AFC Divisional Spherical
Who:
Los Angeles Chargers (12-4) at New England Patriots (11-5)
When: Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET
The place: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Mass.
TV: CBS
Odds: Patriots -4
Over/Underneath: 47.5

Story of the tape

2018 Stats Chargers Patriots
Factors Per Sport 26.8 (T-6) 27.3 (4)
Factors Allowed/Sport 20.6 (8) 20.3 (7)
Rush Yards/Sport 117.1 (15) 127.3 (5)
Cross Yards/Sport 256 (10) 266 (8)
Complete Yards/Sport 372.6 (11) 393.4 (5)
Rush Yards Allowed/Sport 105.8 (9) 112.7 (11)
Cross Yards Allowed/Sport 228 (9) 246 (22)
Complete Yards Allowed/Sport 333.7 (9) 359.1 (21)
Third-Down Offense 39.5% (16) 40.8% (13)
Third-Down Protection 39.1% (18) 38.6% (16)
Workforce Sacks 38 (T-19) 30 (T-30)
Turnover Differential +1 (T-15) +10 (5)

(Common-season rank in parentheses)

Sport-breaker

Chargers’ 4-man go rush may very well be an issue for Tom Brady

Typical knowledge tells us that the blueprint to beating Tom Brady is getting strain on him with simply 4 pass-rushers. This enabled the New York Giants, for instance, to crush the Patriots‘ desires of an ideal season in Tremendous Bowl 42. And no different group in latest historical past is as well-suited to execute such a sport plan because the 2018 Los Angeles Chargers.

Los Angeles tallied 38 sacks this 12 months through the common season, good for center of the pack. Nonetheless, the underlying numbers may give Patriots followers pause. On 11 of these sacks, the Chargers introduced 5 pass-rushers; on 27 of them, they introduced simply 4.

What makes this Chargers go rush so lethal? It begins with Melvin Ingram. Los Angeles’ versatile star aligns all around the protection. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley can put him on the within to work towards a guard, as he does right here towards the Oakland Raiders:

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Or he could be deployed on the skin, giving him a possibility to beat an offensive deal with in a one-on-one scenario:

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When the Chargers determined to deliver an additional rusher, it is usually rookie security Derwin James. Bradley likes to blitz the security from the sting or the slot, and can slant the remainder of the defensive entrance away from him:

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This blitz package deal offers James a one-on-one matchup of his personal:

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There is a silver lining for Patriots followers. As a result of the Chargers rely closely on four- and five-man strain schemes, they play a ton of zone protection within the secondary. Actually, after the Colts, the Chargers deployed probably the most zone protection this 12 months, utilizing it on 58 p.c of their performs. Brady has historically been lethal towards zone protection, and if he can discover time to throw on Sunday, he might put up some large numbers.

Largest mismatch

Patriots DL Trey Flowers vs. Chargers OT Sam Tevi

Trey Flowers is probably the most underrated defensive lineman in soccer, however don’t be stunned if he lastly begins to get the acclaim he deserves after this weekend. He ought to take full benefit of Chargers proper deal with Sam Tevi, who tends to wrestle towards high-quality opposition.

Flowers is a technically refined defensive lineman who’s equally impactful towards the run or go. As a pass-rusher, Flowers doesn’t have double-digit sack manufacturing, however he does generate numerous strain on opposing quarterbacks. Towards the run, Flowers performs with glorious pad degree and hand utilization, permitting him to stack and shed blocks with ease. He has the power to carry his floor versus double groups and the power to penetrate and make performs behind the road of scrimmage.

Tevi, alternatively, is likely one of the extra unrefined beginning tackles within the league. His footwork just isn’t crisp, making it tough for him to get better in go safety or carry out attain blocks within the run sport. His hand method is sorely missing, as his strikes lack power and velocity, making it simple for defenders to counter:

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On this play, Tevi is reverse Seahawks pass-rusher Frank Clark. When the ball is snapped, Tevi makes an attempt to sq. Clark up by instantly increasing outdoors to fulfill him.

As an alternative of executing a fast and forceful strike to disrupt Clark’s rush, Tevi tries to come back beneath his opponent’s palms to succeed in and seize onto his body. As a result of Tevi is large and sluggish together with his palms, Clark is ready to simply parry the strike by swatting Tevi’s arms down as he races into the backfield.

Issues will not get any simpler for Tevi towards Flowers, whose palms are among the many most exact within the NFL – each towards the run and the go.

Don’t be stunned if Flowers has a big-time efficiency Sunday as he has his approach with Tevi all through the sport.

Three keys to the sport

Chargers defending play-action: The Patriots lead the league in play-action yards per try (9.9), they usually run play-action on the fourth-highest quantity league-wide.

Any group will wrestle towards play-action when it’s run successfully. The Chargers have been strong if unspectacular towards it. They concede a mean of seven.6 yards per play towards play-fakes. That’s wonderful towards regular-season foes, however it’s sufficient to lose a sport fairly handily in Foxboro.

Do the Patriots unleash Gronk? It is apparent that Rob Gronkowski just isn’t the identical participant he was once. You’ll be able to virtually see the creaking of the equipment via the TV as he trundles downfield.

Nonetheless, does he have a throwback sport in him? Brady all the time seems to be to Gronkowski in large moments through the playoffs. Sunday will possible be no totally different.

Trent Brown vs. Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram: Joey Bosa and Ingram are flat-out unblockable once they’re taking part in at their highest ranges, which they’re proper now. Ingram’s tape towards Baltimore final week needs to be labeled “for mature audiences solely.” Bosa has rebound properly from his extended foot damage; his spring, burst, and agility are all again.

Poor Trent Brown must attempt to block one on almost each snap. Typically, the Chargers line Ingram and Bosa up alongside each other in an act of sheer cruelty.

Brown is an efficient participant, large and lengthy and faster than you’d suppose given his measurables. However stopping Bosa and Ingram is a problem for even the easiest left deal with within the league, and Brown isn’t near that degree simply but.

Betting motion report

Bettors eager on the Chargers are hoping Philip Rivers can break a singular development when his membership takes on the Patriots: beating Brady. Rivers is 0-7 straight up and 1-6 towards the unfold in his seven begins vs. Brady, serving to his group common simply 16.Four factors per sport.

What bettors definitely like is Los Angeles’ 9-Zero report on the highway this season, because the Chargers are garnering 56 p.c of the bets and 66 p.c of the cash on the unfold, in addition to 72 p.c of the moneyline tickets and 77 of the deal with on an alluring worth of roughly +170.

Predictions

Mark Schofield: The Patriots’ offensive line may be the unsung heroes of their season, and it boasts the expertise and expertise to guard Brady. As well as, look ahead to the climate. It may be a snowy day in Foxboro and that might decelerate this Los Angeles go rush a bit. Patriots 23, Chargers 20.

John Proudly owning: The Chargers’ poor offensive line lastly comes again to chunk them, as Brady works his magic late to get the win. Patriots 24, Chargers 17.

Oliver Connolly: I actually, actually need to decide the Chargers, however I am unable to. It cuts towards logic, however I will all the time take the Brady-Belichick combo at house in January. Patriots 27, Chargers 21.

Alex Kolodziej: Rivers lastly will get the higher of Brady because the Chargers kick off the start of the tip of the Patriots’ dynasty. Chargers 23, Patriots 20.

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