One-on-One

Chargers

Their offense gained the most yards and their defense gave up the fewest. If you were judging a team by those stats alone, you would think I was talking about the 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers.

You would also be mistaken, young grasshopper.

The 2010 San Diego Chargers operated like a smooth criminal on both sides of the ball, even after waiving All-Pro linebacker Shawne Merriman, losing former NFL MVP LaDanian Tomlinson to free agency and missing Pro Bowl wide receiver Vincent Jackson to an 11-game holdout.

The problem was their special teams unit was historically atrocious. San Diego led the league in special teams touchdowns against and blocked punts against.  Predictably, the special teams coach got sacked and the Chargers look to put that fluky season behind them.

Despite losing Jackson and Tomlinson on offense, quarterback Philip Rivers led the league in passing yards, yards per pass attempt and all-around cockiness. Jackson’s return gives Rivers the  confidence that he can do even more.

The young tandem of fullback Mike Tolbert and running back Ryan Mathews combined for 1,776 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. While none will ever touch the individual brilliance of Tomlinson, they’re poised to become the most deadly tandem since Bonnie and Clyde.

With such a potent offense, all their defense needs to do is stay intact for the Chargers to be the most complete team this side of the Appalachians. Yes, even more complete than the Packers, you cheese-headed weirdoes.

-Zach Berg

 

Patriots

It pains me to no end because there isn’t a team I dislike more than the New England Patriots. But Tom Brady and co. will win the AFC this season.

The Patriots had arguably one of the best off seasons in the NFL, acquiring Chad Ochocinco, Shaun Ellis, and Albert Haynesworth.

The latter of the two will give New England one of the best defensive lines in all of football. Haynesworth and Ellis are big and strong, which will make it difficult for opponents to run on the Pats this season.

The Ochocinco acquisition gives Brady a legitimate downfield threat and red-zone target. Ochocinco will have a huge season, if he stays healthy.

Wes Welker will once again be at the top of the league in receptions and will continue to be a pest for opposing defenses out of the slot.

The law firm of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead are a perfect running tandem in the Pats offense. Green-Ellis can get the tough yards in short down and distance situations while Woodhead is a great pass catcher when New England wants to spread out defenses.

But the two biggest reasons the Patriots will win the AFC are Brady and head coach Bill Belichick.

Brady is one of the best quarterbacks off all time and Belichick is a coaching mastermind who always gets the most out of his teams.

Come January I’ll be grinding my teeth as the Patriots head to the Super Bowl in Indianapolis.

-Alex Ross