Battle of unbeatens: Patriots vs. Chargers

Posted: Friday, September 27, 2002

The San Diego Chargers, 6-26 over the last two seasons, already have won three games this year.

That's good enough to make them just 3-point underdogs at home to the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots on Sunday in a battle of two of the NFL's seven remaining unbeaten teams.

''I don't think you can say how good we are until we play these guys,'' Chargers running back LaDanian Tomlinson said.

Very true.

San Diego's wins have come over Cincinnati, Houston and Arizona, hardly the meat of the NFL. After trouncing Pittsburgh and the New York Jets, New England had a letdown, needing overtime to get by the Chiefs 41-38. The Patriots allowed Priest Holmes to run for 180 yards and surrendered 349 yards overall.

''I take it as a wake-up call,'' linebacker Mike Vrabel said. ''We had a couple of games like this last year, too. There's no need to hit the panic button.''

Nor is it time for the Chargers to start distributing tickets for a home Super Bowl.

Bill Belichick has just the motivation he needs.

PATRIOTS, 20-10

Carolina (plus 7) at Green Bay

NFL rule: A team that's not good enough to win four straight won't win four straight, especially at Lambeau Field.

PACKERS, 28-20

Denver (minus 7 1/2) at Baltimore (Monday night)

A team that's not good enough to win four straight WILL win four straight when playing a team that's been killed by the salary cap.

BRONCOS, 20-2

New Orleans (minus 7) at Detroit

A team that's ... oh, forget it.

SAINTS, 41-20

Dallas (off) at St. Louis

A team that's not bad enough to lose four straight won't. The ''off'' is because of Marshall Faulk's status.

RAMS, 31-10

Cleveland (plus 6 1/2) at Pittsburgh

If not for Dwayne Rudd's flying helmet, the Browns would be 3-0. But the Steelers regrouped during a bye week.

STEELERS, 27-16

Tennessee (plus 6) at Oakland

Maybe the Titans' 7-9 record last year wasn't an aberration.

RAIDERS, 27-16

Houston (plus 20) at Philadelphia

The Eagles might let down after blowing out the Redskins and Cowboys. But not that badly.

EAGLES, 27-5

Miami (minus 3) at Kansas City

The Dolphins could get burned if they're looking ahead to New England. Ricky Williams vs. Priest Holmes equals a game under three hours.

DOLPHINS, 20-19

Chicago (plus 3) at Buffalo

The Bears finally lost a close one. Anyone for two straight?

BILLS, 31-27

New York Giants (minus 3) at Arizona

It weren't for the 100-degree heat, this would be a home game for the Giants, who draw more fans in Phoenix than the Cardinals.

GIANTS, 19-13

New York Jets (plus 3) at Jacksonville

The Jets have been outscored 74-10 by New England and Miami.

JETS, 14-10

Tampa Bay (minus 7) at Cincinnati

Now the Bengals' QB is Akili Smith, who has trouble reading defenses, particularly complex ones like Tampa's.

BUCS, 34-6

Minnesota (plus 3) at Seattle

Who's the NFL's best winless team?

SEAHAWKS, 21-20

LAST WEEK: 7-7 (spread), 9-5 (Straight up)

SEASON: 22-23-1 (spread) 28-18 (straight up)



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