Chargers vs. Patriots Week 2 Preview: 5 Things To Watch For

Andrew McCluskeyCorrespondent ISeptember 16, 2011

Chargers vs. Patriots Week 2 Preview: 5 Things To Watch For

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    Week 2 of the 2011 regular season is rapidly approaching.

    We saw some fantastic quarterback performances in Week 1, along with some always exciting NFL drama. Now that opening week is out of the way, we start seeing which teams' success and failure will be permanent.

    The New England Patriots opened up their regular season on Monday Night Football. Tom Brady put up a historic performance, leading the Patriots to a 38-24 victory over the Miami Dolphins.

    The San Diego Chargers also walked away from Week 1 victorious with a 24-17 win over the Minnesota Vikings. Quarterback Philip Rivers led the way with a 335-yard, two-touchdown performance.

    Now the Chargers and Patriots will face off in Week 2. With two of the best quarterbacks in the league taking the field, there is sure to be plenty of scoring.

    Here are five key factors to watch for this Sunday.

Brady's Encore

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    Last year's unanimous MVP reminded us why he is the best quarterback in football today. 

    Tom Brady torched the Dolphins for 517 yards and four touchdowns. This including a 99-yard touchdown pass to Wes Welker.

    We've all known for some time that Brady is one of the best quarterbacks in the league and one of the best of all time. However, this was an astounding performance, even for him.

    The Chargers have a significantly better defense than the Miami Dolphins. While Brady and the Patriots have proven in the past that they can score on any defense, he won't have as easy of a time against San Diego.

    The Chargers secondary completely shut down Donovan McNabb in Week 1. While McNabb is clearly not Tom Brady, I wouldn't be expecting a 500-yard performance this week.

    Still, we know that Brady will come out throwing as always. It will be interesting to see just how good this offense can be against a tough defense.

Will Chad Ochocinco Show Up?

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    Chad Ochocinco caught one pass for 14 yards on Monday night against Miami.

    However, the more notable play was lining up incorrectly, drawing an illegal formation penalty and costing Tom Brady the single-game passing yards record.

    Ochocinco spent most of his time on the bench as Welker and Branch were favored in most formations. It is clear there are still just some parts of the playbook Ochocinco is not catching on to.

    While he is still making headlines for his tweeting, the big question is whether or not Ochocinco will show up this Sunday.

    The Patriots have plenty of weapons and made it clear on Monday night that they aren't afraid to use any of them.

    Yet, if they can get Ochocinco on the same page with the rest of the offense, they can get that much better.

Can the Patriots Defense Stop Rivers?

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    Even though Brady's performance stole the headlines, Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne had himself quite the game as well.

    Henne threw for 416 yards and two touchdowns against the Patriots defense. While impressive, we know Henne is nowhere near the elite bunch when it comes to NFL quarterbacks.

    However, Philip Rivers is.

    Rivers has been one of the better quarterbacks in the league for some time. The Chargers' lack of playoff success has led to him being overshadowed by the likes of Brady and company, but he is right up there in the elites.

    If Henne can light the Patriots defense up for 400 yards, what is Rivers going to do to them?

    The Patriots still have a lot of new pieces that are still figuring out the defense and their roles. I expect them to get better as the weeks go on, but they better improve soon or we may have a serious shootout in New England come Sunday afternoon.

Who Is the Feature Back in New England?

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    BenJarvus Green-Ellis was the only Patriots running back to find the end zone on Monday night.

    However, Danny Woodhead doubled the amount of carries that Green-Ellis received. It was clear Woodhead was going to get the majority of the looks out of the passing formations.

    Woodhead has proven to be an excellent weapon on passing plays and is fantastic at running the draw. His blocking ability only will earn him more time on the field.

    "The Law Firm" did receive the goal-line looks, but with only seven carries it makes you wonder whom, exactly, the Patriots view as their starting running back.

    Also, when will preseason standout Stevan Ridley get a look?

    For now it appears that the Patriots are going to put in the best back for the situation. The label "starting running back" may not even apply in New England.

    It will still be an interesting trend to watch heading into Sunday.

Early Playoff Preview

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    Both the Patriots and the Chargers appear to be top teams in the AFC.

    The Chargers look to be the clear-cut favorite to win the AFC West with last year's division winner Kansas City looking pathetic against the Buffalo Bills.

    The Patriots will always have the Jets to challenge them in the AFC East, but regardless of who wins the division it is likely that both teams will be in the playoffs.

    So, it is likely that this Sunday's game could be a preview of a playoff matchup.

    This leads to many questions.

    Can Philip Rivers and the Chargers get over the hump this year? Is the Patriots offense going to be this dominant all year? Which team will position itself as the early favorite in the AFC?

    While there is still way too much season to go before starting to predict Super Bowl favorites, this Sunday's game will give us an interesting look ahead towards the rest of a great NFL season.