The New England Patriots and Los Angeles Chargers will be spending their Halloween going toe to toe at SoFi Stadium. Bill Belichick's team is coming off an impressive win over the Jets where the offense dropped 54 points and totaled 551 yards on the afternoon in what they hope will be a turning point moment in their season. Meanwhile, the Chargers enjoyed the bye in Week 7 and are looking to keep pace for first place in the AFC West after starting the season off 4-2.
New England made this trip to L.A. last season and put together a dominating 45-0 victory. Of course, given that there is a new regime headlined by first-year head coach Brandon Staley, that game doesn't totally hold much water with Los Angeles. That said, there are certainly some Chargers players who were on the roster in 2020 who will want to get revenge on Sunday. Below, you'll find our full preview for this AFC matchup.
How to watch
Keys to the game
Can Pats O-line keep Mac Jones upright?
It was a strong outing for New England's offensive line last week against the Jets and it has seemingly found a combination that works. In Week 7, the Pats rolled out Isaiah Wynn at left tackle, Ted Karras at left guard, David Andrews at center, Shaq Mason at right guard, and Michael Onwenu at right tackle. Those five allowed just five pressures on the afternoon and zero sacks (lone sack was credited on Brandon Bolden). They'll need to have another good day at the office against the Chargers, who put pressure on the opposing quarterback on 33% of dropbacks this season (fourth-highest in the NFL).
When pressured this season, Mac Jones is completing 57% of his passes on 5.5 yards per attempt to go along with four touchdowns and three interceptions. When he's not pressured, the rookie boasts a 76 completion percentage, is averaging 7.9 yards per attempt, and has five touchdowns to just three picks.
Justin Herbert vs. man coverage
Justin Herbert is one of the brightest young stars that the NFL has going right now and it will be a daunting task for Belichick and his defense. One way it could look to attack the second-year quarterback is settling in man coverage. New England has lined up in man coverage 46% of the time this season, which is the second-highest percentage in the NFL. That could come in handy against Herbert on Sunday as he's struggled against that defense. Against man coverage this season, Herbert is completing 56% of his throws for a passer rating of 84.5. He also is averaging 6.7 yards per attempt vs. man and has three touchdowns and one interception.
From a betting perspective, the Chargers opened as a 6-point favorite, but that advantage has dwindled as the week has gone on, dropping to Chargers -5. There's still some good value with taking the Patriots and the points from that gambling angle, but it's hard to see Herbert and Co. losing this game. Staley has had two weeks to prepare for this matchup and while the Patriots' offense looked strong against the Jets' defense last week, facing the Chargers is a different animal. Los Angeles ranks as the fifth-best defense against the pass, while New York sits at 29th. New England can keep this game close, however, with a strong day on the ground by Damien Harris as the Chargers are dead last in NFL in run DVOA. There's certainly upset potential here, but taking the points may be the safer way to travel if you're leaning on the Pats.
Pick: Chargers 28, Patriots 24