Los Angeles Chargers (3-4 SU, 3-3-1 ATS) vs. New England Patriots (5-2 SU, 3-4 ATS)
NFL Week 7
Date/Time: Sunday October 29th 1:00 PM ET
Where: Gillette Stadium
by Mike M, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: LAC +7 / NE -7
The Los Angeles Chargers travel cross country to take on the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in an early afternoon battle between two AFC teams riding three game winning streaks. The Patriots have won and covered the last three games against the Chargers and have dominated the series at home since moving to Foxboro, where they have put up a 10-1 record after going just 2-7-1 versus LA/SD when playing in Boston.
After beginning their season with an 0-4 record, the Chargers and first year head coach Anthony Lynn have managed to win their last three in a row to right their ship back to a respectable 3-4. While losing every game in the first month of the season is never a good thing, it was clear that Los Angeles had the talent to compete as they were close in nearly all of their games with three of their September defeats coming by a combined total of just seven points. Last weeks 21-0 win against Denver not only helped by getting a much needed win against a divisional opponent, but also because it ended an unfortunate seven game home losing streak dating back to last season. Though it certainly didnt help their cause this year that they were one of two teams to move to a city (LA) that didnt overly want one, let alone two of them, as they became yet another NFL organization to be affected by the incomparable incompetence of dictator/commissioner Goodell.
When most think of the Chargers the names that come to mind are the offensive stars such as Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen, but in reality it is their defensive stalwarts up front that have done the most to turn their season around. Second year lineman Joey Bosa has now recorded 18 sacks through his first 19 NFL games and looks to be the expected superstar the team hoped when drafting him third overall in the 2016 draft. Bosa is far from alone on the Chargers underrated line which is also highlighted by Melvin Ingram and Chris McCain, and all three have helped the team rank fourth in sacks in the NFL this season with each contributing a health share to their squads total (Ingram-8, McCain-5, Bosa-7.5). Their strength up front will be especially key this week going against a Patriots offensive line, namely left tackle Nate Solder, that has struggled mightily throughout the first two months of the season.
After losing to the Chief 24-10 in week three, and throwing three interceptions in the process, Philip Rives has managed to right the ship and over his last four games has thrown for eight touchdowns compared to just one interception, while also playing his best late in games, having put up a flawless 6-0 TD/INT ratio in the fourth quarter of games thus far this year. His available targets just got a bit of boost with rookie and first round pick Mike Williams joining a well-rounded group of receiving threats consisting of Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin and Hunter Henry. Allen is the clear star of the group but will need to play with more consistency as he has caught only 53% of his targeted passes this season and hasnt scored since week one of the season.
One surprising area of concern for the Chargers has the been the play of running back Melvin Gordon, who through the first near half of the season is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry and has eclipsed the 100 yard mark in a game only once. Gordon has been able to offset his poor yardage stats with seven touchdowns (three rushing, four receiving), but LA along with Gordons fantasy owners will be hoping for an uptick in production on the ground for the remainder of the season, though that may be a lot easier said than done with two of the Chargers on the offensive line, center Matt Slauson and right tackle Joe Barksdale, out with injuries.
For the Patriots, their backfield has taken on a bit of a different dynamic with Dion Lewis siphoning the lead running back role from Mike Gillislee with Lewis getting more carries in each of the past two weeks after Gillislee led the team in their first five games. This was bound to happen with Lewis averaging 5.3 yards per carry to Gillislees 3.7 while also being a significantly better option through the air as evident by his 53 catches in 14 games through in 2015-2016. They will both still get their fair share of carries and the team will likely continue with their basic rotation of whoever the hot hand is taking the first two downs, James White on third and usually either Gillislee or Rex Burkhead for short yardage or goal line carries.
Whether it be opening holes for the backs or protecting Tom Brady, the Patriots offensive line will need to elevate their play past the mediocrity seen through this season if they want to have a chance of holding up against the Chargers dominant defensive front four. Brady has taken a pounding through their first seven games, but despite the poor protection and frequently collapsing pockets he has still managed to average over 300 yards per game while throwing for 15 touchdowns compared to only 2 interceptions. There is only so much of a beating that he can take, and if Nate Solder and the rest of the line cant find a way of correcting their issues they will putting their quarterbacks health, and in turn the teams chances of championship success, in serious danger.
On the other side of the ball, New Englands much maligned defense will look to continue their momentum gained after dominating the Falcons on their way to a 23-7 victory last Sunday. Going back to last years Super Bowl, the Patriots had scored 54 straight points versus Atlanta until a late touchdown pass to Julio Jones ended their streak and let the Falcons off the hook from even further embarrassment by avoiding the shutout. New England does have a big concern heading into the Chargers and that is the health of star linebacker Donta Hightower, who injured his shoulder in the second half last week and as of Wednesday was still unable to practice.
When it comes to against the spread success, the Patriots and Chargers are in a similar situation this week in that Los Angeles is 12-4-1 in their last 17 road games, while New England are 14-6-2 in their last 22 at home. From there, most everything points in the Patriots, as versus the number they have significantly better success in recent games (NE 10-4-1, LA 3-8-1), against the AFC (NE is 10-4, LA 2-5-1) and following a win (NE 9-3, LA 5-12).
The Chargers have done increasing well since losing to the Chiefs but they have yet to claim a win against a team with an offense even close to the level of New England, with all three teams that that they beat (Giants, Raiders and Broncos) not ranking in the top 14 of any major offensive category in the NFL while the Patriots come it at 1st in yards per game, 2nd in passing and 6th in scoring. While I do expect a competitive game on Sunday, I am picking New England to get the win and cover at home in Foxboro.
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