DISCOVER THE MATCHUPS
Patriots Secondary School will have its hands full with Justin Herbert and the Chargers guns.
When the patriots run – Edge: Patriots
No team has allowed more rushing yards this season than the Chargers. This applies to both yards per game (162.5) and yards per game (5.5). In fairness, the Chargers have to face Dallas, Cleveland and Baltimore, three of the four best rushing teams in the league, for seven weeks. So there were some mitigating factors in the Los Angeles fighting to stop the run. And the Chargers could get some run-stop help this week as defensive lineman Justin Jones is eligible to return from IR after missing the last three games with a calf injury, as does linebacker Kenneth Murray who is due to A failure is bad ankle. The Patriots aren’t nearly as efficient as the teams the Chargers faced, but Damien Harris comes out of 100 yard games in a row and seems to be making his move. Mike Onwenu’s move to the right tackle, which allowed Ted Karras to fill in as the left guard, has helped cement an offensive line that has struggled. Harris faced several gaping holes against the Jets on Sunday and will attempt to continue that momentum on the Los Angeles streets. On paper, the Chargers seem better suited to stopping the run than they did with Jerry Tillery, Linval Joseph and Christian Covington in front of an active group of linebackers that includes Murray, Kyzir White, Uchenna Nwosu and Drue Tranquill . dealing with a chest injury that kept him out of the Chargers Week 6 defeat in Baltimore. If healthy this group should improve, but the Patriots floor game is picking up speed and should succeed.
When the Patriots are over – Edge: Chargers
It was a completely different story for the Chargers’ pass defense, who ranks fourth in the league at just 202 yards per game. The Chargers Secondary has the corners of Chris Harris, Michael Davis and rookie Asante Samuel as well as the safes Derwin James, Nasir Adderly and Alohi Gilman. Adderly has a hip injury but could return this week. This group has been solid while relying on Joey Bosa, Kyler Fackrell, and the rest of a Chargers Pass that amassed 13 sacks in six games. Meanwhile, Patriots rookie Mac Jones is emerging from the first 300-yard game of his young career and had no sales in a blowout win against the Jets. Jakobi Meyers remains his favorite target with 41 catches and easily tops the list for the team. Tight end Hunter Henry has emerged as a red zone target with touchdown grabs in each of his last four games lately. Kendrick Bourne (22 catches) and Nelson Agholor (19) have also made steady contributions. Jones needs to continue distributing the ball against the stingy Los Angeles secondary school, and the offensive line needs to build on the improvement shown at Pass Guard over the past few weeks in order for production to continue.
If the chargers are running – Edge: Patriots
The Chargers weren’t overly interested in playing football, and the statistics would back that up. Los Angeles ranks 25th in the league in rushing yards per game with 95 and in yards per game in 20th place with 4.1. Austin Ekeler is the Bell Cow with 73 of the team’s 139 carries. Ekeler averages almost 5 yards per carry and has four blistering touchdowns, but quarterback Justin Herbert ranks second on the team with 21 carries for 72 yards. So this hasty attack is all about disgust, a little sly back that sometimes causes problems for the patriots, and the front has to keep it in check. The Patriots defense has recovered from a slow start to the season and has done much better lately. New England ranks 11th in the league, allowing 105.6 yards per game. What’s even more impressive is that the Patriots take fourth place, only allowing 3.8 yards per carry for the season. One reason for this resurgence was rookie Christian Barmore’s game. His snapshots have been on the rise lately and he led the line of defense in that division in defeating the Jets. Ja’Whaun Bentley’s game was on the rise too, which was crucial given Dont’a Hightower’s recent absence from the linebacker. Disgust is a versatile and elusive back, so the Patriots front must be disciplined on Sunday.
If the chargers pass – Edge: Chargers
Herbert is one of the game’s most promising young passers-by and appears to be doing well in his second season. The Chargers rank eighth in the league, laying an average of 282 yards per game through the air as Herbert has some dangerous weapons to choose from. Keenan Allen remains his favorite target, leading the team with 39 catches for 419 yards and a touchdown. Mike Williams is just behind with 33 grabs for 498 yards and six team bests with touchdowns, while Ekeler steps in with 27 receptions and three more touchdowns. Tight End Jared Cook has been productive at stops in Tennessee, Green Bay, and New Orleans, and so was LA, so the competitive Patriots high school will have its hands full. Jonathan Jones is out for the season after shoulder surgery, so Myles Bryant and Joejuan Williams fill the void. Bryant usually works in the slot Jones did his job in, and Allen is dangerous between hashes. Last season, Stephon Gilmore shut down Allen completely, but obviously he’s out of the picture, so Jalen Mills and JC Jackson must take action against Allen and Williams, forcing Herbert to find his secondary targets. Disgust also poses a problem as the Chargers’ passing game is able to lighten it up, and with Devin McCourty tending to an abdominal injury, the collateral must help too.
Special teams – Edge: Patriots
Last season, the Patriots’ special teams dominated the Chargers in every area in the team’s 45-0 win. Gunner Olszewski returned a punt for a touchdown, while McCourty brought in a blocked field goal. All of this led to the sacking of Special Teams trainer George Stewart. Things have improved under Brandon Staley’s first year coach, but not to the level he would like. The Ravens had some success in their week 6 win against the Chargers in the return leg, and Staley spoke of the need for extra speed on the cover units during the team’s bye week. The kick game also gives the Patriots a significant edge as Nick Folk’s strong season continues while the Chargers have missed Tristan Vizcaino five PATs in their last four games. He has scored 6 of 7 field goals but hasn’t tried one since September, in part because Staley loves trying fourth. Los Angeles signed veteran Andre Roberts, who returned for Houston Kicks in Week 5 against the Patriots. Punter Ty Long doesn’t get a lot of work, but does average 47.8 yards per kick, with seven shot within the 20 against just one touchback. The Patriots play their best all-round game in special teams, with Olszewski providing a spark on both kick and punt returns. It may not be as significant as it was last year, but this looks like another significant benefit for New England.