Sunday 7: Which member of Patriots grew up fan of Philip Rivers, Chargers?

Ryan Hannable
January 13, 2019 - 7:24 am

1. Philip Rivers has been in the league a long time. In fact, long enough to have a member of the Patriots now who was a huge fan when he was in eighth grade — long-snapper Joe Cardona. Cardona grew up in El Cajon, California‎, which is just outside of San Diego, so he was a huge Rivers and Chargers fan growing up. “Yeah, growing up in San Diego being a hometown fan and getting to watch some of those great Chargers teams was something that was really special,” he said this week. “You had some really great players on the field — LaDainian Tomlinson, Shawne Merriman. Some of these guys that were just incredible players, but then when Philip Rivers got there he replaced Drew Brees. There was obviously a lot of promise with Drew Brees, and you’ve seen the career he’s had, but Philip really kept that team so strong. He played such a key role in all of those great seasons and watching him and his passion for the game was always really special.” While Cardona has been a member of the Patriots since 2015, not all of his family has converted over to being fans of New England. “It’s not too bad. I wish all my family would move over to the Patriots, but it’s alright. It’s fun,” he said. “It is a dream come true to play in this league and it is a dream come true to be able to play in the playoffs.”

2. Speaking of Rivers, one would have to imagine at 37 years old this may be his best remaining chance to win a Super Bowl. It’s hard to know how much longer he plans on playing and it’s obviously so hard to advance deep in the playoffs. Rivers dodged the subject this week on a conference call with the New England media. “Just as bad as we've wanted it every year to be honest with you,” he said. “Yeah, I think there's no denying that you know that you don’t have a ton of years left. I want it for our team. I want our team to experience and us to accomplish our ultimate goal. We haven’t done it. It’s really not about me, it’s about us. Like I said in the first couple of minutes we were talking, it's exciting to have a chance. Once you're in it, somebody’s going to win it. One of these eight teams is going to win it. So to have that opportunity and again, to get a step closer this weekend will be a heck of a challenge but we’re going to prepare like crazy and be there ready to go.”

3. A name not being mentioned as a candidate to replace Brian Flores as de facto defensive coordinator if he does indeed take the Dolphins’ head-coaching job is Bret Bielema. The former Arkansas coach has been with the Patriots the entire season, dating back to the combine, and has done a great deal of on-field stuff with the entire defense. We’re not saying he’s at the top of the list, but he certainly could be considered.

4. It doesn’t mean anything at all, but it is worth noting that Josh Gordon’s name is still above his old locker inside the Patriots locker room. Gordon is no longer even listed on the Patriots online roster following stepping away from the game to focus on his mental health following being suspended indefinitely for violating the terms of his reinstatement about a month ago. It does seem notable considering usually players' names are deleted from the digital board as soon as they are no longer members of the team. If reinstated, Gordon will be a free agent.

5. No matter what happens Sunday, it could very well be Rob Gronkowski’s last game at Gillette Stadium, as it would not be a surprise at all if he retires following the season. It’s hard to imagine any extra attention directed towards him on the video board, but we wouldn’t be surprised if he receives a little extra love from the home crowd Sunday afternoon.

6. Patriots fans will get Jim Nantz and Tony Romo on the call again against the Chargers. It is worth pointing out the team is 10-2 when the pair call its games, and if the Patriots keep on winning, they will keep on getting them. Nantz and Romo will call the AFC championship and CBS also has the Super Bowl broadcast as well.

7. Regardless of who wins in Sunday’s Patriots-Chargers AFC divisional round, next Sunday in Kansas City will be an unbelievable atmosphere. It will be the first AFC title game ever played in Kansas City, which will be extra special considering the teams will be playing for the Lamar Hunt Trophy, which is named after the Chiefs' late owner. Arrowhead Stadium is one of the best places to see a game in the regular season and that will just go up even more for the AFC championship.

Related: Patriots-Chargers preview: 3 keys to the game, fun facts, prediction

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