Last year, the Patriots steamrolled the Chargers in SoFi Stadium. In front of no fans, the Chargers folded against an inadequate Patriots team whose strengths were often afterthoughts in the world of football. Special teams and defense carried New England to a 45-0 victory. A game where quarterback Cam Newton only had to throw for 69 yards. This game will surely be a whole different type of game. The Chargers have improved significantly, leading the AFC West, and look like an explosive team headed into the halfway mark of the season. Justin Herbert hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down and it looks like the hiring of Brandon Staley has worked wonders for the Chargers defense.
The Patriots are coming off of a 54-13 domination over the New York Jets. A game where the offense finally looked like it clicked. Mac Jones threw for 307 yards and two scores. Meanwhile, the defense suffocated anything New York gave them. The Chargers will be a taller task though, and will not be a walk in the park. The Patriots need to start stringing some big wins together. They’re just a game out of the playoff picture, the next several weeks will be huge in their push. So let’s get to it. Set it up Bailey, and let’s get this one underway.
Three Keys to The Game
Key #1: Keep Offense Hot
The Patriots finally put a complete effort on offense together last week against the Jets. Over 300 yards through the air, and nearly 150 yards on the ground. The Pats shouldn’t have any lack of confidence when it comes to the capabilities of this unit after such a dominating outing last week. Though the Chargers are far more talented than the lowly Jets, I don’t see any reason why the Pats should just collapse. There will be more resistance, but by no means should they be shut down. Josh McDaniels has opened this playbook just enough to show just how productive they can be. I wouldn’t expect another 300-yard day for Jones, but efficiency is within the realm of possibility for this squadron.
Key #2: Contain Justin Herbert
The sophomore slump hasn’t affected Justin Herbert in the least bit. The 2020 rookie of the year has been lights out through six games. The former Oregon Duck has already passed for 1,771 yards and 14 touchdowns, proving to be one of the most productive signal-callers in the game. He’s got a plethora of weapons to throw to. Mike Williams, Keenan Allen, Jared Cook, and Austin Ekeler out of the backfield could prove to be a nightmare for a beat-up Patriots secondary. Herbert will probably be airing the ball out and often to start, the Pats need to be prepared for the Chargers’ main weapon of choice.
Key #3: Neutralize Joey Bosa
Joey Bosa is probably the best pure pass rusher New England has faced to this point of the season. The sixth-year (yeah, that shocked me too) pro has already racked up 3.5 sacks and 8 QB hits on the year. Ranking top-10 in win percentage versus opposing lineman and the fourth-best graded edge rusher according to PFF. Isaiah Wynn or whoever ends up playing at right tackle this week will have their hands full versus the former Buckeye. If The Patriots are going to have a chance this week it’ll have to include making sure Mac Jones doesn’t get torn apart by Bosa.
X-Factor: Kyle Dugger
Two interceptions in two games is really impressive for second-year safety Kyle Dugger. He’ll have his hands full against the crafty veteran Jared Cook this weekend. The Patriots love to man up against these tight ends with athletic safeties. Dugger certainly fits this bill and he’s taken over the Chung role to take on these freakishly talented tight ends. Adrian Phillips will play a significant role in this defensive gameplan as well, but I’m really hoping Dugger gets a chance to shine against one of the NFL’s best.
What makes this game so appealing is that both of these teams are vastly improved from a season ago. The Patriots have totally remodeled themselves into an offense with some serious potential. Meanwhile, the Chargers have turned themselves into the top-tier AFC contender we all thought that they could be. Taking the AFC West and currently running away with it, with the help of the unforeseen collapse of the Kansas City Chiefs of course.
Even with all of that being said, I think New England is seriously onto something here. I haven’t seen the team this amped up since the departure of Tom Brady. No matter who it’s against, dropping a 50 burger on anybody is surely confidence-inspiring, and I think New England pulls out a tough win on this road trip getting back up to .500. Having them feeling good versus Stephon Gilmore and the Carolina Panthers next week.
Final Score: 31-28, New England (4-4)
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