Two months ago I had today’s game in Southern California circled as a loss. The Chargers, with that big passing game, would surely be a bad matchup for the Pats shaky secondary. Add in the fact that the game would follow a bruising fight with Baltimore and it just had all the makings of being a difficult spot.
But fast forward a couple of months and today’s tiff looks like a jump ball at worst and truth be told, a fairly winnable game for New England. That is because San Diego’s air force looks shot up, so instead of this being a Top-Gun matchup between Maverick and Viper it’s more like Maverick flying against Wolfman. Furthermore, the SD case ins’t helped by the fact its special teams appear vulnerable and the Chargers have struggled against the league’s worst schedule. Yes, I know they sport the league’s best offense and defense by the numbers and teams holding such a distinction win more than ninety percent of their games. But if the Bolts can’t beat the Rams, Raiders and SeaBirds, than how are they going to beat a quality opponent?
The Chargers rebuttal is that those games were on played the road and the Bolts are a different team at home. Oh really? It turns out the Chargers resume is highlighted with a couple of lopsided home wins but those came against Jax and Zona, two teams that play without competent quarterbacks. That will not be the case today.
Moreover, with San Diego’s season now hanging in the balance, the optimistic pundit will likely argue that the Chargers will fight like a rabid dog this afternoon. I am hardly persuaded by this line of reasoning, especially since a quick search of Football Outsiders confirms that “rabid dogs” have a winning percentage of just 42 percent over the past decade. So no points are awarded for this tired and obvious argument that usually pops up when football “analysts” can’t think of anything else to say.
Now I don’t mean to suggest that today will be a walkover. A three thousand mile flight and Phil Rivers will see to that. But the contrarian in me sees this one in a pretty positive light. Yes, I am worried about the Pats getting third down stops but the Chargers haven’t been very good at protecting their QB and with its receiving corps shot up, I expect the Pats to be more aggressive and more successful this afternoon. And on offense, I am unconcerned by San Diego’s statistical prowess. Simply put, the Chargers will not be facing Cassell, Hasselbeck, Campbell, Bradford, Garrard or Anderson this afternoon. The Pats offense still hasn’t put in a solid sixty minute effort but I think fifty minutes should be enough this afternoon.
I wouldn’t put this one in the vault but I feel pretty good about today. Sure, a letdown is possible. But I like the Pats in this spot ….. 27-17.
1-2 last week and now 4-5 on the year … this week, the darts fall on ….. Washington +3, New England +3 and Pitt -3. And hey, I know it’s a West Coast team playing on the East Coast, but how can the Niners not cover a FG in Charlotte?