- Since Cam Newton’s return to the lineup in Week 6, the Patriots have operated at the fourth-slowest pace in the first three quarters of games (30.8 seconds/snap). The Chargers have been the league’s fourth-fastest offense in that span (26.8 seconds/snap).
New England heads to Los Angeles in a game that features a close spread between two enigmatic teams. The Chargers look like they have a future star on their hands in Justin Herbert, and frankly “future” might be underselling how good he’s been in the here and now. In a pass-heavy offense, Herbert leads the NFL in completions per game, and has averaged over 300 passing yards to go with a 23:7 TD-to-INT ratio.
Unfortunately, the Chargers haven’t capitalized on his incredible rookie season. Every Chargers game plays out like a 12-year-old’s bright new idea of what crazy things could happen at the end of a football game, and it never seems to be the same thing twice. Los Angeles is nothing if not entertaining, but they are also typically entertaining in terms of finding ways to lose, as they now sit 2-8 on the season despite none of their 10 games being decided by more than 10 points.
Meanwhile, the Patriots have their own curiosities. Bill Belichick coached teams tend to be able to overcome most circumstances, but this version of the Patriots has had a hit-or-miss feel about them. After several opt outs on the defensive side of the ball, New England has had its moments like when it surrendered 27 points to the Jets and had to come from behind to win late. That 30-27 victory was the Patriots’ only road win of the season (1-4), though they took both the Seahawks and Bills to the wire in their home stadiums.
One thing we can count on from New England is a run-heavy gameplan. Since their Week 5 bye and Cam Newton’s return from the reserve/COVID-19 list in Week 6, the Patriots have run as much as any team in the league (57% rush rate), operating at the league’s fourth-slowest pace in the first three quarters of games. Six of their seven games in that span have hit or gone under the 47 game total we see in their Week 13 matchup here with the Chargers.
The Chargers have been pass-happy and want to play fast, so it’s a clash of styles. Just one of the Chargers’ past eight games has stayed under 50 points, their 27-17 loss to the Bills last week. Picking a side is a difficult proposition here, as this game could legitimately come down to the wire and then it would be a battle between a Patriots team that has struggled with late-game execution, relying heavily on their ground-first attack, and a Chargers team that is a weekly circus down the stretch.
But the clashing styles means I have plenty of interest in the game total. Close games tend to elevate fourth-quarter scoring, and this one could certainly have that going for it. We know the Patriots will try to run and keep the game’s total down, but I think Herbert and the Chargers can pick their spots and put up points against this inconsistent pass defense. I like the over.
NFL Expert Picks
1u - Over 47 @ -110
NFL Free Picks
We don't have a Thursday Night Football clash this week due to the rescheduled Ravens and Steelers game that took place at the end of Week 12. Week 13 sees a number of divisional clashes with the Saints and Falcons, Colts and Texans, and Rams and Cardinals meeting on Sunday. Sunday Night Football sees the Broncos face the Chiefs in a divisional clash on primetime. On Monday we'll get two games with the Washington Football Team's trip to Pittsburgh televised ahead of the Bills vs. 49ers meeting on Monday Night Football. We get bonus football again on Tuesday with the Ravens welcoming the Cowboys to M&T Bank Stadium.
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