It feels like it’s been forever since we’ve watched Patriots football, especially with the last two games being against the Bills and Jets, but we’re now just a few days from Sunday’s Pats-Chargers Divisional Round game.
It was difficult to really root for a team last weekend for the Patriots to play but I’m glad we’re playing the Chargers.
The San Diego Chargers of Los Angeles as some are calling them.
They are as tough as any team in the AFC and with their road record I could certainly see them coming into Foxboro and dethroning the Pats from their two year AFC ownership. So why am I glad they’re coming in here?
I’m probably a bit picky with these things but when it comes to the playoffs and matchups I like to see the Pats go up with the best competition. It’s great when the bum teams come in here and New England rolls them but I like a memorable game like the 2014 Divisional matchup with the Ravens, or last year’s AFC Championship with the Jaguars. I’m sounding like a true arrogant Pats fan now but hey that’s what I like.
Pats vs Chargers, Brady vs Rivers, it’s a matchup to get excited about. It’s going to be freezing cold and there’s a chance of snow, Sunday just can’t get here soon enough. Anyways, let’s get down to how this game looks on paper.
The Pats D vs the Chargers offense:
It was over a year ago but when these teams last met in October of 2017 the Pats defense had a rebound game, holding Rivers and his offense to 13 points. In that game Melvin Gordon (who is injured this time around) rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown. A big difference from a year ago is that Chargers’ wide receiver Mike Williams barely played in that game and now he’s a vital cog to that offense.
Williams and Keenan Allen are beasts on the outside but if the Pittsburgh game a few weeks ago taught us anything it’s that the Pats’ secondary can handle top receiver talent.
The Chargers will certainly make plays through the air, it’s just bound to happen, but the X-factors in this game will be how LA’s running game does and how they take care of the ball. Rivers takes risks and a lot of the time that fires back. If the Pats can get turnovers and capitalize on them they should be in a great position to win at home.
On the other hand, if the Chargers are able to hold onto the ball and control the game on the ground (while keeping Brady waiting on the sideline), it may be the perfect recipe to beat the Pats.
The Pats offense vs the Chargers D:
Los Angeles has one hell of a pass rush led by Joey Bosa (who sacked Brady once in that 2017 game) and Melvin Ingram.
I feel like the Pats can contain Bosa on the outside but Ingram is going to be tough. Last week Ingram had two sacks against Baltimore seven total tackles in the game. He’s a straight up beast.
In the secondary the Chargers have two 2018 All-Pros in cornerback Derwin James and safety Desmond King. Fellow cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. is another top NFL defensive back who won “PFF’s award for top coverage defender”. So there’s those guys to worry about.
I’m just going to say it, Brady and his receivers are going to have a tough day at the office. I’ve liked Dorsett and Patterson in doses this season but I have no faith in them in this game. The only receiver the Pats have is Julian Edelman. Chris Hogan has been nothing out there and unless he turns into the new “Playoff-Amendola” then the offense just might be in trouble.
Here’s where this game is going to be won: screen passes, screen passes, screen passes.
Feed James White the ball through dink and dunk passes ALL DAY. The Chargers are among the bottom of the league in defending screen passes and the Pats have just the guys to exploit that. Get the runningback screens to the front of the gameplan and even some of those Edelman or Patterson bubble screens.
I don’t know how running on the Chargers will go but the Pats seem to run well at home and with their great offensive line let’s say Michel, White, and Burkhead will gallop onto victory.
I’ve been excited and fairly confident with this matchup and as I started to type this blog out I became less confident and then immediately more confident. What a rollercoaster, let’s hope we get one to remember this Sunday. LFG!!
Prediction: Patriots 27, Chargers 23