STAR PREVIEW Sun: LA Chargers v New England Patriots

ANDY RICHMOND is a lifelong punter and sports enthusiast who now writes extensively on horse racing and the NFL. His CV includes long spells on Timeform Radio and Racing UK having previously held several positions at the then-fledgling Betfair Exchange where he worked for six years. He has a particular love for the statistical and analytical side of sports which fits in well with the NFL. He writes all the NFL content on Paul Jones subscription service as well as having his own betting advisory service.


The one element of last year’s matchup between these two that the Chargers won’t want to remember is the 45 points that the Patriots put on them whilst recording a big fat zero of their own. That’s right last December it was Patriots 45 Chargers 0. That score line alone should provide plenty of motivation for the Chargers. Extra motivation as they come off their bye week should be afforded by their dismal Week 6 performance (if you can call it that) having capitulated to the Ravens in a 34-6 beatdown.

The Patriots on the other hand come into this game on he back of being the first team this year to put up 50 points on an opponent putting 54 in total on the hapless Jets. Prior to bombing out in Baltimore the Chargers had looked on a roll posting scores of 30,28 and 47 in a three-game winning spurt. During that period they did make the majority of their decisive plays something that let them down against the Ravens and on offence their reliance on converting third-downs eventually caught up with them.

To my mind they need to much more efficient at gaining yardage on first and second downs and not leaving themselves in third-and-long. Here they face one of the best defensive minds in the game Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and that’s something to be very aware of.

The Patriots have so far been something of a Jekyll & Hyde defence stifling some offences and being crushed by others and they are not invincible by any means on that side of the ball. Judging by the noises that emanating from the Chargers camp on Friday it may well be that their lead running back Austin Ekeler may not be able to play on Sunday and that may lead to them playing a more pass-orientated game. To that end quarterback Justin Herbert has been well protected this year feeling pressure on just 21% of his dropbacks, Herbert has also been sacked just 11 times. The Patriots pass rush is finding it’s feet but Herbert should have time in the pocket to dissect a Patriots secondary that has injury problems.

Slot corner Jonathan Jones was put on injured reserve this week and they could also be without Devin McCourty and fellow corner Shaun Wade both of those are questionable for this game. All of that should be music for supporters of receiver Keenan Allen who despite a regression in his statistics this year remains a real threat.

It may well his main receiving partner Mike Williams who has gained the plaudits this year and the scoring accolades but Allen still leads the team in red-zone targets (9) and the same number of targets inside the 10 yard line, yet it’s Williams who has the touchdowns; that position will flip soon and this could be the game it does.

Personally, I would rather go down the receiving yards line if it were pitched around the mid 60’s for Allen especially if Ekeler misses the game but no lines available yet of that ilk therefore his touchdown props will have to come into play. This could well be the week that Allen bursts into life where hopefully he will now be covered by Jalen Mills who grades poorly in coverage and that gives further hope to a Herbert to Allen touchdown possibilities.

The defensive issue that the Chargers have was clear to see against the Ravens and it was stopping the run something that they failed to do to the tune of 187 yards and three touchdowns. The Chargers have allowed the most rushing yards per game (162.5) and yards per rush (5.5) in the NFL this season. Their 975 rushing yards allowed is the team’s most through six games since 1975.

The Patriots have shown a definite lean towards using their ground game this year and that’s not unusual with a rookie quarterback under center in Mac Jones. With plenty of firepower in the running game I can see New England favouring a ground-based attack primarily via Damien Harris who enters this Week 8 matchup with 221 yards and three touchdowns to his name over the past two games. Harris could see plenty of work as the Patriots will strive to control the clock and keep the dangerous and more explosive Chargers offence off the field and his rushing yards line if pitched around the mid-70’s could easily be breached.

The Patriots run a more methodical offence, taking what they are given and the Chargers are usually willing to give In terms of short yardage plays but limit the big gains. In fact Los Angeles have conceded the NFL’s second-fewest 20-yard completions (13). That scenario should lead to Harris along with other components of the Patriots running game to be of interest with passing down back Brandon Bolden looking a little overpriced in the touchdown scorer markets.

All in all this is an intriguing contest that offers the chance for the Chargers to bounce back on home territory against a rookie quarterback facing his first real test on the road. However, the Patriots are improving won’t be easy to beat and the best value here may lie in supporting one or two of the main offensive pieces in the anytime touchdown scorer markets (as an aside backing all three in the first touchdown scorer market would be worth a small play).

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