San Diego Chargers (1-0 SU, 0-1 ATS) vs. New England Patriots (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS), 4:15 p.m. EST, Week 2 NFL, Sunday, September 18, 2011, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass., TV: CBS
by Badger, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: SD +7/NE -7
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Two of the NFLs premiere quarterbacks will toss footballs everywhere in Gillette Stadium this Sunday when Philip Rivers leads the San Diego Chargers to the East Coast to take on reigning-MVP Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in week two action.
The Chargers won their opener over the Minnesota Vikings, 24-17, but it was so sloppy on offense that the Bolts had to do it in comeback fashion with a 17-point second half rally. San Diego did play an exceptional game on defense holding the Vikings to 187 total yards, which is good because now they face a major test against Brady and the Patriots.
What can Brady do for an encore in game two, since his performance (517 yards, 4 TD) in the Pats, 38-25, victory over the Miami Dolphins in the Monday Night Football opener was so off the charts that its halfway up the wall? With a suspect defense that did give up 488 yards to the Dolphins and Chad Henne, the Pats might need that kind of game from Brady every week in order to stay in the lead pack of the AFC playoff race.
With Bradys record-breaking night on Monday Night Football still fresh in the betting publics memory, oddsmakers out in Las Vegas opened the game with the Patriots as large 7-point favorites at home in Gillette. Theres no doubt the number may come down some once the steam on the Pats fizzles out, but after only a few hours on the board the Patriots are still considered a touchdown better than the Chargers at most online sportsbooks.
The over/under total opened at 51.5 for this potential shootout, but the total has yet to see enough action on it at the window in order for it to move in either direction.
On paper, this game looks to feature two of the more explosive offenses in all of the NFL. In fact, at first glance its hard not to envision 45 to 50 throws each for both Rivers and Brady in this game.
Rivers went 33-of-48 for 335 yards and two touchdowns in his season debut against the Vikings, but his two interceptions were costly and mistakes he cant make against Brady and the Pats. Plus, the Chargers continue to struggle to get their running game going (77 yards vs. Minn., 2.8 ypc), so letting Rivers play chuck-n-duck might be the Bolts best option to stay in it if it becomes a shootout.
Brady showed everyone on Monday Night what the Patriots offense is going to be all about this year, picking apart the Dolphins with a hurry-up scheme at the line of scrimmage that shows no mercy. With a 10.4-yard average every time he completed a pass, its easy to see why the Pats called Bradys number on 48 of their 70 offensive plays. Its also hard to figure out why the Pats wouldnt just keep doing it again week in and week out.
Defensively the Chargers looked strong against the Vikings, but lets realize that Donavan McNabb is not Brady and the Vikings only had 15 pass attempts in the opener against the Chargers. Brady and the Pats will probably reach 15 attempts by the end of the second drive.
The New England defense will also have to tighten the screws a little since they gave up 390 yards passing to Miami, and Rivers will not miss some of the throws that Henne missed in the MNF opener. The Pats also gave up too much yardage over the middle to the Dolphins tight end Anthony Fasano (82 yards), something that Rivers and his TE Antonio Gates are drooling over on film right now.
This years game will also serve as a rematch of their AFC clash last season about this same time (Sept. 24th), when Brady and the Patriots held on for a, 23-20, road victory in sunny Southern California. It sure wasnt pretty, or what youd expect either, as the Pats only mustered 179 yards of total offense in the win. Rivers threw for 325, but a pick and three fumbles kept the Chargers offense from turning it into a different story.
All told the series between these two is fairly even, with the Patriots holding a slight 4-3 edge SU since 2002 while the Chargers hold the edge at the window, 4-3 ATS in the last seven games head-to-head.
The under has cashed in for bettors in three straight games in the head-to-head, but its actually the over that has gone 4-1 in the games played in Foxborough over the years.
N.E. swept the regular season and playoff games between these two team in 2007-08, the last two games played at Gillette Stadium. The Chargers do play pretty good as a big underdog though (12-3-1 ATS in last 16 games as underdog of 3.5-points or greater), including the last time they played in Gillette Stadium in the 2008 playoffs as 14-point underdogs (lost 21-12).
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im going against the public and the conventional wisdom in this game, taking the under of 51.5. With Rivers and Brady and all of the offense in this game it almost looks like an obvious shootout. But nothing is ever that obvious in the NFL, and my gut tells me that Brady comes back down to earth this week. San Diego is in a classic West Coast-playing-on-the-East Coast spot here (i.e. Chargers playing at 10 am their time), so they may struggle too. Im taking the under of 51.5.
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