Blame "Bountygate" if you'd like, but the Saints won't state publicly that it's the reason for their shocking 0-4 start. Despite the dire state of the current team, pandemonium will still flood the Superdome in support of the Saints.
Here are three keys for New Orleans to pull the upset against San Diego.
Build on recent defensive performance
Typically, getting slammed for over 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing wouldn't be a rallying point for a defense. For the 2012 Saints, it happens to be.
At Lambeau Field, the Saints looked as though they'd be steamrolled once again, trailing 21-7 with 4:50 left in the first half. They fought back, though, shutting out the high-octane Green Bay Packers offense until the seven-minute mark of the fourth quarter.
Keeping Aaron Rodgers and his sensational supporting cast off the board for that long is an achievement in and of itself. The offense drove into position for a potential game-winning field goal, but Garrett Hartley missed the 48-yard kick.
Phillip Rivers and the Charger offense haven't been quite as explosive this season, but the Pro Bowl QB could be due for a breakout game. New Orleans must reference their play for much of the Green Bay game as a point of positive reinforcement.
The Saints' crowd must not be taken out of it early, and free safety Malcolm Jenkins must hold the fort down and not give the Bolts' vertical passing game opportunities deep.
Give Darren Sproles more touches
For such a deep backfield, New Orleans has struggled mightily to run the ball—or even be in a position to do so.
Due to the dreadful defense, quarterback Drew Brees has had to muster everything possible just to keep his team within striking distance. As a result of playing from behind, Brees has thrown a league-high 191 passes and 1,350 yards. He has only turned to hand it to his backs a grand total of 62 times through four games.
The Saints will have their work cut out for them to establish the ground game against the Bolts, who have given up just below 80 yards on the ground to the opposition thus far.
Something has to give, and New Orleans must keep time of possession on their side to have a chance.
Getting the ball in the hands of Sproles usually results in great things, due to his ability to score anytime he touches the rock.
Converting third-and-short situations will be crucial, and Sproles' play will largely determine how the Saints do in those instances. This team must run the ball better and more frequently, though. An explosive run or two by Sproles against his former team would go a long way for New Orleans—for both the offense and defense.
Sproles is prominently featured in the return game, so he could also impact the game in that regard. Whatever dimension of the game it is, he must have a monster primetime performance.
Patience by Drew Brees
The regular-season record for most consecutive games with at least one TD pass is on the line.
For Brees, eclipsing the 47-game mark set by Johnny Unitas seems inevitable, and it will have to be inevitable if the Saints are meant to win.
Where the future Hall of Famer may get in trouble is trying to press too much, which he has done at times this season.
Just as the defense can build on elements from it's Week 4 performance, Brees can draw plenty from the game, too, which was easily his best of the season. It was the first time all season he hadn't thrown an interception. The defense definitely stepped up its play, but Brees also made better decisions with the football.
According to ESPN's injury report, Lance Moore will be out for Sunday's game.
Moore is one of Brees' favorite receiver targets, which will allow the Charger defense to roll coverage more toward stud tight end Jimmy Graham and No. 1 receiver Marques Colston.
In order to emerge victorious, New Orleans must feed off the home atmosphere and win the turnover battle. To do that, Brees needs another mistake-free game to shield the Saints' D from short-field scenarios.