Five to Watch: Patriots vs. Bolts

RB LaDainian Tomlinson (Jamie Squire/Getty)

The Chargers will face a different New England Patriots team on Sunday and will be looking for a large dose of redemption and a bit of momentum. Samantha Fillerup profiles five players to watch and examines their potential impact on Sunday's game.

1. LaDainian Tomlinson has struggled in both games against New England since he deemed the Patriots "classless" following the Bolts' 2006 playoff loss. He was held to 2.4 yards per carry in the Week 2 matchup last season and bowed out of the AFC Championship Game after just three touches.

Tomlinson will be pitted against a talented and fierce defensive front seven that is anchored by a D-line featuring three former first-round draft picks. LT must rediscover his trademark explosiveness in a hurry or risk being rendered irrelevant under the bright lights of Sunday Night Football.


QB Philip Rivers
Al Bello/Getty

2.Philip Rivers must find a way to start games like he finishes them. His fourth-quarter passer rating of 127.8 is more than twice his first-quarter passer rating of 61.0. He also must reverse his recent drop in accuracy; he's completed only 51 percent of his passes over the last two games after hitting 67 percent over the first three weeks.

This week, Rivers will face a defense that is ranked No. 8 against the pass. However, this rivalry is about psychology more than statistics. Rivers must rally the troops past a New England Patriots squad this is inside the Chargers' heads after bouncing them from the playoffs each of the last two seasons.

3.Quentin Jammer has been the Chargers' defensive MVP through the first five games, but a costly misstep last week allowed Miami Dolphins receiver Greg Camarillo to score the go-ahead touchdown in the 17-10 defeat. The task gets even tougher this week as Jammer faces New England's talented receiving duo of Randy Moss and Wes Welker.

Jammer did a sensational job smothering Moss in last year's AFC Championship Game, as Jammer caught as many of Tom Brady's passes as Moss (one). It will be difficult to replicate that performance, although Brady's absence will be a big help.

4. Tim Dobbins has enjoyed a productive season so far, tallying 17 tackles, just three shy of his career-high. Lately, Dobbins has seen even more significant minutes than starter Matt Wilhelm and his effect on the field has been a welcomed surprise. In addition to his tackle numbers, Dobbins had added an interception, a sack, a forced fumble and a pass breakup.

Dobbins' first opportunity for a break-out came in Week 2 last season against the Patriots when Wilhelm went down with a calf injury. However, the Patriots abused Dobbins in pass coverage and he quickly fell out of the rotation. With Brady out, the Patriots turn to Matt Cassel in their quest for a repeat of last year's meeting.

5. Mike Tolbert has been a pleasant surprise as both a blocker and a receiver. In five games, he has 10 receptions for 134 yards and a touchdown. His average of 13.4 yards per catch ranks second in the NFL among all running backs with more than five receptions; Darren Sproles ranks first with an average of 23.2 yards per catch.

Tolbert has been battling an ankle sprain he suffered in Week 4; as a result, he went without a carry or a reception last week for the first time all season. He must show he's healthy against the Patriots, whether he has the ball in his hands or No. 21 riding in his hip pocket.

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