The Chargers put up a strong 21-0 win against Denver last week. A big punt return from Travis Benjamin, three turnovers, and a huge performance from Joey Bosa gave the Chargers everything they needed against their divisional rivals despite the StubHub Center being more orange than the president.
New England hosted the Atlanta Falcons in a Super Bowl LI rematch. A scoreless first quarter gave way to Patriots points in the second as Brandin Cooks took a jet sweep and followed Rob Gronkowski into the endzone. A Stephen Gostkowski field goal and a late James White touchdown gave the Pats a 17-0 half time lead that was extremely secure. Fog descended on Foxborough, but the Falcons were hapless even when they could see, and ended up avoiding a shutout only by Julio Jones’ outrageous talent when he took an interception out of the hands of Malcolm Butler for a touchdown.
Next man up
Disappointing news broke during the week that Patriots defensive captain and signal caller Dont’a Hightower would be out for the rest of the season with a torn pectoral. The Patriots defense just started to look like a cohesive unit last week, and now they will be without not only their best coverage linebacker but also their best pass rusher.
New England, more than anyone, embody the “next man up” mantra, but Hightower could be irreplaceable for the Pats.
The receiving back
New England have a bevy of running backs that can cause havoc as receivers, but the Chargers have one of their own who is possibly better than any of them. Melvin Gordon has 29 catches, 228 yards, and four scores as a receiver, giving the Patriots an extra worry in Hightower’s absence. Meanwhile, the Patriots will once again use Dion Lewis, James White, and Rex Burkhead to play the matchup game against the Chargers linebackers. Whichever defense can control the back in coverage best will have a huge advantage in this game.
Both teams have your classic pocket passer, and we’ll talk about the efforts to get to Tom Brady in a moment, but let’s look at Phil Rivers for now. The Chargers have done a great job protecting Rivers so far this season, allowing just ten sacks so far. The Patriots pass rush has been notoriously poor this season, and while Trey Flowers have 3.5 sacks and 12 QB hits, the rest of the defense is not doing a great job of shifting passers off their spot. They will need to on Sunday.
Matchup to Watch: Joey Bosa & Melvin Ingram vs Nate Solder & Marcus Cannon
The Patriots tackles are not to be seen on the injury report, but they are both obviously working through something at the moment. Solder in particular has been shaky this season. What you don’t need when you are struggling with your edge protection is to face the best pair of edge rushers in the NFL. Bosa and Ingram have combined for 16 sacks, and 23 QB hits so far this year and have been as responsible as anyone for the Chargers turnaround.
We know that the best way to defend Tom Brady is to get consistent pressure with a front four, and the Chargers are very well set up to do that.
Fantasy Tip: Patriots WR Danny Amendola
With six bye weeks in Week 8 there are plenty of people hunting for good matchups this weekend, and Amendola against the Chargers is a nice one. While the Chargers are doing well against outside receivers, they have struggled to stop guys in the slot and Tom Brady feasts when working with slot receivers.
Betting Tip: Chargers (+7)
The Chargers defense should be good enough to keep Brady and co. relatively quiet. Take the points.
Prediction: Chargers 20-23 Patriots
Melvin Gordon and Hunter Henry should be able to take advantage of Dont’a Hightower’s absence while Bosa and Ingram hit Brady often enough to stop the Patriots offense from steamrolling as per usual. These games are usually pretty close, but I think the Chargers streak will come to an end.
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