It took only one playoff game for San Diego's anticipated trip to the Super Bowl to be short-circuited by New England, leading to the firing of coach Marty Schottenheimer.
Now, coming off a hard-fought 14-3 win over the NFC champion Chicago Bears, Norv Turner takes the Chargers 3,000 miles to Foxborough Sunday night to try to avenge that 24-21 loss.
Actually, ``avenge'' is the wrong word. Winning the second game of the regular season doesn't make up for being knocked out of the playoffs. Still, a win by the Chargers, especially on the road, would make a statement.
``It's not the same situation. It doesn't mean as much. Probably because after this game there's 14 more,'' says the Chargers' LaDainian Tomlinson, last season's NFL MVP. ``But it's still going to be an exciting game and both teams are really going to want to win the game.''
The Patriots, very impressive in a 38-14 win over the Jets on opening day, are favored by 3 1/2 points. That's an extra half-point than they would normally get, because the game is in Foxboro.
On paper, the current version of the Patriots is much better than last year's model. Witness the win over the Jets in which newcomer Randy Moss looked like the Randy Moss of old, catching nine passes for 183 yards and a touchdown.
When Schottenheimer coached the Chargers, he tended to complain about an undue number of coast-to-coast trips. Turner hasn't been heard from on that subject - he's probably working on the best way to contain Tom Brady's new receiving corps: Moss, Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth.
The Patriots appeared to be the better team last week, but the Chargers were playing a much better defense.
So, go to the tea leaves. The Chargers' pregame media package is 27 pages long; the Pats' 20 pages.
Reverse it.
PATRIOTS, 27-20.
---
Indianapolis (minus 7) at Tennessee
Indy beat the Titans 20-17 in Nashville last season and won by a point at home.
That says close game.
COLTS, 24-20

Buffalo (plus 9 1/2) at Pittsburgh
The Bills won't be the patsies for the Steelers that the Browns were.
STEELERS, 20-13

Washington (plus 7) at Philadelphia (Monday night)
The Eagles weren't as good as advertised in their opener.
Bounceback.
EAGLES, 24-7

Kansas City (plus 11 1/2) at Chicago
The Chiefs are among the NFL's worst.
BEARS 33-0

Dallas (minus 3 1/2) at Miami
The Cowboys won't allow 35 points again. But they'll still win.
COWBOYS, 21-13

Green Bay (plus 1) at New York Giants
The Packers were favored by 2 1/2 until the Giants reported Eli Manning MAY play.
``May'' is the reason to stay away from this one.
GIANTS 24-21

New York Jets (off) at Baltimore
Unlike the Giants with Manning, the Jets aren't talking about Chad Pennington, which is why this game is off the board.
RAVENS, 16-8

Seattle (minus 3) at Arizona
You can change the coaches but you can't make the Cardinals' offensive line any less offensive.
SEAHAWKS, 16-12

Oakland (plus 9 1/2) at Denver
At least this season's Raiders try.
BRONCOS, 21-10

New Orleans (minus 3) at Tampa Bay
Time for the Saints' offense to break out.
SAINTS, 29-20

Cincinnati (minus 6 1/2) at Cleveland
Charlie Frye is gone. Romeo Crennel may be next even though it's not his fault.
BENGALS, 37-9

Houston (plus 6 1/2) at Carolina
Beating Kansas City at home is one thing...
PANTHERS, 31-13

San Francisco (plus 3) at St. Louis
Home Dome wasn't worth much last week. Desperation here.
RAMS, 26-21

Minnesota (plus 3 1/2) at Detroit
Second straight week for the Lions against a no-offense team.
Matt Millen becomes a hero.
LIONS, 20-10

Atlanta (plus 10) at Jacksonville
If the Chiefs or Browns aren't the NFL's worst team, the Falcons are ...
JAGUARS, 16-5

LAST WEEK: 7-7-2 (spread); 10-6 (straight up)

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