The Chargers (3-8) will face their toughest test this weekend when the New England Patriots (5-6) come into SoFi Stadium. Both teams have some question marks on both sides of the football. The Patriots could just be playing mind games, but the Chargers could be without some key players.
New England is coming into the game, having won five straight games. They have been playing very good defense, and running the ball has come together as of late.
There will be some key matchups that will decide the outcome of this game:
1. Justin Herbert vs. Patriots defense.
The rookie quarterback has been phenomenal this season, but this could be his biggest test. He is facing off against Bill Belichick’s defense, which has numerous players who decided to sit out the year because of the pandemic. They are still playing at a high level. They have intercepted 12 passes this season, which is tied for fifth in the league. Last week, Belichick’s defense faced Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray and held him to 31 rushing yards and only 170 yards passing. The most impressive stat is Murray didn’t throw a touchdown for the first time this season. Belichick does his homework. Offensive coordinator Shane Steichen will have his work cut out for him. Herbert had some difficulty against the Dolphins and Bills defense. He will need to have a perfect game if he is to win his third game of the season.
2. Chargers defense vs. Patriots run game.
The Patriots run game has been extremely good this season. They have numerous players that can carry the football and make plays. Damien Harris, Sony Michel, James White, and even Cam Newton are all dangerous when running the football. This offense has combined for 17 touchdowns on the ground and is averaging 149.6 rushing yards a game. The Chargers defense is allowing the 17th most rushing yards, 120.5 per game. The Bolts will most likely be without linebacker Denzel Perryman this weekend, and he is their best run-stopping linebacker. The defense will need to step up to slow down this rushing attack. They need to force Newton to beat them with his arm instead of his legs. He has scored nine touchdowns on the ground this season.
3. Austin Ekeler vs. Patriots run defense.
In a season full of bad breaks, the Chargers got a welcomed addition last week when running back Austin Ekeler returned. He has been a huge part of the offense in the run and passing game in the past. Ekeler had 150 yards of total offense last week and will look to continue getting more comfortable. Last week, the Patriots gave up 78 yards and two touchdowns to Kenyan Drake. Their defense has given up 123.3 yards a game this season, which is 20th in the NFL. The Chargers will try to establish the run and take the pressure off their rookie quarterback. Ekeler could prove to be the key to beating Belichick on Sunday.