This week, the San Diego Chargers travel to take on a desperate 0-4 New Orleans Saints team whose two biggest stars are former Chargers franchise players.
Quarterback Drew Brees and all-purpose running back Darren Sproles became stars for the Saints after being allowed to leave San Diego. Both players had a dynamic effect on the Chargers franchise.
Brees was the quarterback at the helm of San Diego's dangerous no-huddle attack that befuddled defensive coordinators and laid the groundwork for the Chargers to go on an unheard-of streak of eight straight seasons scoring 400 points or more. They are currently on pace for a ninth straight 400-plus points season.
No other team is close to that mark.
Sproles was an explosive player who helped the Chargers score a lot of those points, as well as remain near the top of the league in third-down conversion percentage. Sproles also holds several records for the Saints, Chargers and the NFL, which makes it all the more amazing that he's never made it to the Pro Bowl.
Both of these players put in a lot of work for the Chargers during their career and earned all of the money they've made. Both players will be motivated to show the Chargers that they made a mistake when they did not pull out all the stops to retain their services.
A.J. Smith's tactics have been so reviled by former Chargers players with Pro Bowl credentials that the former greats have gone a whopping 10-1 against the Bolts! I guess that's better than the 11-0 I'd previously believed.
Notable former Chargers' head-to-head record against the Bolts:
Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons: 2-0
Junior Seau, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots: 3-0
Rodney Harrison, New England Patriots: 2-1
Antonio Cromartie, New York Jets: 1-0
LaDainian Tomlinson, New York Jets: 1-0
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints: 1-0
The Chargers were in a position to win all but one of those games. It seems like the karma bug has come back to bite the Chargers every time they face one of their disgruntled former players.
In reality, it's seemed like the other team has always had an emotional edge over the Bolts.
The Chargers need to recognize this and hit back with the same ferocity that they are being hit with. The way I see it, these other teams did nothing to develop those great players. Instead, they were given a gift and now they want to take that gift and hit the Chargers over the head with it.
Philip Rivers needs to feel some of that emotion and unleash it on the Saints.
Instead of underperforming in a game of this magnitude, Rivers really needs to take it as a personal insult that Brees wants revenge.
If Rivers was never drafted, Brees might still be with the Chargers. On the other hand, Brees never performed as a Charger until Rivers was elevated to the backup role. Brees knew a quick hook was coming if he played at a low level, and he was able to keep Rivers at bay for two seasons.
Pressure is the key to this game and I'm not just talking about pass-rushing.
The Saints defense is vulnerable to a San Diego offensive explosion, so it's key that head coach Norv Turner not lay an egg with his offensive game plan. If the Chargers can score early and often, forcing Brees to play catch-up, the defense has a good chance to make a few big plays as Brees tries to do too much.
If the Chargers go out and lay an egg as they've done on occasion, they'll really put the Chargers offense in a bad position on the road in a hostile stadium hungry for a win. It'll be the Saints capitalizing on Chargers' mistakes. It's a fantasy to think that the defense has any hope of stopping a motivated Brees.
No one is saying that fantasies don't sometimes come true, just don't count on it.
If the Chargers drop to 1-11 against their former Pro Bowl players after this game, they may want to stop at a local voodoo shop and see if they can exorcise a few of their demons before returning to San Diego.