The New England Patriots at the San Diego Chargers
After suffering defeat at the not-so frozen tundra of Lambeau Field, the Patriots head west to take on the 8-4 San Diego Chargers. There have been some interesting matchups between these franchises over the years. Though the Patriots lead the all-time series 22-15-2, the Patriots have only been 2-2 in their last four visits to San Diego. Bill Belichick and the Patriots travelled directly to Southern California after last week’s game in an effort to minimize the travel stress right before the game and to get the team acclimated to the warmer San Diego weather.
This is actually a fairly significant game for Playoff seeding and playoff hopes so in yet another futile attempt to be non-bias and analytical, both teams were broken down in key areas to see how they will match up against each other and which one may have the key to a victory.
Quarterback – Push: In the grand scheme of things, Tom Brady is much more accomplished Quarterback. However, this season, Brady and Rivers’ overall season statistics are very similar. Looking at it closer, over the last three games, both quarterbacks have had virtually identical stats.
Running Backs – Patriots: The Chargers currently have the 28th ranked running game…With Ryan Mathews still trying to get back on track after returning from injury, the Patriots certainly have the advantage in this area at this time.
Wide Receivers – Chargers: Keenan Allen, Malcom Floyd, and Eddie Royal make up a pretty formidable receiving corps that does have the ability to stretch the field. This gives San Diego the advantage in this area.
Tight Ends – Patriots: Though Antonio Gates is a Hall of Fame tight end and a serious red zone threat, Rob Gronkowski’s ability to be almost impossible to cover gives New England a clear advantage between the 20s and into the red zone.
Offensive Line – Patriots: San Diego’s offensive line has allowed 23 sacks while blocking for the 28th ranked running game. New England, on the other hand, has protected Tom Brady well (only Peyton Manning and Andy Dalton have been sacked less) and has done well in run blocking when given the opportunity (4.0 yards per carry).
Defensive Front Seven – Patriots: Though both teams are fairly even with their ability to stop the run, the Patriots front seven has been, surprisingly, better at pressuring opposing quarterbacks than the Chargers.
Secondary – Push: San Diego passing yards allowed per game have been better than New England’s. However, the Chargers have not been able to get very many interceptions. They are currently third worst in the league with only 6 total interceptions all season long.
Special Teams – Patriots: The kickers are evenly matched but the Patriots have the edge in kickoff returns and a larger advantage in the punt return game.
Coaching – Patriots: Mike McCoy had done a nice job in San Diego and even better of a job of resurrecting Philip Rivers’ career. However no one is able to scheme to the strengths of his team (or mask the deficiencies) quite like Bill Belichick.
If we assign 2 points for every category (1 point per team for draws) this is how it lines up:
Key’s to Victory: Patriots
- Dealing with the Weather: It is supposed to be 70 degrees on Sunday. Though this is not brutally hot weather, it is certainly much different conditions than the Patriots have played in since the beginning of the season. Hopefully New England’s decision to spend the week in San Diego will get the team conditioned properly for the game.
- Stay committed to the run: The Patriots were averaging 4.7 yards per carry against Green Bay and inexplicably got away from consistently running the ball midway through the first half. Though San Diego is ranked 15th against the run, the Patriots need to stay committed to running the ball to set up their play action passing.
- Pressuring Philip Rivers: The Patriots must take advantage of San Diego’s offensive line which has been average in pass protection. If the Patriots end up having to blitz more often to apply pressure, it could be a long day for the Patriots secondary and an even longer ride back to Foxboro.
This should be a very good game between two playoff contending teams. Coming off a loss, the Patriots will be looking to bounce back and hold on to the AFC’s #1 seed. The Patriots have nine straight victories in games immediately following a loss and have won the last three games following a loss by an average of 27 points. Though the Patriots may not win by 27 points, they should have enough on the defensive side to put themselves in a position to win.
The Knuckles Prediction: Patriots 27 – San Diego 24