New Orleans limps into this game after dropping its third game of this young season. The Saints let a chance to force a four-way tie in the NFC South slip through their hands on Monday night.
San Diego choked away a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter in Week 1. Two weeks later, the Chargers allowed the game-winning touchdown in the final two minutes. Both losses occurred on the road. In between, San Diego won at home versus the Jaguars.
The Chargers lead the all-time series 7-4, which began in 1973. In games played in San Diego, the Saints trail 2-3. These teams will meet for the first time since 2012.
New Orleans at San Diego
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 2 at 4:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Saints +4
Three Things to Watch
1. Replicate the Saints' last defensive performance on the road?
The Saints wasted a remarkable effort by their defense in Week 2 on the road against the Giants. Although they allowed 368 passing yards, they kept the Giants out of the end zone. Can they hold each of the Chargers' receivers under 100 yards as they did to Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz? The Giants only managed 64 rushing yards in that game too.
Philip Rivers has not torched any of San Diego’s first three opponents. In fact, he only exceeded 250 passing yards at Indianapolis. Travis Benjamin is the only Charger who has had one game with more than 100 receiving yards. This offense does not appear to be too formidable for the Saints to keep the home team in check.
2. Can the Chargers find some balance on offense?
When Melvin Gordon rushed for more than 100 yards, San Diego beat Jacksonville in Week 2. In their two losses, the Chargers had more than 300 total yards but fewer than 100 rushing. In the win over the Jaguars, San Diego had more than 100 yards on the ground and fewer than 200 through the air. Even a terrible defense like the Saints will have an easier time stopping the Chargers if San Diego is one-dimensional on offense.
3. Nostalgia fuels extraordinary performance by Brees?
Drew Brees has not faced his former team since he left in 2006 as an injured free agent. Will the return trip to San Diego lead to a big performance, say 350 passing yards? That seems to be the minimum amount needed for the Saints to have a chance to beat any team. Two of New Orleans’ losses came in games where Brees threw for 423 and 376 yards. If any lingering grudge remains and motivates Brees to prove that the Chargers kept the wrong quarterback, the Saints sure could use it.
This season is slipping away from both teams. San Diego could turn things around with a win at home. Maybe it would give the Chargers some momentum with AFC West games on tap the next two weeks.
New Orleans has a bye next week. Another loss over which to stew for two weeks would cripple the Saints’ morale. At this point, a win is critical to preventing an implosion.
The Chargers have found ways to give away games in the fourth quarter. The Saints haven’t been able to get their offense and defense on the same page in the same week.
The geniuses in the sports gambling world appear to think the Chargers are a slight favorite due to home-field advantage. I agree.
Prediction: Chargers 30, Saints 27
— Written by John La Fleur, a contributor to AthlonSports.com, who focuses on the New Orleans Saints and Michigan State Spartans. He also frequently comments on other teams in the NFL and in NCAA football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur and read his viewpoints at gridironconnoisseur.wordpress.com and at gridiron-connoisseur.blogspot.com