New England Patriots (3-4, 3-4 ATS) at Los Angeles Chargers (4-2, 4-2), 4:05 p.m.
Brolley’s Patriots Stats and Trends
New England is 2-5 ATS in its last seven road games, and they’re 5-1 toward unders in their last six road games.
The Patriots really emptied the playbook in their 54-13 beatdown of the Jets last week, which included 20 first downs in the first half alone.
Mac Jones topped 300+ passing yards and 18+ FP for the first time in his career, as he completed 24/36 passes for 307 yards (8.5 YAP) and two touchdowns last week. Jones is averaging 8.9 YPA with a 71.4% completion percentage in his last three games, and the Chargers are funneling passes underneath with the eight-highest completion percentage (68.7%). Los Angeles is giving up the fifth-fewest FPG (16.3) to QBs this season.
Jakobi Meyers still hasn’t cracked the end zone in his career even with the Patriots scoring 54 points last week. He’s fallen between 9.4-11.4 FP in each of his last three games. Meyers has 4+ catches in every game but he’s averaging just 9.5 YPR for the season. The Chargers concede underneath targets but they’re giving up the second-fewest catches per game (11.0) to WRs.
Hunter Henry enters his #RevengeGame in potentially his best spot of the season if Jonnu Smith (shoulder) is unable to play this week. He became the first Patriots’ TE to score touchdowns in four straight games since Rob Gronkowski did it in 2014-15, and he’s crossed 10+ FP in each of those contests. The Chargers have given up touchdowns to tight ends in four straight games, including 5/68/1 receiving to Mark Andrews the last time they played.
Kendrick Bourne has scored double-digit FP in four of his last five games, and he could be ticketed for a bigger role if Smith misses time. Bourne caught all four of his targets for 68 yards against the Jets, and he added a 25-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor. Bourne still finished behind Agholor in snap share (58% to 54%) and routes (30 to 28) in Week 7, but he has 55+ yards in four of his last five contests.
Damien Harris has 14+ carries in three straight and he’s scored in three consecutive games with four total scores in that span. Harris has also topped 100+ rushing yards in two straight weeks. The Chargers gave up a combined 26/115/3 rushing to the Geritol backfield in Baltimore the last time they were in action.
Rhamondre Stevenson found himself back in Belichick’s doghouse as a healthy scratch in Week 7 despite posting 62/2 scrimmage on eight touches the previous week. J.J. Taylor (26% snap share) found himself back in the lineup against the Jets, posting 10/26/2 scrimmage, while Brandon Bolden (28% share) finished with 6/79/1 receiving. The Chargers are giving up the third-fewest receiving yards per game (26.8) to RBs this season.
Brolley’s Chargers Stats and Trends
The Chargers, Steelers, Seahawks, and Bears are the only teams that have played over the total just once this season.
LA is 4-1 ATS in its last five games as a home favorite.
The Ravens completely baffled Justin Herbert the last time out, holding the Chargers to 3.9 yards per play and to a 25% conversion rate on both third (3 of 12) and fourth downs (1 of 4). Herbert said of the Ravens, “It was a lot of looks that we didn't see on film and stuff they constructed for us. They did a great job at disguising their looks, bringing pressure from one way and hiding from another.” The Patriots are middle of the pack in blitz rate (23.9%), and they gave up season-best performances to both Davis Mills (312/3 passing) and Dak Prescott (445/3) in Weeks 5-6.
Mike Williams played a season-low 36% of the snaps the last time out because of a knee injury that kept him out of practice leading up to Week 6. He’s finished with fewer than five FP in two of his last three games, but he’s topped 22+ FP in his other four performances this season. Corey Davis (4/47/1 receiving) and CeeDee Lamb (9/149/2) have come through against the Patriots in consecutive games.
Keenan Allen has reached double-digit FP in every game this season, but he’s yet to crack 20+ FP. He has just 211 receiving yards over his last four games after hanging 208 yards in his first two games of the year. The Patriots are giving up a middling 12.7 catches per game to WRs so far.
Jared Cook has posted 10+ FP three times and he’s fallen below six FP in his other three contests. The Patriots are giving up the second-fewest FPG (7.2) to TEs this season, but they haven’t been tested much at the position other than by Dalton Schultz (5/79 receiving). New England has given up two touchdowns to TEs this season.
Austin Ekeler, like the rest of the Chargers, had his first truly disappointing performance with just 6/7 rushing and 4/48 receiving on seven targets against the Ravens the last time out. Ekeler posted 22+ FP overall with 11+ FP in receiving production in four straight games before Week 6. The Patriots are giving up a healthy 6.6 catches and 59.4 receiving per game to RBs this season after Michael Carter (8/67 receiving) and Ty Johnson (6/65) saw a lot of action in garbage-time mode last week.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 28.6 (20th)
Plays per game: 65.9 (19th)
Pass: 63.2% (13th) | Run: 36.8% (20th)
Pace: 24.7 (1st)
Plays per game: 69.0 (12th)
Pass: 66.3% (5th) | Run: 33.7% (28th)
This might surprise you, but this is the quickest game in adjusted combined pace on the week largely because the Chargers are playing so fast. L.A. is a full second faster than the third-quickest team in pace (Miami) and nearly four seconds faster than the league-average. The Chargers are also the most pass-heavy team in neutral situations (68.5%) and fourth-most pass-heavy when leading (60%) and you had better believe they’ll want to get that bad taste of their Ravens loss out of their mouths in a hurry here. I’m expecting a very fast, very pass-heavy plan from the Chargers out of their bye. The Patriots gave up 312 yards / 3 TDs to Davis Mills in Week 5 and 445 yards / 3 TDs to Dak Prescott in Week 6 before facing the Jets last week.
On the flipside, I suspect the Patriots will want to try and run the ball against this soft Chargers run defense. Opposing teams have identified L.A. as a “run funnel” – meaning it’s far easier to run against them than pass – as the Chargers are being run on 48.5% of the time in neutral situations (second-highest rate). As a result, the Chargers front-seven has been cracked for a league-high 5.39 YPC. If New England is successful on the ground and Damien Harris continues running like his hair is on fire, this game could end up being slower and more lethargic from a scoring perspective. That’s what the sharps are on, too. A whopping 91% of the money has come on the under (49.5) here.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
Hunter Henry is returning to face the team that drafted him in the second round of the 2016 draft. It’s a #RevengeGame, so it’s the only reason to start him! It’s certainly an interesting take, but far from the reality. First of all, Henry has scored in four straight games. Second, Los Angeles is hemorrhaging 19.3 FPG to TEs this season (second-most), and 0.67 TDs/game (fourth). Third, he’s running twice as many routes as Jonnu Smith, resulting in double the air yardage both per game and per target. Finally, he’ll see plenty of coverage from Kyzir White. He ranks 40th in YPCS, 36th in FP/CS, and 30th in AY/CS.
When Justin Herbert traveled to Foxboro in Week 13 last season, a quick glance at the box score immediately attracts the eyes toward the 45-0 result. The next most noticeable entries are 0 TD passes and two INTs for Herbert. However, a simple glance at the play list informs us that the Pats built a 28-0 lead prior to Herbert tossing his first pick midway through the third quarter. The issues for Herbert began in the second quarter when he only completed six-of-15 attempts for 3.7 YPA. His first INT was simply due to losing sight of a LB on a short crosser. On the second, he overthrew Keenan Allen on a deep corner, into the waiting hands of J.C. Jackson. Neither INT raised significant red flags. I could use the pair to highlight inherent risks in targeting those routes against the specific coverages, but Herbert has likely already made those adjustments in Year 2. While I think Herbert has obviously improved since last year’s drubbing, it’s worth noting Bill Belichick employs a lot of coverage shells Herbert struggles — relative to his baseline — against.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
This is a pretty cut-and-dry game from a fantasy perspective, in my opinion. Both teams have clear targets, and one team has a guy you might be starting who has a tough matchup this week.
Our staff has been all over it.
“The Patriots are 5.5-point underdogs, so Harris has legitimate gamescript concerns, but otherwise the on-paper matchup is just about perfect. The Chargers are one the league’s biggest run funnel defenses, with teams electing to run +4.5% more than their gamescript-based expectation (2nd-most). Los Angeles also ranks worst in YPC allowed (5.29) and worst in rushing FPG allowed (21.2). And Harris, outside of his two games against the league’s toughest- (Tampa Bay) and 2nd-toughest run defenses (New Orleans), averages 17.8 DK FPG, hitting double-digit fantasy points in 5 of 5 and 100 rushing yards in 3 of 5. Add it all up, and in spite of the gamescript concerns, we like him as a high-end RB2 this week.”
Again, this isn’t a shock — teams have chosen to eat up LA on the ground, as they play a two-deep look designed to prevent big plays. At least for the Patriots’ offensive plan, that will play into the strengths of Mac Jones. But what about when they have to throw?
Meanwhile, it’s not a great draw for Jakobi Meyers. Scott again:
“Contrary to popular belief, Meyers is not actually a massive touchdown-regression candidate, ranking 11th among all WRs in negative differential (-1.6). And that’s because he’s not really seeing much work near the end zone. He ranks just 62nd among all WRs in total XTD (1.6). Though he’s seen 62 targets this season (11th-most), he has just one end zone target all year (77th). He averages only 0.22 XTD per game, which is one-third that of CeeDee Lamb’s 0.66, who is averaging only 0.1 more targets per game.
He’s a touchdown-regression candidate but not a massive one. But he is a borderline every-week starter, ranking 21st in targets per game (8.9), 28th in XFP per game (14.3), and 48th in FPG (11.4). (He’d rank 36th in FPG if he was perfectly neutral in touchdown efficiency / luck.)
So, we like Meyers, we just don’t like him a lot this week. And that’s because the Chargers have maybe the NFL’s best ever nickel cornerback (Chris Harris Jr.) manning the slot. Uncoincidentally, Los Angeles ranks best in FPG allowed to opposing slot WRs (7.7, nearly half the league-average rate), which is where Meyers runs 70% of his routes. He’s just a mid-range WR4 this week.”
The Chargers are easy, too. I think it’s fair to downgrade Justin Herbert a bit, given how he struggled with Bill Belichick’s defense last year. But you’re obviously playing the big three — Austin Ekeler, Mike Williams, and Keenan Allen… presuming they all play.
Ekeler didn’t practice on Thursday or Friday with a hip injury. If he doesn’t go, our preferred backup would be Justin Jackson, but it wouldn’t be a 1-for-1 scenario in the way that Alexander Mattison is for Dalvin Cook, for instance. Larry Rountree and Joshua Kelley would work in, as well.
#Chargers coach Brandon Staley says on RB Austin Ekeler “came up sore after practice,” on Wednesday.— Fernando Ramirez (@RealFRamirez) October 29, 2021
He added, “he has felt better. We are hopeful he can play.”
Williams had swelling in his knee prior to the Chargers’ bye, and that resulted in a season-low 36% snap share in Week 6. Williams said it’s the same knee he injured in 2019, which is concerning, but the bye was well-timed and he practiced in full this week.
WR Mike Williams said the knee issue he was dealing with in the Baltimore game was in the same knee he injured in 2019. Said he had some swelling and tightness but is feeling better coming off the bye. #Chargers— Daniel Popper (@danielrpopper) October 25, 2021
As for Allen, he gets the best matchup here in the slot, as the Pats’ primary slot defender, Jonathan Jones, is out for the season with a shoulder injury. Given Williams’ status, this could be the long sought-after Allen breakout week. (As an aside, the Patriots have about 100 players listed as questionable. Pathetic.)
“Cook has been quite a bit better than most seem to realize; a viable starter and a near-TE1 this season, ranking 11th in XFP per game (10.4) and 15th in FPG (9.4). But, he's also seen a declining workload in four straight games, with his route share falling from 78% to 74% to 67% to a season-low 62% prior to the team's Week 7 bye. At least one Chargers beat writer, hinted at an expanded role for XFL legend Donald Parham, and though it seems we’ve been trending in that direction already, a team’s biggest changes usually come following their bye week. Add to that concern an absolutely brutal matchup this week — New England has given up the fewest receptions (18) and 3rd-fewest yards (201) to opposing TEs — and Cook should be viewed as just a low-end TE2 this week.”
I’m still more likely to play Cook, but the Parham note should intrigue anyone who has been dumpster diving at TE.