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Patriots – Chargers Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
October 27, 2017 at 8:52 am ET

The New England Patriots reach the halfway point of the regular season when they take on the Los Angeles Chargers at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro on Sunday afternoon.  

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, October 29 at 1:00 p.m. ET and can be seen on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Dan Fouts as the color analyst. Evan Washburn will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (5-2) beat the Atlanta Falcons 23-7 as the much-maligned defense held Atlanta scoreless for 56 minutes while the running game churned out 162 yards on the ground. Tom Brady passed for 249 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

The Chargers (3-4) shutout the Denver Broncos 21-0 for their third win in a row after dropping several close contests.They’ve climbed back into contention in the AFC West.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2016 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Chargers have a history back to the beginnings of the AFL and will meet for the 41st time in their shared history. The Chargers beat the Boston Patriots in the 1964 AFL Championship Game and the two teams met two more times in the playoffs following the 2006 and 2007 seasons. New England holds the overall lead in the series 23-15-2 including the playoffs.

The teams last met in 2014 which was a 26-10 Patriots win in San Diego. The Chargers haven’t been to New England since an early season matchup in 2011. Since opening Gillette Stadium, the Patriots are 10-1 against the Chargers at home.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Chargers Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game easily had its best game of the season last week, gashing the Falcons for 162 yards on the ground which allowed the team to control the tempo of the game and the clock.

Dion Lewis has been the workhorse the past two weeks and he figures to see the bulk of the carries again on Sunday. But this week, Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead could also see a spike in work as they look to keep the Chargers defense off balance. James White will get a carry or two mixed in as the Patriots have a true running back by committee group. James Develin provides the big presence as the lead blocker at fullback.

The Chargers were allowing over 150 yards per game on the ground this season, but they rebounded against Denver last week and held the Broncos to just 69 yards rushing in the shutout win.

However, they are still 31st in the league allowing 140 yards per game. Look for the Patriots to run right at them behind Shaq Mason on the right side this week. Controlling the tempo and keeping the pass rush of the Bolts at bay is key this week. The running game must keep them out of third and long situations for the offense to be successful.

Patriots WRs vs Chargers Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game is averaging 300 yards per game, 2nd best in the league this season, despite Tom Brady being under a lot of pressure every week. He’s been sacked 18 times this season, more than all of last year. But with Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, tight end Rob Gronkowski with James White and Lewis out of the backfield, Brady has a plethora of targets to throw to

The Chargers have a tremendous pass rush led by Melvin Ingram with 8.5 sacks, Joey Bosa, (7.5) and Chris McCain (5.0). They sacked Trevor Siemian five times last week in the whitewash of the Broncos. They have a pair of good corners in Casey Heyward and Trevor Williams. They are 10th in the NFL against the pass for just that reason.

Look for Brady to try to target the middle of the field this week, specifically with Gronkowski. As with every game, if Brady can find the time to throw, they’ll create an opening for him to exploit. The running backs in the passing game especially White has been key this year. If they are forced to remain in to block, it will be a win for the Bolts.

Next up the Chargers offense:

Chargers RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Chargers running game has been pretty anemic this season. They rank 31st in the running game averaging only 79 yards per game. Melvin Gordon, however, is the team’s workhorse and during their three-game winning streak, they’ve relied on him more and more and he’s produced. He was limited in Thursday’s practice with a foot injury, something that will have to be monitored to see if he’s going 100 percent on Sunday.

The Patriots have not been good against the run especially up the middle, although they’ve made strides the past three weeks. Alan Branch seems to be rounding back into form and has been much better inside. David Harris should see some added workload in the Base and goal line situations

Chargers WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Los Angeles

Philip Rivers has had a quietly solid season, probably because of their four-game skid to start the year. But he too has plenty of weapons to use in the passing game. Keenan Allen is healthy again and is Rivers favorite target on third down. And his secondary targets include the 6’4 Tyrell Williams and the speedy Travis Benjamin on the outside. Benjamin returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown and also caught a 42-yard touchdown pass from Rivers on Sunday. Gordon is particularly effective out of the backfield and has four TDs in the passing game. Mix in two very good tight ends with Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates and the Chargers can create their own mismatches.

The Patriots pass defense has been atrocious this season. But last week, for the first time, we saw the unit that we originally envisioned this summer. They held Matt Ryan scoreless until garbage time, however, with Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe still hurt and now facing the loss of Dont’a Hightower for the rest of the season, this will hurt their already inconsistent pass rush.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski has had a very solid season. The coverage units have been very good and they’ve been adept at pinning opponents deep. Cassius Marsh blocked a field goal attempt on Sunday, getting pressure up the middle.

The Chargers jettisoned kicker Younghoe Koo earlier this year and brought in veteran Nick Novak who has been solid. Benjamin returned a punt 65 yards for a score last week to open up the Denver game and will have to be watched closely.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one should be a good tight contest. The Chargers have a pass rush that can really affect New England’s passing game. The key from a Patriots perspective is to stay out of those second and long and third and long situations by having an effective running game. Then play action passing should be much more effective. Which New England defense will we see this week? If it is the one that played versus Atlanta, the team should be in pretty good shape, considering the Chargers and Rivers have a lot of weapons that they can use. It would be nice if the team can get Gilmore back this week as the loss of Hightower really hurts the defense.

The Chargers have the disadvantage of flying to the East Coast and playing at a 1 p.m. start time. That may come into play early in the game. Traditionally West Coast teams haven’t fared well during the early games. New England will hold serve in this one in a tough matchup that will put them into the bye week with a solid 6-2 record. Brady and Gronkowski are the keys here.  Patriots 30-21

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Chargers Rivers, Defense Carrying Team in Recent Surge

Steve Balestrieri
October 25, 2017 at 11:15 am ET

When the 2017 NFL schedule was released, the Patriots Week 8 matchup at home looked like a slam dunk win, an obvious blowout….hold the fort there.

After a 0-4 start with a couple of close losses, the San Diego, err Los Angeles Chargers are suddenly resurgent and climbed right back into the mix in the AFC West by winning their last three games. The final one, an impressive white-wash blowout 21-0 victory over Denver was an eye-opener. While the 2016 version of the Chargers lost 11 games, it should be noted that eight of those losses were by seven points or less. The snakebit Chargers lost two games this season on a last-second blocked field goal and another late miss which would have tied the game. They are always in their games.

Here are a couple of our early impressions of the Chargers before Sunday’s game.

Rivers Remains Constant, Despite the Commute: The Bolts have several things going for them, not the least of which is QB Philip Rivers. The 35-year old QB just notched the 100th regular season win of his career in the shutout win over Denver. And while he hasn’t got the press because of the team’s slow start, he’s still very productive. Rivers is fifth in passing yards (1,816), fifth in completions (156) and seventh in touchdowns (12).

The impressive thing about Rivers is that he has that ability to carry a team on his back and will them to a victory. We’ve seen it time and again with some of those tough matchups in the AFC West. He’ll hang in the pocket and do whatever is necessary to win.

Rivers’ toughness is without question, leading up to the 2007 AFC Championship Game, he tore his ACL and still played the entire game in New England against the Patriots. He gutted out the entire game and never used it as an excuse. It speaks volumes about his character, especially considering in that game, his Hall of Fame running back sitting on the end of the bench because of a hurt toe.

Rivers didn’t make the move to Los Angeles, opting to stay with his family in San Diego, he and his wife have eight children and didn’t want to uproot the family. So he makes the commute from San Diego to LA in a luxury SUV where a driver takes him to work.

Defense Has a Trio of Good Pass Rushers: The Chargers defense is ranked 8th in the NFL allowing just 18.7 points per game. Their pass defense is currently ranked fifth in the league allowing only 185.4 yards per game. And much of, but not all of their success can be attributed to their pass rush.

The Bolts have a plethora of riches in the pass rush department and have three quality pass rushers who have at least five sacks. Only two teams in the league have three players with five or more sacks. Melvin Ingram leads the way with 8.5 sacks, Joey Bosa has 7.5 and Chris McCain has five. The Chargers 23 sacks rank fourth in the league. With the talent they have, they can slide Ingram inside to an interior pass rusher position and still have two excellent edge rushers.

Their pressure has contributed to turnovers, during the present three-game winning streak, the Chargers have forced seven turnovers. LA ( I still can’t get used to saying that), has a pair of very good corners in Casey Heyward and Trevor Williams. They are very competitive, each has an interception thus far this season, while Heyward has eight passes defensed this season while Williams has five. The Chargers sacked Trevor Siemian five times on Sunday.

Allen, Gordon Leads the Way for Pass Receivers: Keenan Allen who was injured the past two years, is healthy again and is Rivers favorite target with 36 catches for 487 yards and one touchdown. Melvin Gordon, the Bolts lead running back is a terrific pass receiver with 29 catches for 228 yards and four touchdowns coming out of the backfield. Allen is the league’s most productive target on third down, with 16 receptions for first downs which is five more than the next closest player. Third down? Allen will be the primary target on most plays this week.

The Chargers have good secondary targets with the 6’4 Tyrell Williams and the speedy Travis Benjamin on the outside. Benjamin returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown and also caught a 42-yard touchdown pass from Rivers on Sunday.

Rivers still has his old reliable target in Antonio Gates, but the tight end is finally beginning to slow down and has just 14 catches on the season. But taking up his slack is the talented Hunter Henry. The big second-year tight end from Arkansas is having a very solid season with 21 catches for 301 yards and two scores. Rivers has only been sacked 10 times this season. Fifth best for a QB with at least 200 attempts.

Weak Areas Both Center on the Running Game: Despite Gordon being an excellent receiver out of the backfield, the running game for the Chargers remains one of the worst in the league. They rank 31st in yards per game with 79.5 and 28th in the NFL in yards per carry averaging only 3.5 yards per rush. Against the Broncos, Gordon failed to score on four consecutive attempts from the one-yard line. He’s at his best in space but despite having 394 yards rushing with three touchdowns, he is at his best while in space.

The Chargers other weakness has been in stopping the run. However, last week against Denver, they held the Broncos to just 69 yards rushing. But teams have been able to run on them, perhaps because of the aggressiveness of the pass rush. They are 31st in the league against the run, allowing 140.6 yards per game on the ground. With the Patriots the last two weeks finding their groove running the ball, this may be a particular point of emphasis this week. With them allowing 17 sacks thus far this season, they may opt to run more to keep Tom Brady upright and to open up play action passing.

We’ll have more later this week in our detailed matchups.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.