The Patriots are heading out west to face the Chargers, they’re looking to get back to .500 after narrowly escaping with a win last week. If New England can beat the Chargers then the playoffs are still in sight. The game last week came down to a game winning field goal by Nick Folk, who has turned into a reliable player. So what players should you be keeping an eye on this week? Let’s take a look.
Cam Newton has had an up and down season so far, and last weeks performance was one of his lowest drops. He is coming off a game in which he completed nine passes on eighteen attempts. Newton to put it nicely was not good. With only 84 passing yards, two interceptions and a passer rating of 23.6 the Patriots won despite their quarterback’s worst game as a pro.
Newton did have a great scramble on third and thirteen after Arizona’s missed field goal. He picked up fourteen yards, the first down, plus an extra fifteen yards from a hit he took near the sideline. The flag put New England in position to win, and special teams player of the week Nick Folk delivered a 50 yard game winning kick. The hit Newton took apparently shook him up a bit, as he was listed with an abdomen injury earlier this week. So keep an eye on Cam. He can’t have another game like last weekend against this Chargers team, don’t let the record fool you, they might be the greatest 3-8 team I’ve ever seen. So for Cam Newton, it’s time to put on that cape and be a factor to keep the path to the playoffs alive.
PATRIOTS GROUND GAME
Damien Harris will again be the lead back as he looks to reach the 50 yard mark, something he hasn’t done in the previous two games. He’s more than capable of being a great running back, but defenses aren’t worried about the passing game so they stack the box. The Chargers secondary has been a strength for them this year, so Harris and company should be in for a heavy workload on the ground. They’ll be facing a very poor run defense as the Chargers rank 30th allowing 4.8 yards per carry while allowing over 120 yards per game. So expect to see a lot of Harris, James White and possibly Sony Michel.
THE ROOKIE SENSATION JUSTIN HERBERT
Justin Herbert has been great since he got his chance in week 2 and continues to get better. The Patriots defense has a big challenge on their hands facing this rookie. The Chargers have the second best passing attack in football.
Herbert isn’t a typical rookie, with 23 touchdowns and over 3,000 yards, the Patriots defense will need their A-game. The Patriots secondary vs wide receiver Keenan Allen will be a matchup to monitor all game. They’ll also have Mike Williams, Hunter Henry and Austin Ekeler to deal with. So this will be a great test for New England’s defense.
Other Patriots notes: The passing game has been poor, especially without Julian Edelman other receivers need to step up. Jakobi Meyers is someone who could impact the game in a positive way, the same goes for Dameire Byrd. If Cam can get it going with both or even one of them it would be big for this struggling offense. As much as it pains me to say this, I don’t think there is another level for N’Keal Harry to get to. He’s contributed as a blocker but for a first round pick that’s simply not enough. He has been more of a liability on the field lately than a contributor. Harry seems to have hit his ceiling, but he is certainly someone to keep an eye on and hopefully he will prove me wrong.
Prediction: Patriots 24 Chargers 21
(Image courtesy of Getty Images)
–Michael Quilty is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @boston_sp0rts20