Chargers among NFL teams
‘on a mission’

Jul 24, 2007 4:14 AM

Frustration and failure can prove excellent motivating factors in sports.

We see quality teams get beaten badly all the time, then bounce back the next game with a terrific performance with an easy win (and easy cover). This can also take place with teams off disappointing seasons.

It may seem a distant memory now, but the Bears ended the 2005 season with a 34-10 blowout loss at the Vikings and then a 29-21 home loss to the Panthers in the playoffs. Last season, the motivated Bears went 15-3, winning the NFC.

A year ago in this column I pointed out that only the Colts could feel terrible after a 14-3 season, blowing a home playoff game to the Steelers (21-18) and that for 2006, "They are still a talented team capable of beating anyone."

Playing with a chip on its shoulder, Indy started 9-0 and rolled in the postseason. When channeled properly, frustration can be focused into positive energy.

Here are some NFL teams that may have something to prove in 2007.

Chargers: Like the Colts in 2006, no team has more to prove than the Chargers. A dominating 14-2 regular season was flushed down the drain in a shocking home playoff loss to the Patriots, blowing a late 21-13 lead. This is still a talented group led by QB Phillip Rivers (22 TDs, 9 picks), a strong offensive line and RB LaDainian Tomlinson. LT, the league MVP, ran for 1,815 yards (5.2 ypc) and 28 TDs while catching 56 passes for 508 yards.

TE Antonio Gates is joined by rookie WR Craig Davis (LSU) and the defense is loaded up front. While the talent is the same, the coaching staff got a complete overhaul. Norv Turner is the new head coach and Ted Cottrell the defensive coordinator. It’s a tough situation for Turner in that Marty Schottenheimer was liked by the players. On the other hand, he’s been handed the keys to a Mercedes.

Giants: The spotlight is Tom Coughlin, who is likely on a short leash as coach. He was a cinch to be fired after the team went 2-7 SU, 3-5-1 ATS. They were sloppy, undisciplined and fractured after a 6-2 start. Incredibly, he’s back. There are plenty of big-names with something to prove, from Coughlin, to turnover-prone QB Eli Manning, injury-prone TE Jeremy Shockey, not to mention a defense that has ranked 27 out of 30 against the pass the last two seasons. That’s why Texas cornerback Aaron Ross was plucked in the first round. The Giants are 13-19-1 ATS their last 33 home games.

Cardinals: In 2006, the Saints ripped off the "longtime loser" moniker and soared all the way to the NFC title game. This season, the Cardinals want to rip off the loser label. Like the Saints a year ago, the Cardinals bring in a new head coach in Ken Whisenhunt, the Steelers offensive coordinator in 2006.

Whisenhunt wants to install the Steelers balance to the offense, bulking up the line with Penn State OT Levi Jones and the defensive front with 6-6 run-stuffer Alan Branch (Michigan). The offense has all kinds of talented pieces starting with QB Matt Leinart along with Pro Bowl receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. The over is 30-15 in the last 45 Cardinals games.

Seahawks: Seattle made the Super Bowl two years ago, but despite making the playoffs last season they stumbled. The running game slipped badly with some offensive line changes plus injuries sidelined RB Shaun Alexander and QB Matt Hasselbeck for several games in mid-season.

The defense fell to 18 overall and was poor (22) against the run. Former Atlanta DE Patrick Kerney comes aboard, while the secondary adds SS Brian Russell (Cleveland), FS Deon Grant (Jacksonville). Maryland CB Josh Wilson comes in as a rookie from Round 2. Seattle lost top WR Darrell Jackson (956 yards), which means Deion Branch (725 yards) will have to step up as the No. 1.

Patriots: The Pats ran out of gas in the AFC Championship. Injuries everywhere contributed to a stinging last-second 38-34 loss at Indy. They’ve beefed up the linebackers with free agent Adalius Thomas (Ravens), added Miami S Brandon Merriweather in the secondary, and upgraded the receiving corps with WRs Randy Moss, Dante Stallworth and Wes Welker.