The injury report is finalized and the Chargers do not like what they are seeing. The list looks like this:
Larry English = Out; Nate Kaeding = Out; Malcom Floyd = Doubtful; Legedu Naanee = Doubtful; Antonio Gates = Questionable; Kion Wilson = Questionable.
At least Buster Davis and Ryan Mathews were not limited in practice and are listed at probable. Assume Floyd and Naanee won't play. If Gates can't go, Davis and Mathews are going to have to produce more than they ever have in their careers.
Davis becomes the number two receiver behind Patrick Crayton. Mathews' ankle is still an issue, but it seems to be slowly improving. When Ryan touches the ball he's shows flashes of electricity. The problem is, in the games he's been able to really go at it, the Chargers have fallen behind by double digits. When that happens you can't really run the ball too much, which brings us to another issue.
The Chargers simply cannot fall behind against New England. The Patriots score on an NFL-best 65-percent of their drives.
If the Chargers can't find their offensive groove early they could very well find themselves playing catch-up again. As good as Philip Rivers is, that's a tall order without their best downfield threat and the most talented tight end on earth to throw to.
The good news is he still has several viable options, especially in the offensive backfield. Darren Sproles has been more active in the passing game recently, as has Mathews, who already has 8 catches (he had 19 in his entire 3-year career at Fresno State). Both running backs have even lined up at wide receiver this season. Plus, Mike Tolbert has proven he can make plays in the passing game and tight end Randy McMichael was a feature pass catcher in Miami who hasn't really asserted himself in the offense yet because of Gates.
While the Pats lead the NFL in scoring, their defense is giving up nearly 24 points a game, so perhaps the Chargers should hope for a shootout.
Or, on second thought, scratch that. More scoring means more kickoffs, and we all know the Bolts have had issues on special teams. The Pats have already returned 2 kicks for touchdowns.