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Los Angeles Chargers vs. New England Patriots Prediction, Preview, and Odds

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots begin their postseason bid to reach the Super Bowl for the third straight year Sunday when they host the Los Angeles Chargers in the AFC divisional round.

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Two things have been essential to the New England Patriots being the best NFL team over the last two decades — a bye week and home-field advantage. After having the week off, the New England Patriots hope to use home field to their advantage and reach the AFC title game for the eighth consecutive season Sunday when they face a Los Angeles Chargers team making its second cross-country trek to the East Coast in as many weeks.

NEWS AND NOTES UPDATE 10:30 am CST

There has been hardly any movement with regards to the spread. It opened with the Patriots at 4.5-point favorites, quickly flirted with four and then regained 4.5 points. It held there until Monday afternoon, when it dipped to four and has remained there since.

The over/under, however, has been more volatile throughout the week, starting at 47 and hitting 47.5 points early. It was driven down as low as 45.5 on Tuesday and carried that into Wednesday morning before reclaiming ground, first at 46 and then straight to 47.

It finally reclaimed 47.5 points Thursday and after a brief blip at 47 this morning, again is at 47.5.

The injury report was significant in the sense that Chargers tight end Hunter Henry was added to it with the expectation he will play after missing the season with a torn ACL. Also notable is running back Melvin Gordon, safety Jahleel Addae, center Mike Pouncey and tackle Sam Tevi all came off and are ready to go.

For New England, safety Devin McCourty passed the league’s concussion protocol and is available. The only person on the Patriots with any listing is defensive end Deatrich Wise, who is questionable with an ankle injury.

The betting money, surprisingly, is with the Chargers according to VegasInsider, with the visitors getting nearly 60 percent backing on the spread and almost two-thirds on the money line. The over/under has nearly a 60-40 split in favor of the over.

All eight of New England’s Super Bowl appearances with head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady have come with the Patriots (11-5) at least having a bye into the divisional round and home-field for at least one game. As the No. 2 seed this postseason, New England would host the AFC title game only if Indianapolis defeats Kansas City in the other divisional semifinal, and it carries an eight-game postseason home winning streak into this contest since its 28-13 loss to Baltimore in the 2013 AFC championship game.

This will be the third time Brady will face Chargers counterpart Philip Rivers in the postseason, having emerged victorious in the divisional round in San Diego in the 2007 playoffs and again in the conference title game at home the following year.

Rivers, though, was far from being at his physical best in that second contest, gamely trying to battle through a torn ACL. His standout running back LaDainian Tomlinson was also severely hampered by injury as the Chargers were within 14-12 in the fourth quarter before eventually losing 21-12.

Rivers, in fact, has never beaten Brady in seven head-to-head matchups, including the postseason. His only win in eight career matchups against the Patriots came in 2008 after Brady had torn his ACL in the opening week of that season.

A Quick Review of the Season to Date

Los Angeles Chargers Review

Los Angeles (13-4) is coming off its first playoff win in five years after holding off Baltimore 23-17 on the road in the wild-card round Sunday. The Chargers got just enough offense from Rivers and running back Melvin Gordon III, getting one touchdown and four field goals by Michael Badgley.

But it was the defense that delivered in grand style, limiting Baltimore to three first downs over the first three quarters and frustrating rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson until his late fourth-quarter comeback fell short. The Chargers recorded a season-best seven sacks and forced three turnovers, with the final sack by Uchenna Nwosu resulting in a fumble that Melvin Ingram III recovered.

The win restored some of the confidence in pundits who had considered the Chargers arguably the most complete team in the conference and possibly the league. Dating back to its 21-13 loss at New England in Week 8 of last season, Los Angeles has won 19 of its last 25 games with Sunday’s victory over Baltimore.

Despite being held under 300 yards for the fourth time in five games, the Chargers are 4-1 during that stretch. The defense has bailed out the offense to a degree, matching the eight giveaways with eight takeaways in that span.

New England Patriots Review

The Patriots maintained their status quo in the AFC East, winning their 10th consecutive division title and 15th in the last 16 seasons. New England ran the table at home, highlighted by its wild 43-40 victory over Kansas City in Week 6, and Belichick’s team also recorded home wins over Houston to open the season and Indianapolis in Week 5.

Brady had another phenomenal season, throwing for 4,355 yards and 29 touchdowns as he topped 70,000 regular-season yards for his career. He also joined Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Brett Favre as the only quarterbacks with 500 touchdown passes this season and finished the season three behind Brees for second with 517.

What made the Patriots’ passing game so interesting this year was the rotating cast of characters. No one had more yards than Julian Edelman (850), and he missed the first four games of the season for violating the league’s policy on PEDs. Tight end Rob Gronkowski had another season of battling injuries, missing three contests while finishing with 47 receptions for 682 yards.

For a while, the Patriots had a legitimate deep threat in Josh Gordon, who was acquired in September from the Cleveland Browns. Gordon had a pair of 100-yard games and totaled 40 catches for 720 yards and three touchdowns — all covering 24 or more yards.

Gordon, though, took leave from the team before New England’s Week 16 game against Buffalo to concentrate on personal issues, only for it to be reported almost immediately thereafter he violated the league’s substance policy and was suspended.

The Patriots, though, had one of the league’s better run games this season with first-round pick and rookie running back Sony Michel, who had 931 yards and would have cleared 1,000 with ease had he not missed three games with a sprained knee. New England still has utility back James White, who contributed 425 rushing yards and had team highs of 87 receptions and seven receiving TDs to go with 751 yards.

Los Angeles Chargers Offense vs. New England Patriots Defense

Running the Ball: Who Has the Edge?

Los Angeles Chargers Rushing Offense

The Chargers did not have a run of longer than 14 yards against Baltimore, gained only three first downs on the ground, and averaged 2.7 yards on their 33 carries. In fact, Rivers’ nine-yard scramble on 3rd-and-8 that set up Badgley’s final field goal was their second-longest run.

But the numbers did not matter because the pounding Gordon and Austin Ekeler took and administered in their 28 combined carries helped Los Angeles hold the ball for nearly 34 minutes, a number the Chargers will likely have to match or possibly better to limit the opportunities Brady and the Patriots offense get.

“I’ve got the postseason to show people that I’m still one of the top guys,” Gordon told the Chargers’ official website, perhaps fresher than originally thought after missing three games late due to a knee injury. “It’ll give me something to work for to next season, and this postseason, to go out there and just show people that I’m one of the best and our team is one of the best teams around.”

Gordon is at his best when he can get to the edge — he averaged better than six yards per carry on 93 such runs, 19 of which resulted in gains of 10 or more yards. With Los Angeles using primarily a three wide-receiver set that the Patriots are expected to counter with a nickle package, there will be opportunities to test New England’s team defense across the width of the field.

New England Patriots Rushing Defense

There have been times this season the Patriots have looked inept trying to stop the run. They were seventh-worst in the league in allowing 61 runs of 10 or more yards — the average amount allowed by the 12 playoff teams was 41.

New England did not win in either game it allowed a 100-yard rusher, and those two players are not household names except in their own houses (Lions RB Kerryon Johnson and Steelers RB Jaylen Samuels — both rookies). After allowing 347 yards on the ground in the losses to Pittsburgh and Miami, New England did tighten up considerably by holding Buffalo and the New York Jets to a combined 176 in the final two games.

The one player who helped reverse some of those fortunes was defensive tackle Danny Shelton, who can take up a lot of space in the middle of the line at 345 pounds.

“He does a great job taking on double teams, redirecting (the run). He can set the edge through the A-Gap,” Deatrich Wise told the Sun Chronicle about Shelton, who had three tackles in those two games as New England allowed 4.29 yards per carry after giving up 7.54 per rush in the losses to Pittsburgh and Miami.

“There’s some things that probably don’t stick out on stat sheet,” Trey Flowers added, “but you see them.”

If Shelton is on his game, it will limit what Los Angeles is able to do on the ground in the middle, where it prefers to run Ekeler over Gordon. But both runners are good at following their blockers to the right behind tackle Sam Tevi and tight end Virgil Green. Ekeler specificially is has averaged 8.8 yards on 19 rushes outside the right tackle, and Patriots left cornerback J.C. Jackson must provide run support to limit those plays.

Who Has the Edge?

The Chargers did what they needed to against the Ravens, but they can once more use their whole running playbook against the Patriots. Since they run most of their offensive out of a similar look of three wide receivers and one tight end, it is an offensive version of what the Patriots do defensively in the sense of bringing a base scheme that breaks off into something specific late in the snap count.

If Los Angeles can find early success turning the corner and establishing the edge in the ground game, it could be a blueprint for ball control and a potential victory.

Advantage: Los Angeles Chargers

Aerial Assault: Who Has the Upper Hand?

Los Angeles Chargers Passing Offense

Look beyond the paltry 5.00 yards per attempt Rivers had last week in Baltimore while completing 22 of 32 passes for 160 yards. The game was a masterclass in subtlety and a veteran’s learned knowledge of taking what a defense gives to be successful.

This game will be different. After finishing with only four catches for 37 yards, the Chargers must get Keenan Allen involved not only early, but vertically. It will help the Patriots do not aggressively blitz on nearly every down, but this is matchup is still a formidable challenge for Allen — who had 97 catches for 1,196 yards and six TDs — as he will be seeing a lot of Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore.

The other potentially huge difference from last week is the expectation tight end Hunter Henry will play in this game after missing all season with a torn ACL. Henry caught 45 passes for 579 yards in 2017 and would have been a focal point of the offense had he not gotten hurt.

Thirty-eight year-old war horse Antonio Gates rolled back a few years on his body clock last weekend with four catches for 35 yards on as many balls thrown his way. Having Gates and Hunter available creates plenty of options out of the traditional one-back set but also adds more with two tight-end formations considering the Chargers could use either Henry or Gates with run-blocking tight end Green or use them both together.

“You look last week, he’s obviously still contributing,” Rivers told the team’s official website about Gates. “He’s been an awesome teammate in the locker room and on the field. So, it is exciting. (When) we found out he was coming back (again this season, the playoffs) was one of the things we talked about. We have a chance. We’ve got one last shot at it, and here we are.”

The last part of Los Angeles’ passing game is how both Gordon and Ekeler are valued options out of the backfield. The pair combined for 89 catches for 894 yards, but what stood out is both players averaged more than 10 yards after the catch. Gordon ranked 12th in the NFL with 537 yards after the catch while Ekeler was 31st with 408. They were two of just five running backs in the top 50 in that category averaging more than 10 yards after the catch.

New England Patriots Passing Defense

Belichick has made his bones and won his Super Bowls by taking away the best offensive option an opponent has. This week, he operates out of a position of strength in having Gilmore line up opposite Allen.

Gilmore allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete just 38 of 88 passes thrown his way for 440 yards and five TDs while breaking up 20 passes. The 43.2 completion percentage was the lowest among all defensive players who were targeted at least 50 times this season.

“He’s improved if you ask me,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said on a conference call, having coached Gilmore while the two were with the Buffalo Bills. “I thought last year, his first year there, he was kind of feeling his way through with a different organization.

“This year, watching the tape, he looks like a completely different man. He looks lighter to me. He’s quicker on his feet. His coverage is tighter. He’s physical. He’s a top corner in this league.”

Providing secondary support at the opposite corner is Jackson, a rookie who came on late and also did a strong job locking up receivers, allowing 21 catches on 47 passes thrown his way for 247 yards while breaking up six. With that strong individual pass coverage out wide, that turns New England’s attention to limiting the damage Ekeler and Gordon can do out of the backfield.

“We’ve got to tackle the guy with the ball. Second guy in, you usually go for the strip and things like that. First and foremost, we’ve got to make the tackle especially against these guys,” safety Devin McCourty said at Thursday’s news conference. “Where [Melvin] Gordon and [Austin] Ekeler both are one and two in the league for yards-after-catch. We’re not talking about on their team; like, in the whole league from the running back position.

“Across the board – Mike Williams, Tyrell Williams are bigger guys, like you said, that can run. Keenan Allen is obviously an incredible talent out there so we’ve got to do a good job of tackling them because even when we’re in good shape and they catch the ball in front of us, the hardest thing is tackling them.”

Who Has the Edge?

The Patriots have the individual players in coverage that can limit what the Chargers do vertically. The question is whether the Patriots can mount some sort of pass rush that prevents Rivers from using four and five seconds and then checking down to Gordon or Ekeler in space and then watching them take off upfield. If they meet their average of 10 yards after the catch, the Chargers are going to have a lot of first downs and would be moving the ball at will.

Don’t be surprised to see both safeties Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung closer to the line of scrimmage, which in turn will create a cat-and-mouse game of whether Rivers will test Gilmore and Jackson deep in potential single coverage versus Allen and Mike Williams or by using play action.

Advantage: Los Angeles Chargers

New England Patriots Offense vs. Los Angeles Chargers Defense

Who Has the Edge in the Ground Game?

New England Patriots Rushing Offense

The 31st overall pick in the draft, Michel quickly and quietly assimilated into the Patriots offense. His 931 rushing yards ranked fifth among rookies in Patriots history, but perhaps more important — at least to Belichick — was one lost fumble in 209 carries.

His partner in the backfield, White, offered nothing but praise for his rookie teammate after a productive first season in the league.

“It’s kind of all aspects. You know, coming in here from Day 1, you know, you’re kind of clueless, and him, you know, doesn’t really talk too much, kind of reminds me of myself, just putting his head down and working, taking the coaching,” White told NESN. “Rookie year can be tough, it can be long and he’s just put in the work each and every day, keeps getting better and better each week.

“Having him on our team has been a big boost for us this year, getting the running game going — the offensive line, receivers, tight ends. It’s been a big boost to have him.”

Michel has been a better runner going to the left than his right, racking up 73.4 percent of his yards going from the middle and left on 67.4 percent of his 209 carries. All but four of his 25 rushes of 10 or more yards came in that direction.

Given how the Chargers swarmed to the ball last weekend in Baltimore, it would not be surprising to see the Patriots try at least one jet sweep with Edelman. The wide receiver has gotten 11 or more yards on five of the last six times he was called on to run the ball and had at least one run of 17 yards in the last three games he took a handoff.

Los Angeles Chargers Rushing Defense

The Chargers threadbare linebacking corps created a fly-by-night change in plan in which they operated primarily out of nickel and dime packages against the Ravens. The plan worked to a degree because Lamar Jackson is still a work in progress throwing the ball as a rookie quarterback, but also because Melvin Ingram was seemingly everywhere in the wild-card win.

“(They’re) very well-coached,” Belichick said of the Chargers front seven. “Fundamentally sound. Good technique team. Really forces you to execute well against them.… (defensive coordinator Gus) Bradley runs the Seattle system and that’s a very sound and proven system of defense. That’s the core of it.”

One reason the Chargers were able to use nickel and dime packages with success versus Baltimore was the versatility of Adrian Phillips. Essentially a third safety on the field playing middle linebacker along with standout rookie Derwin James, Phillips sees all and knows all.

“A.P.’s a genius, like literally,” safety Rayshawn Jenkins told The Athletic. “Literally a genius. He’s a coach on the field. He’s crazy.”

All that speed at the back allows them to fill in around run-stoppers Damion Square and Brendan Mebane at the point of attack, something Patriots center David Andrews astutely noted.

“When you’ve got guys that can be that disruptive up front – and t’s not just two guys, like you said. You’ve got Mebane, you’ve got [Darius] Philon, you’ve got [Damion] Square, [Isaac] Rochell – I mean, there’s just so many of them. So, whenever you’ve got these guys that can be that disruptive, that really helps out your defense.”

Who Has the Edge?

The Patriots will be more of a traditional run-based offense compared to what the Ravens presented last week. Los Angeles has allowed 90 or fewer rushing yards in five of its last seven games after last weekend’s win and have given up 3.83 yards per carry in that span. The Chargers have also had as many tackles for losses as double-digit runs allowed (15) in that stretch.

Michel and White are good enough where they are going to be able to find some yards, but they are going to earn them against what is a rather unique scheme presented by Bradley and Los Angeles.

Advantage: Push

Who Has the Upper Hand in the Passing Attack?

New England Patriots Passing Offense

About the only thing Brady does not do anymore is throw the deep ball. This season, he was 14 for 46 for 490 yards with five TDs and two interceptions on balls thrown more than 21 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

Some of those numbers simply show the limitations of what a 41-year-old quarterback can do in the NFL. Some of it, though, is simply having better options everywhere on the field coupled with the ability to still do this:

The loss of Gordon puts a crimp on the Patriots pass offense because at the very least, defenses had to at least entertain and respect the idea Brady could hook up with him on a deep ball. Now, the Patriots have gone back to their short to mid-range passing game in which Gronkowski running the seam route qualifies as a majority of the deep threat routes while Chris Hogan can improvise as the downfield receiver.

For all the talk about how much Gronkowski has been slowed by injuries in recent years, “Playoff Gronk” is still someone to be feared as he enters the postseason happy and excited to build on his career playoff numbers of 68 catches for 972 yards and 12 TDs in 13 games.

“The playoffs are always a different feeling no matter what, every single time we make it,” he said. “Just the excitement level definitely turns up another notch, but you’ve got to stay in control. It’s definitely another football game.

“You’ve got to go out there, you’ve got to play. You can’t be too emotional, too unemotional, whatever. It’s another game, for sure. You’ve got to keep preparing how you’ve got to prepare. It’s a new season so it’s going to be exciting for sure.”

Los Angeles Chargers Passing Defense

Where Gronkowski will try to establish himself running those seam routes is where James will try to be as the rookie safety looks to have another standout performance in a season full of them.

Opposing quarterbacks were 33 for 54 with a pair of touchdowns throwing in coverage against James, but would stood out was those catches only totaled 273 yards. He also broke up 13 passes, was named Pro Football Focus defensive rookie of the year and earned the plaudits of Belicheck, who called James “as good as anybody we’ve seen all year.”

But what could make or break this game for the Chargers is their pass rush. On the heels of their seven-sack game against Baltimore, New England is a formidable pass-blocking unit that conceded just 21 sacks — the third-fewest mark in the NFL. Getting to Brady has been an oft-stated but rarely-accomplished feat, something Ingram and Bosa must do to give the Chargers a chance.

Who Has the Edge?

The way for Brady to neutralize the Chargers pass rush from the edges is to rely on quick-hitting slant passes to Edelman and also utilize passing lanes to lessen the clutter around the receivers. Los Angeles may not blitz early to see what kind of success it can have with Bosa and Ingram on the edge — that will also allow someone to trail White coming out of the backfield on dump-offs.

You’re not going to bottle up Brady, he’s a Hall of Fame quarterback and he has a Hall of Fame tight end in Gronkowski. But this is also a game where the Chargers have the potential to bend and not break against New England’s offense and force the Patriots on long drives.

Advantage: New England Patriots

Special Teams, Coaching, & Intangibles

Special Teams

Los Angeles Chargers

Badgley proved there is sufficient swag behind the “Money Badger” nickname he has acquired, drilling four field goals ranging from 21 to 53 yards in the first half while getting his lone attempt in the final two quarters blocked.

He did not register a touchback on any of his six kickoffs, but the Chargers limited the Ravens to 23.3 yards on their returns. None of those runbacks were longer than 24 yards.

Donnie Jones did not have the greatest of games last weekend, averaging just 35.4 yards on his five punts while netting 31.4 per boot. He did not have any finish inside the 20 against one touchback.

Desmond King, however, made a huge impact in the return game. He ran a punt back for 33 yards in the first half and took the second-half kickoff 72 yards. Both times Los Angeles was in plus-territory and the results were a field goal and the field goal that was blocked.

New England Patriots

The Patriots have a reliable veteran kicker in Stephen Gostkowski, who reached at least 130 points for the seventh time in eight seasons. He made all but one of his 50 extra points and was 27 of 32 on field goals.

If there is a concern, it is Gostkowski went 6 of 11 on field goals of 40 yards or longer, including 2 of 5 beyond 50. He did bounce back from a subpar 2017 to register touchbacks on 53.8 percent of his kickoffs after doing so just 40.8 percent of the time last season.

Ryan Allen handles punting duties, and he put 21 of his 64 boots inside the opposing 20 against five touchbacks while averaging 45.1 yards. There were times he outkicked his coverage as opponents averaged 10.2 yards on 25 returns.

Cordarrelle Patterson is a bonafide threat to break a kickoff return to the house, having averaged 28.8 yards on 23 returns while bringing one back for a touchdown. Edelman has been a solid punt returner, averaging 7.7 yards on 20 returns with 11 fair catches.

Who Has the Edge?

The Chargers have a distinct advantage in King handling return duties, and the Patriots are acutely aware of his prowess and potential. Proving that no detail is too small to be ignored, Belichick offered his notes during a national teleconference.

“Well, King’s done a good job for them as you mentioned. So has [Travis] Benjamin – he’s definitely there if they need him too. So, they have good returners. They have a good return scheme. They do a good job of getting those guys started. Their corners do a nice job of holding up on the vice. They have some basic kickoff returns that really attack you in all three places – to the boundaries, to the middle and then to the field.”

The kickers are close to a wash, but the Patriots get a slight edge because Gostkowski has been through so many playoff games while Badgley — though he did go 4 for 4 — may be rewatching the block in his head ahead of this game.

Advantage: Push

Coaching

Los Angeles Chargers

Anthony Lynn has quietly been one of the best coaches in the NFL this year. He has kept the Chargers on an even keel all season, worked in a standout rookie in James and been able to ride a pair of aging veterans in Rivers and Gates to two wins from the Super Bowl. A lesser team also would not be trying to incorporate Henry into the offense after not playing all season. The fact the Chargers are confident he can make an impact this week speaks volumes about the culture of the team.

New England Patriots

Come on, it’s Belichick. Darth Hoodie. Captain Grumpy. Whatever nickname you want to assign him, just do it out of respect because there are very few times you are going to outcoach him in a single game. His game planning before a contest is extraordinary, his adjustments on the fly masterful.

No one has yet to rival his ability to take away an opponent’s best offensive option in a game and perhaps no one will. He is still the master, and the expectation is he will be on the top of his game with a wrinkle or two just in case.

Who Has the Edge?

The edge forever will go to the Patriots until Belichick hangs up the hoodie and headset, but Lynn also deserves plenty of praise for how this Chargers team does a very good job playing within itself and rarely beating itself.

Advantage: New England Patriots

Intangibles

Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers have a pair of obvious rallying points in Rivers and Gates. A third one emerged Wendesday when defensive lineman Brandon Mebane revealed his daughter Makenna, born prematurely, passed away Jan. 3 due to trisomy 13.

Mebane had missed time during the season to help take care of the child, the third in his family.

“We’re doing pretty good,” he said of his family on Wednesday. “Just trying to take one day at a time. Still thankful (for having her in our life). Thank God every day. Still pray. We’re just taking it just one day at a time.

“No matter where I am, I still think about her,” he said. “I’m just happy I’m still able to play this game, so (I’m doing) pretty good.”

New England Patriots

The Patriots are not a team that dwells on things, they live for the now in the playoffs. Brady chasing a sixth ring? Don’t want to talk about it. Belichick’s legacy? Not concerned with it. Gronkowski possibly retiring at season’s end? Whatever.

It’s been “onto Los Angeles” the moment the final gun went off in Baltimore last weekend, and the expectation it will be business as usual in Foxborough.

Who Has the Edge?

Much is being made of Rivers getting another crack at Brady a decade later and with two healthy, yet creaky due to old age, knees. For his part, Rivers is having the time of his life, and that infectious goofiness that is part of his persona is part of what makes this team tick. The tragic situation surrounding Mebane sobers that to a degree, but this is a Chargers team in a good spot and frame of mind.

Advantage: Los Angeles Chargers

Final Outlook – Time to place those bets!

Of the choice between playing the over/under or playing the spread, the better option is taking the under. This game has the feel where either the winner might not reach 20 points or a blowout in which the loser won’t reach 10.

Both teams have the defensive capabilities to neutralize the other’s best offensive weapon in the passing game. With the Patriots, Gilmore can stifle Allen, and with the Chargers, James can slow down Gronkowski. That puts a premium on the running game, and the Chargers have a slight edge here in Gordon and Ekeler.

White’s pass-catching abilities mirror what Los Angeles can do out of the backfield, but Michel playing his first postseason game is a definite X-factor.

Another is the Chargers’ pass rush. If Bosa and Ingram are getting home without blitz help, it will be a challenging day for Brady, who gets agitated when he cant’ step up into the pocket and rifle those short t0 medium passes.

The weather does not appear to be factor, nor does the Chargers making their second trip to the East Coast in as many weeks for an early kickoff. Again, pay attention to the numbers since there has been movement in both, and in the case of the over/under, enough to make the under a more confident play.

This should be a close game, with one that finally has a happy ending for Rivers against Brady as the Chargers cover straight up by pulling off the upset.

Los Angeles Chargers 24, New England Patriots 21
Updated: please continue below for details and new prediction.

Updated on Jan 13 at 10:45am EST

Nothing has changed all that much to stray from the belief the Chargers can pull off this upset. Will they is the obvious question. It feels like Henry, wonderful story it may be, is being a bit overplayed in terms of his potential impact. The expectation is Lynn will judiciously use him as opposed to simply running him out there as if he never left.

It will simply be cold with little wind at Foxborough, which means the weather should not be all that much of a factor, even for a team from the West Coast.

If there is one prop to bet, at least in line with taking the Chargers, is for the Patriots to finish under 25.5 points. An additional smart prop play is over 2.5 catches for Austin Ekeler given how the Patriots have a pair of solid cornerbacks in Gilmore and Jackson to limit Allen and Mike Williams’ touches. Additionally, the Chargers use the dump-off as a normal part of their offense, which means Gordon and Ekeler should be involved.

Los Angeles Chargers 24, New England Patriots 21

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Chris Altruda (@AlTruda73)

A 1994 graduate of Marquette University when they were known as the Warriors and Brooklyn native, Chris Altruda is a freelance sportswriter based in Chicago. He has worked at three major U.S. wire services and also has prior experience in sports handicapping and daily fantasy roster building. Now that the Cubs have won a World Series, he holds out hope the Jets will win a Super Bowl before he dies. Can be followed on Twitter at @AlTruda73.

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#787 Baylor 135
#788 Syracuse -2
9:57pm
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#889 Cal State Bakersfield 137
#890 Cal State Fullerton -6.5
10:00pm
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MLB
#903 Seattle Mariners 8.5
#904 Oakland Athletics -125
5:35am
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NHL
#39 Detroit 5.5
#40 St. Louis -330
8:08pm
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#43 Philadelphia 7
#44 Chicago -125
8:38pm
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#45 Ottawa 6.5
#46 Calgary -400
9:08pm
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#47 Columbus -135
#48 Edmonton 6
9:08pm
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#49 Winnipeg
#50 Vegas
10:08pm
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Friday, Mar 22
NCAAB
#805 Iowa 139
#806 Cincinnati -3.5
12:15pm
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#803 Oklahoma 142
#804 Ole Miss -1
12:40pm
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#819 Northern Kentucky
#820 Texas Tech
1:30pm
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#827 Cal Irvine 118
#828 Kansas State -4.5
2:00pm
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#807 Colgate
#808 Tennessee
2:45pm
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#801 Gardner-Webb
#802 Virginia
3:10pm
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#817 Arizona State
#818 Buffalo
4:00pm
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#825 Oregon 116
#826 Wisconsin -1.5
4:30pm
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#811 Washington 134
#812 Utah State -3
6:50pm
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#797 North Dakota State
#798 Duke
7:10pm
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#815 Georgia State 142
#816 Houston -12.5
7:20pm
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#821 Liberty 135
#822 Mississippi St -6.5
7:27pm
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#809 Iona
#810 North Carolina (UNC)
9:20pm
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#799 UCF -1
#800 VCU 124.5
9:40pm
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#813 Ohio State 140
#814 Iowa State -5.5
9:50pm
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#823 St. Louis 126
#824 Virginia Tech -10.5
9:57pm
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Saturday, Mar 23
NCAAB
#857 FIU 146
#858 Texas State -8
7:00pm
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