 receiver Vincent Jackson should be able to win more than his share of jump balls against shorter cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Al Harris.
The Packers' weakness, their running game, is going to pose a larger problem this week than it did in their first two games. Green Bay's offensive line has failed to help open holes for rookies Brandon Jackson and DeShawn Wynn, and that isn't going to change against the Chargers. San Diego's three defensive linemen -- nose tackle Jamal Williams and ends Igor Olshansky and Luis Castillo -- should have no problem controlling the line of scrimmage and forcing Jackson and Wynn to run laterally … and into the waiting arms of linebacker Shawne Merriman.
Brett Favre has been highly impressive so far, but he is going to run into his share of problems against the Chargers. Oh, Favre will complete some slant routes to Donald Driver. He'll probably connect on a big throw or two to rookie James Jones. Still, the Chargers defense is going to be able to set the tempo because San Diego's offense is going to provide a cushion and Green Bay's inability to run the ball is going to force Favre to start taking the usual risks he is prone to taking. The result will be turnovers.
And that will go a long way toward allowing the Chargers to enjoy their first comfortable victory of the season.