Last week was the Super Bowl rematch. A showdown between the high flying Atlanta Falcons offense with a high caliber defense, against a struggling Patriot defense. For the first time all season, I picked against New England. And I picked incorrectly.
Limiting the Falcons to only one touchdown, the Pats defense made a statement. While they still allowed 120 yards on the ground, Matt Ryan was limited to only 233 through the air. Being able to restrain the Falcons shows that this defense can play into the postseason to a level that will take at least some of the pressure off of Tom Brady.
The pressure might still be on though, as they welcome the Los Angeles Chargers to Gillette Stadium. The Chargers are riding on a three game winning streak, having taken down the Giants, Raiders and Broncos. All three of those teams were considered potential playoff teams entering the season.
Coming off of a shutout against Denver, L.A. has not allowed more than 27 points in a game all season. Similar to the Pats in year’s past, the defensive numbers do not match up. In terms of yardage, the Chargers have allowed more yardage than more than half of the teams in the league, but have allowed the 8th least points. Led by Melvin Ingram and last year’s defensive rookie of the year, Joey Bosa, twenty percent of NFL players with five sacks or more through seven weeks are listed on the Los Angeles Chargers’ roster.
The defense has carried the Bolts to each of their victories. Only once this season has a single running back on the team rushed for over one hundred yards, with Melvin Gordon reaching 105 against the Giants. On the other side of the offense, Rivers has been inconsistent. He’s had a few very strong weeks, and others where he’s been held under 200 yards.
The Chargers have a very talented team. Playing in the most talented division in the NFL (in terms of how rosters look on paper, completely subjective), they have already been tested by Oakland, Kansas City and Denver. The Chargers can win, but will they?
Tyler’s tickets to winning for Los Angeles:
Pressure the quarterback: As established earlier, the Chargers have a pass rush that includes three of the league’s top fifteen sack leaders through the first seven weeks. Brady no longer has Edelman (not breaking news), and it has made it more difficult for TB12 to dump the ball off quickly. If they get to Brady, those elite pass rushers are also amongst the top in the league’s forced fumbles rankings, with yet another pass rusher included. Applying pressure to the quarterback will allow the So-Cal team to control the game.
Expose the secondary:
For six quarters, the Patriots defense has looked strong. That secondary has lacked it's highest paid player in Stephon Gilmore. When he was on the field, they were exposed. Receivers were left wide open. Rumor was it was due to a lack of communication. Gilmore should be back against L.A., and if he hasn't improved with the rest of the d, they could be in trouble.
Tyler's Tickets to winning for New England:
Hot Potato: The Chargers know how to rush a passer. Brady knows how to get the ball out quickly. Amendola will need to play the same role Edelman did, making it easier for Brady to get rid of the ball quickly. There will be a lot of pressure on the backs to catch passes as well. For the Patriots to win, there will need to be a lot of short yardage passes, and long drives.
Contain Melvin Gordon: Despite only having the one game over 100 rushing yards, Gordon remains a major threat. With Malcolm Brown not practicing (as of Thursday) the Patriots will need to have more players contribute to preventing Gordon from running. With three touchdowns on the season, Gordon wasn't a factor versus the Broncos. A teammate called Gordon out for his struggles, and the young running back will be looking to prove him wrong.
The Chargers have a chance in this game. I give Charger fans I know a hard time, because they are the least talented team in a really good division. But they still have a roster that is tough to beat. Both teams have momentum right now, but with the Patriots defense stopping Atlanta, I don't see L.A. being able to capitalize on Patriot defensive mistakes the way teams did earlier this season.
Patriots 27- Chargers 20
Tyler's record 4-3
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