If you are what your record reveals, the Chargers (3-1) are pretty good and the Saints (0-4) stink.
But these teams facing off in the Superdome Sunday night know better than that.
The first-place Chargers realize they’ll get the Saints’ best shot, one that comes with equal parts frustration and redemption.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees hasn’t won yet and there are few rivals he’d love to beat more than the Chargers.
In an NFL lifetime long ago, the Chargers picked Philip Rivers over Brees and the two have digested against one another since.
What Rivers sees is an entire Saints team eager to make someone pay. If it’s the Chargers, all the sweeter to Brees.
“A record obviously means something but it means nothing when you have to prepare for an opponent,” said Rivers, who has two divisional road wins this year. “We know what we’re getting into with the Saints. When you watch the games that they’re been in they could be 4-0.”
The Chargers rebounded last week from an uh-oh showing against the Falcons in rising up against the Chiefs. By forcing six turnovers, the defense is playing with confidence and that’s something they’ll need against the Saints’ aggressive attack.
There’s a reason why the Chargers are three-point underdogs despite their gaudy record.
“I don’t even look at that,”‘ inside linebacker Donald Butler said. “The next game is the most important game and that’s the Saints regardless of their record. They’re a dangerous team.”
The Chargers come with third rails, too. Like all teams they’ve shown blemishes and they remain an evolving product.
They’re still deciding their running game depth chart and the pass-blocking has been spotting at times. But the coach Norv Turner is hoping the trend of different players being integral parts of the game each week is a welcoming sign.
“We have a lot of guys who can contribute and be a part of this,” Turner said. “If we keep a mindset of what matters, each week finding a way to win, yeah I think it is overrated who starts. I understand a player’s mentality of wanting to be a guy and be the starter.”
The Chargers know about starts, and some haven’t been stellar under Turner. But they flip the NFL calendar with three wins banked, and they can pad their AFC West-lead with a win against the, well, winless Saints and doesn’t that sound odd.
Yes, but Rivers knows it’s a distinction which doesn’t arrive with a certain outcome.
“We’ve been in the same position where we were the 4-6 team and the 3-5 team where we knew we were pretty good but we hadn’t shown it,” Rivers said, reflecting on the not-so-good old days. “This game is going to be a heck of a challenge. It’s a game that you love to play in but also one that you know is going to be tough.”