New England Patriots (5-6) at Los Angeles Chargers (3-8)
The Chargers are just 3-8, but it’s well-known that they have been competitive in most of their games, even against good teams, as they’ve only lost one game by more than one score all season, including near victories over the Chiefs, Saints, and Buccaneers. However, their offense hasn’t been all that impressive, ranking 24th in first down rate over expected at -1.29%, which is a concern because offensive play is much more consistent week-to-week than defensive play.
The Chargers rank 9th in first down rate allowed over expected at -1.55%, but aren’t guaranteed to be that good going forward, especially given that they are missing key players due to injury, including stud defensive end Melvin Ingram and top linebacker Denzel Perryman and that they traded away talented slot cornerback Desmond King at the trade deadline. They could also be without top cornerback Casey Hayward and Melvin Ingram’s replacement Uchenna Nwosu, who are both considered questionable for this game.
The Patriots are almost an opposite team from the Chargers, ranking 9th in first down rate over expected at +1.72% and 22nd in first down rate allowed over expected at +1.53%. You might not think of them as a good offense because of their passing game issues, but they have a strong offensive line and versatile running game, with both power running back Damien Harris and quarterback Cam Newton finding success on the ground. That formula won’t work against every team, but it should be effective against a team like the Chargers, especially with the Chargers missing their top linebacker.
The Patriots’ defense has been a problem this season, but defensive play is very inconsistent week-to-week and I trust Bill Belichick and company to make the right defensive adjustments as much as any coaching staff in the league. Belichick should particularly be at an advantage this week against a rookie quarterback, a situation he is 15-4 straight up in throughout his career. The Patriots are the more talented overall team and matchup well with the Chargers on both sides of the ball, so they should be favored by at least a couple points, rather than being slight underdogs. This isn’t a big bet, but there’s enough line value here for the Patriots to be worth betting and I may increase this bet if it turns out Hayward and/or Nwosu can’t play.
New England Patriots 23 Los Angeles Chargers 20 Upset Pick +105
Pick against the spread: New England +1.5