NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (5-6) at CHARGERS (3-8)
When: 1.25 pm Sunday
True: SoFi Stadium
TV / Radio: Statistics Netherlands (Chapter 2); 98.7 FM; 105.5 FM / 94.3 FM (Spanish); Sirius 81
Line: Choose them
Notable injury indications: Chargers: LB Denzel Perryman (questionable, back), DE Uchenna Nwosu (questionable, chest), CB Casey Hayward (questionable, groin), RB Kalen Ballage (questionable, ankle), WR Joe Reed (questionable, ribs).
Patriots: QB Cam Newton (questionable, belly), OG Shaq Mason (questionable, calf), DB Kyle Dugger (questionable, toe), CB JC Jackson (questionable, hip), K Nick Folk (questionable, back), DL Byron Cowart (questionable; back), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (questionable; groin).
What is at stake? Proud and close the season with a .500 record. The Chargers need a miracle to make it to the postseason, but they can still finish with an 8-8 record if they win their last five games of the season against the Patriots, Atlanta Falcons, Las Vegas Raiders, Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs. The Chargers can either finish strong to gain momentum for next season, or crawl to the finish line with a top-six draft pick waiting for them. Both have their pros and cons, but Chargers coach Anthony Lynn won’t let his team refuel.
Who is better? The Patriots are having a tough time this season, but they still have head coach Bill Belichick. Patriots quarterback Cam Newton is reported to be playing, despite being listed as questionable for Sunday. Newton puts out one of the best rush attacks in the NFL with Damien Harris and James White. The Patriots averaged 149.6 rushing yards per game, ranked fifth in the league. The New England physicality will likely suit the Chargers, especially if linebacker Denzel Perryman and cornerback Casey Hayward can’t play. Rookie quarterback Justin Herbert and his offense will have to score early to keep the Patriots from recording their ground game. The Patriots struggled in the game during Newton’s first season in New England.
Matchup to watch: Chargers run back Austin Ekeler against Patriots strong security Adrian Phillips. Ekeler said on Friday that he looks forward to the challenge of having his former teammate miss out in the open, considering Phillips a great tackler. Ekeler is one of the best at creating missed tackles, but he wasn’t his usual self in his return game last week from a torn hamstring that sidelined him for six games. Phillips played with the Chargers for six seasons before signing with the Patriots in the off-season. Phillips had five tackles and one interception in last week’s win against the Arizona Cardinals.
Chargers win if: Playing A + situational football, like Chargers cornerback Chris Harris Jr. suggested earlier this week. Harris fought many battles against Belichick and the Patriots during his nine seasons with the Denver Broncos. He knows that the Chargers cannot afford to make mistakes in certain situations, such as defending in the red zone or in crunch time when the game is close. Belichick is arguably the best in the NFL at exposing team errors in a game.
Fantasy sleeper: Wide receiver Mike Williams will likely see a lot of goals as Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore echoes Keenan Allen. Gilmore is one of the best at taking away the best receivers from teams. Herbert could be forced to look more towards Williams in this game, but that’s okay. Herbert is at his best when he spreads the ball and he has had great success targeting Williams this season. Williams has been struggling for the past few weeks. He is ready for a big outing on Sunday.
Prediction: The Chargers have had issues with double-digit lead retention, clock management, and situational football. Those are all strengths for a team coached by Belichick. The Patriots will take Herbert’s main weapons and control the time of possession with their ground game. Newton and the Patriots will beat the Chargers 20-17 at SoFi Stadium.