Chargers, Saints should put on show in London

Posted: Friday, October 24, 2008

The National Football League is becoming well-versed in British slang.

In the first NFL game played outside of North America, the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants last year trudged their way to a sloppy and uneventful 13-10 win over the one-win Miami Dolphins at London's Wembley Stadium.

It was a bloody mess!

Another attempt at increasing the league's audience, and pocket, comes this week when the San Diego Chargers take on the New Orleans Saints under the shadows of Big Ben.

Rain or shine, organizers had to be visualizing a matchup between division leaders and potential Super Bowl contenders.

Instead they're getting a blockbuster between a pair of 3-4 teams just trying to stay alive in their respective divisions.

Oh, bollocks.

At least it can't be any worse than watching last year's debacle, when Eli Manning completed 8-of-22 passes for a gobsmackingly low 59 yards in keeping the Dolphins winless at 0-8.

Now Phillip Rivers and Drew Brees will try and atone for what their peers couldn't accomplish, showing Europe how exciting our version of football really is.

This time they should succeed, too.

"You have two of the best quarterbacks in the league right now, playing in this game," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "Both teams, I think, have a lot of players that are exciting and would be entertaining to watch."

Despite both coming off setbacks, the Chargers losing to first-place Buffalo and the Saints being demolished by the Panthers, each squad still has high playoff aspirations as they play in mediocre divisions.

San Diego trails first-place Denver by a single game after the Broncos were publicly embarrassed by the Patriots on Monday Night Football. The Saints, on the other hand, have a more formidable task on their hands in the NFC South, as Carolina and Tampa Bay are both off to 5-2 starts.

And just as Brees, a former Charger, gets his favorite target back in Marques Colston, who was sidelined for five weeks prior to a catchless effort in last week's loss, the Saints are now without the services of running back and punt return specialist Reggie Bush.

The league leader in receptions with 41 underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Monday and it is unclear when he will return.

New Orleans is used to it, though, as it played the final four games last season without Bush. They went 2-2.

"Hopefully we won't skip a beat," Brees said. "Obviously we will miss Reggie, just like we will miss any guy who is that productive for us offensively."

Just like the Chargers have missed Chris Chambers, who had five touchdown catches before sitting out the last two games with an ankle injury. It's still uncertain whether he'll play in London.

San Diego, favored by 3 1/2, has also longed for the return of LaDainian Tomlinson. And he's actually been playing.

The former Most Valuable Player is averaging 63.7 yards a game, having topped 100 yards only once, and has found the end zone just four times, all well below his patented Pro Bowl-caliber numbers.

The little bugger needs to step it up if the Chargers hope to head into their bye week hovering at .500 and keep their season alive.

And ditto for the Saints, who should also benefit from the return of Jeremy Shockey.

Following surgery on a sports hernia, the mercurial tight end caught five balls for 50 yards last week but lost a fumble that led to a Carolina touchdown.

"I'm not worried one bit about either of those guys," Brees said of his two top receivers, Colston and Shockey.

"It's only a matter of time before we get back on the same page and take our game to another level, even better than we have been before."

There's no better time for the league's top-rated offense to make good on that promise than against the worst pass defense.

Cheers to that.

SAINTS, 38-28.

Oakland (plus 7) at Baltimore

Following Helminiak's lead and flipping a coin. And the winner is ... RAIDERS, 21-18.

Arizona (plus 4 1/2) at Carolina

Both teams undefeated at home. Not anymore. CARDINALS, 21-20.

Tampa Bay (plus 2 1/2) at Dallas

No way Dallas drops three straight. COWBOYS, 17-10.

Buffalo (minus 1 1/2) at Miami

Ronnie Brown and Wildcat offense too much for first-place Bills.

DOLPHINS, 24-20.

St. Louis (plus 7) at New England

First Brady. Then Maroney. Now Harrison. Still enough left to take down the suddenly hot Rams.

PATRIOTS, 34-21.

Kansas City (plus 13) at N.Y. Jets

Favre takes out his frustration on the continually struggling Chiefs. JETS, 42-17.

Atlanta (plus 9) at Philadelphia

Both teams fresh off a bye week. Philly needed it more.

EAGLES, 17-14.

Cleveland (plus 7) at Jacksonville

Am I really that naive to pick Cleveland again? I guess so ... BROWNS, 24-17.

Cincinnati (plus 9 1/2) at Houston

More love for Ohio. Cincy finally gets off the schneid. BENGALS, 27-26.

Washington (minus 8) at Detroit

Lions now the only winless team left. Surprising? REDSKINS, 25-18.

N.Y. Giants (plus 3) at Pittsburgh

Battle of 5-1 teams and two of the past three Super Bowl champions. N.Y. looks more poised to make it back. GIANTS, 30-27.

Seattle (plus 5) at San Francisco

The 49ers don't need Mike Holmgren's services just yet.

49ERS, 31-18.


Indianapolis (plus 3 1/2) at Tennessee

Both teams have a lot to prove. Manning and Indy have more. COLTS, 24-21.

LAST WEEK: 7-7 (spread); 7-7 (straight up)

SEASON: 48-50-3 (spread); 56-46 (straight up)

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