As head coachBill Belichicknoted this week, San Diego isn't a division opponent, but the Patriots play them often enough that it almost feels that way.
The latest chapter of their bi-coastal rivalry will unfold this Sunday afternoon in southern California, where the 2-4 Chargers have scored their only wins of the 2010 season.
"I think they're comfortable there," WRWes Welkersaid on Thursday. "Their fans obviously really get into the game, especially if you get them going, it's hard to really stay with them, so you have to stay on top of your game."
Welker is speaking from experience. San Diego was the first team to give him a shot in the NFL, when he signed there as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2004. So, it will be a somewhat familiar visit for him.
That's not necessarily the case for the rest of his teammates, however. To get adjusted to the three-hour time zone difference six-hour jet lag, New England will travel two days ahead of time – on Friday – instead of their customary day-before arrival for road games. This tactic has worked well for the Patriots on recent West Coast trips.
"Especially being West Coast, getting out there and getting adjusted, I think that's the best way to go about it," Welker added.
Home-field advantage is certainly a factor the Patriots aren't taking lightly, especially considering the Chargers' success there. And the last time the Patriots played at Qualcomm Stadium, just two Octobers ago, San Diego pummeled the Patriots, 30-10.
"You take a look at them at home, they have a lot of guys flying around and making plays, and we're playing out there, on their turf … it's a tough environment," echoed C Dan Koppen.
"It's really tough to go anywhere in this league and win, and so San Diego is no different. It's one of those places where the fans can get excited, they're loud."
"It's been a lot of big games and it's gone both ways," Belichick said of his team's rivalry with San Diego. "We've gotten handled out there a couple times. We got handled out there in '08 and '02. And we've won some big games out there. It's kind of a mixed bag. It's the same thing here; we've been handled here and we've done all right here. But it's been a very competitive rivalry."
One area where the Chargers have struggled so far this season is an area of strength for the Patriots – special teams. New England has scored touchdowns on kick returns and blocked kicks, while San Diego has surrendered several TDs in the same ways.
However, safety Patrick Chung, one of the key special teams performers for New England, sought to downplay that perceived advantage.
"We're just striving game-by-game," he maintained. "We don't worry about stuff in the past, or the future, we're doing what we have to do every day – execute and play hard."
Thu 10/21 Practice Notebook
For news and notes from Thursday's practice, please visit the PFW Blog.