Patriots at Chargers Week 7 Preview
The Chargers on Offense
It might be time for old school, smash mouth, ground & pound football. It might be time for long, time consuming drives to keep the Patriots offense off the field. The Chargers have the horses to grind out.
When games have been close, Ryan Mathews has been able to be productive. Though he has been hobbled with a bad ankle, Mathews has averaged over five yards per carry. Week by week, his ankle is getting better. His 12 carries for 64 yards last week against the Rams was his most productive day since opening night. The Chargers appear to be ready to give him a larger work load.
The embarrassing loss to the Rams last week did have one positive. When Floyd left with an injury, quarterback Philip Rivers and receiver Patrick Crayton showed there is some chemistry between the two. The former Cowboy had six catches for 117 yards last Sunday. Rivers will absolutely target Crayton all day Sunday against the weak Patriot secondary.
Antonio Gates is an absolute warrior. If I had to put a wager on it, my money would be that number 85 gives it a go and plays at least some of the time on Sunday. He may not be fully effective, but an 70% Gates can do some damage against anybody.
The Patriots on Offense
Randy Moss may no longer be on the Patriots roster, but quarterback Tom Brady still has some toys to play with. Former Charger Wes Welker moves to the top of the receiver depth chart. When healthy, he is as productive as anybody in the league, averaging over 100 catches a season since joining the Patriots.
Deion Branch, who is in his second stint with the Patriots, made an instant impact after a trade from Seattle last week. He led New England with nine catches, 93 yards and a touchdown against the stingy Baltimore Ravens defense.
The Patriots will pretty much let anybody carry the ball. Benjarvus Green-Ellis is listed at the top of the depth chart. He took over as the starter when Fred Taylor was lost to injury. Green-Ellis leads the team with 235 yards on the ground.
Little Danny Woodhead is being called a hybrid by many in the NFL. The undrafted 5-9 running back/receiver had 63 yards rushing and 52 yards receiving last week. He has produced matchup problems similar to how Darren Sproles has in the best.
Tight end Aaron Hernandez is an emerging threat for New England. The rookie from Florida leads the team with 301 yards receiving this season. Brady has always liked to throw to tight ends and the Chargers have been susceptible to giving up big days to them. This is a match up the Patriots will surely exploit.
The Chargers on Defense
San Diego has only one chance in stopping the Patriots, they must put pressure on Brady. If the New England quarterback can stand in the pocket, he will pick the Chargers secondary apart.
Linebackers Kevin Burnett leads the team with 32 tackles and is second with 5 sacks and Shaun Phillips who leads with 6 sacks must get a piece of Brady. Burnett in particular, has been playing out of his mind. He has been all over the field, putting the hurt on anyone around him. He laid a pretty good lick on St Louis quarterback Sam Bradford last week. Burnett is hitting the opposition with bad intentions. More of the Chargers may want to take Burnett’s lead and put some fear into the opposition.
Brandon Siler will add some depth back to the linebacking group this week. He has missed the last couple of games with a foot injury. Siler made plays early this season, including a sack and interception in the game against the Seahawks.
Television announcers mentioned Luis Castillo’s name other then when introducing the starting line ups last week against St Louis. He had arguably his best game of the season. The Chargers need a more productive Castillo and give the linebackers a hand in getting into the Patriots backfield.
The secondary will for sure be tested. Antoine Cason did not have his best game against the Rams last week. He was burnt a few times, including giving up a long touchdown. Brady will be sure to test Cason throughout the game on Sunday.
The Patriots on Defense
This is the clear weakness of the 2010 Patriots. This New England defense can be had, especially through the air. They have the 29th ranked pass defense in the NFL and the 30th overall ranking defense.
New England sure wouldn’t mind seeing all the San Diego super receivers wearing sweat suits on the sidelines on Sunday. The Pats could not keep up with a fully healthy Chargers team.
Like the Chargers, the Patriots will play a lot of guys on defense. They play match ups and situations as much as anybody in the league.
2008 first round draft pick Jerod Mayo leads the Patriots with 61 tackles, while safety Patrick Chung is tied for the team lead with two interceptions and is second on the team with 47 tackles.
Nose Tackle Vince Wilfork will try to clog the middle of the line, while guys like Gerard Warren, Mike Wright and Tully Banta-Cain will be mixed in to put pressure on Rivers.
Chargers Special Teams
Veteran Kris Brown will handle the kicking duties this week and possibly the next few weeks. Prior to last week’s game, Nate Kaeding tweaked his groin, which may have played part in his missing a field goal.
Brown has been kicking in the NFL since 1999. He has spent the last eight seasons with the Houston Texans. He lost his starting job in a training camp battle with Neil Rackers. Brown has a strong, but not overly accurate leg. He made only 65% of his kicks last season, which included an unacceptable 4-of-10 from beyond 40 yards.
Mike Scifres murdered the ball last week. It appeared the Chargers decided to have him kick the ball as far as he could, if it went in the end zone, so be it. At least, the Chargers would not give up any punt returns.
Patriots Special Teams
New England has a very explosive return game. Kickoff returner Brandon Tate has already returned two kickoffs for touchdowns this season. The speedster from North Carolina returned a kick 103 yards against Miami three weeks ago.
Tate will be a difficult match up for the Chargers special teams on Sunday. Directional kicking and discipline may be the only way to contain him.
The Patriots have speed on kickoff returns and the shifty Welker handles punt returns. San Diego will want to keep the ball out of his hands.
This may be exactly what the Chargers need…be the perceived underdog. Not only perceived underdogs, but the Bolts are wounded underdogs. This is a chance for San Diego to rally around skeleton crew that takes the field Sunday and turn the season around.
I see San Diego having over 200 yards on the ground and Mathews scoring a late touchdown to scratch out a close win and stay perfect at home.