Our third game sees the AFC #2 seed Patriots play host to the #4 seed Chargers, in what many are predicting to be the game of the round. This definitely appears to be a matchup between two strong teams, with the Patriots 8-0 at home this season and the Chargers 7-1 on the road. It is also a matchup between two Hall of Fame Quarterbacks, as Brady and Rivers again face off in the playoffs. Let’s look at where the value lies in Foxboro.
Where to Watch: ESPN, 7 Mate, or NFL Game Pass Monday 5 am
New England Patriots
The Pats enter this one off yet another home bye after handily dispatching of the Jets last time out. Tom Brady had one of his better games of the season, completing 24/33 passes for 250 yards and 4 touchdowns. The running game was also working, going for 131 yards on 30 carries. The recent release of Josh Gordon and the poor play of Rob Gronkowski this season have the Pats somewhat devoid of talent. That said, they are still a very strong 8-0 at home this season and you know Brady will be up for this one.
The game against the Jets was also one of New England’s best defensive performances of the season. They held the Jets to just 3 points, allowing only 135 passing yards in the process. That marks 5 of their last 6 games where New England have held their opponent to 17 points or less. With players like Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, and Kyle Van Noy, this is definitely a unit with some talent. They’ll need to be at their best to contain a very solid Chargers offence this week.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers enter this one after a gritty revenge win over the Ravens in the Wildcard round last weekend. This was despite a relatively poor performance from their usually dynamic offence. Phillip Rivers threw for just 160 yards at 5 yards per attempt, whilst star Running Back Melvin Gordon had only 40 yards on his 17 carries. With an excellent performance from their defence, they were able to just play solid complementary football. Against a rested Pats team, they’ll need to be at their best this week.
There aren’t enough superlatives to describe how strong the Chargers defence was last week. They did an excellent job containing Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, who had under 20 passing yards through 2.5 quarters. A pass rush led by Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa was excellent, managing 7 sacks for 55 yards on Jackson. They also did a phenomenal job halting the Ravens dynamic rushing attack, allowing just 3.9 yards per carry all afternoon. Whilst the Patriots offence is a step up from Baltimore, this Chargers defence is definitely one of the best in the NFL.
The fact that almost everyone is on the Chargers this week makes me somewhat hesitant, but I see strong value at this number. Despite enjoying an 8-0 home record, the only Patriots home win that appears impressive was the 3-point win over Kansas City. The Chargers, on the other hand, have four excellent road wins this season, beating Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and Baltimore. This is a battle-tested team with strong talent on both sides of the ball. I expect their surging defence to contain Brady and Co in a competitive affair here. Getting 4.5 in this one, I have to take the Chargers.
This is another game where the weather could play a factor. Current forecasts are for 25 degrees Fahrenheit here as well as potential rain. The New England offence hasn’t been the same this season and I think they’ll struggle against this very strong Chargers defence. Los Angeles weren’t all that great offensively last week and they’ll also face another tough test going into Foxboro here. It’s typically best practice to parlay an underdog bet with betting the total under and I think that’s where the value lies here again.
First Touchdown Scorer Analysis
On the Patriots side, it’s tough to overlook dual-threat RB James White to score first. Lead Back Sony Michel and Tight End Rob Gronkowski also loom as potential threats. On the Chargers side, both Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen will likely be the first port of call in the red zone. Veteran Tight End Antonio Gates also looms as a potential outside option.
Score Prediction: New England Patriots 23-20 Los Angeles Chargers