Chargers (12-4) at Patriots (11-5)
Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts
Danny Sheridan’s line: Patriots by 41⁄2
Chargers’ keys to victory: The Patriots’ run defense tightened up in recent weeks, but Los Angeles should test them with RB Melvin Gordon. After that, QB Philip Rivers should continue on his brilliant passing season, particularly if he has TE Hunter Henry for his season debut. The Chargers’ defense needs to disguise its coverages to fool QB Tom Brady for as long as possible. Brady has looked more human than ever while throwing 11 interceptions during the 2018 season.
Patriots’ keys to victory: New England will need to figure out how to block DEs Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. The Patriots have a capable pair of tackles, but these Chargers’ defensive linemen have challenged the league’s best. A heavy dose of RB Sony Michel could make life easier on Brady. A receiver not named Julian Edelman will also need to step up. Defensively, CB Stephon Gilmore must shut down WR Keenan Allen, even if the matchup between rookie CB J.C. Jackson and WR Mike Williams proves to be an advantage for L.A.
Matchup to watch: Chargers S Derwin James vs. Patriots QB Tom Brady: Rookie James’ abilities are years ahead of his experience level. Of course, he’s nowhere near Brady, who has almost 20 years in the NFL. Still, this will be an intriguing matchup of intellect and skill and could well determine the outcome of the game.
Who wins? Los Angeles’ defense might prove too much for Brady, and Rivers’ offense will get enough production against New England.