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Patriots-Chargers Game Day Notebook: Roster Elevations, Game Prediction and More

Can the Patriots gain the upset victory over the Bolts on Sunday?

The New England Patriots have traveled west to the ‘City of Angels’ for a Halloween-Showdown with quarterback Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California at 4:05pm ET. The Pats are attempting to even their record at 4-4 this week, following a 54-13 victory over the New York Jets in Week Seven.

The Chargers are entering this matchup with a 4-2 record, fresh off their bye week. Last season, the Patriots traveled to Los Angeles to face the Chargers with a 5-6 record and evened their record at 6-6 behind a 45-0 victory in their first ever visit to SoFi Stadium.

Viewing/Listening:

TELEVISION:

This week's game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen via your local affiliate. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Charles Davis as the color analyst. Evan Washburn will work from the sidelines.

RADIO:

98.5 FM The Sports Hub is the flagship station for the Patriots Radio Network. Play-by-play broadcaster Bob Socci will call the action along with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak, who will provide color analysis. The game will be produced by Marc Cappello.

Patriots Roster Moves and Elevations:

The Patriots have elevated DL Daniel Ekuale to the active roster for Sunday’s matchup. Ekuale, 27, was elevated to the active roster prior to last week's game against the New York Jets and saw action as a reserve, finishing with one tackle when he sacked Jets QB Mike White on the last play of the first half. Week Eight will mark Ekuale’s final eligibility for standard elevation, unless he is signed to the team’s active roster.

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Chargers Roster Moves and Elevations:

The Chargers made a significant roster move on Saturday when they activated defensive tackle Justin Jones from injured reserve. The fourth-year defender had been sidelined since September with a calf injury. His return should be a welcome sight for the Bolts’ defense, which has had notable problems defending the run. The defense for the Chargers is in the basement of the NFL when it comes to stopping the run. They are giving up 162.5 yards per game. In the last two games, they have given up over 400 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns.

Patriot Maven Game Prediction

Essential on Offense:

While Mac Jones and the Patriots passing attack has been making strides each week, the Pats must run the ball effectively in order to find success on Sunday. The Chargers run defense has been porous, thus far in 2021. They have allowed an average of 162.5 yards per game, as well as 5.5 yards per play. While the Patriots running game has had its share of growing pains this season, the team has run the ball quite efficiently as of late. The return of Justin Jones should allow Los Angeles to tighten their front seven, making it a bit tougher to run the ball than the stars would indicate. Still, New England would be best served by utilizing the run on early downs, setting up play action for short-yardage gains. The Chargers deploy a deep secondary, which could cause problems for Jones, should he choose to test them down field. As a result, look for a significant dose of Damien Harris, with the toss-up tandem of Rhamondre Stevenson/J.J. Taylor (could this be the week we see both?) as well as Brandon Bolden in situational runs as well. It is also an effective way to keep Justin Herbert and the Chargers’ high-powered offense off the field.

Essential on Defense:

Speaking of which, keeping Herbert off-the-field is a task that is much easier said than done. The second-year Oregon product has emerged as one of the best all-around players at his position. A superficial glance at the situation might lead one to believe that the Pats have to pressure Herbert, meaning a heavy dose of their pass rush. However, the 23-year-old has proven to be adaptive to pressure, being on-target on nearly 79 percent of his throws. Should the pressure come often, Herbert is also able to find running lanes, collecting 72 yards on the ground in 2021, thus far. As a result, the Pats will likely pack the defensive backfield with several defensive backs, using as many as six in select packages. As a result, the Pats will attempt to take away Herbert’s passing lanes. While it won't be easy, New England must attempt to force the Bolts’ offense to be one-dimensional. As effective as running back Austin Ekeler can be as a dual-threat, he is certainly feeling the effects of a hip injury which could limit his productivity.

Final Analysis:

The Chargers present multiple problems for their opponents with their skill on both sides of the ball, but mostly with their versatility. Theirs is a team that can make you pay for choosing to commit to a singular strategy (i.e. shutting off the pass to force them to run, etc.) However, this is a winnable game for the Patriots. On offense, it starts with running the ball early and often. Ride the legs of Damien Harris to lengthen their drives, opening up play-action for Mac Jones to find his favorite targets (Jakobi Meyers, Hunter Henry) for notable gains, including the red zone. Defensively, the Pats should do all they can to keep Justin Herbert’s passing lanes clogged by flooding the defensive backfield. They will take their shots at the Bolts’ quarterback. However, they cannot over-commit to the pass rush, or Herbert will use his arsenal of pass catchers to make them pay for it. At the end of the day, expect the Pats to make the plays, as well as the stops, when needed. New England pulls the upset in a close one in California.

Final Score Prediction: Patriots 24, Chargers 21