The Patriots head west this weekend for a two-game road trip to Los Angeles, where they'll face the Chargers and Rams in the span of five days. First up is their conference rival and a chance to even up their season record while keeping their faint playoff hopes alive.
Despite the Chargers' 3-8 record, they've found a quarterback in Justin Herbert to build around. They've taken some lumps this year, but Herbert has shown enormous promise, producing enough offense to keep all but two games as one-score affairs. He's thrown 23 touchdowns to just seven interceptions.
"He's impressive – very talented player, tall, sees things well, has a good arm, can certainly make all the throws," said Bill Belichick of Herbert. "He's athletic, can escape the pocket, smart.
"So, it looks like he's going be a good quarterback for a long time, a lot to work with and I know he's a smart, hard-working kid that likes football and I'm sure he will continue to get better, as he has this year throughout the course of the season."
Herbert has some potent weapons around him, including leading receiver Keenan Allen and tight end Hunter Henry, not to mention running back Austin Ekeler who is as well-rounded a player as the Patriots have faced this season. Together, they should test a Patriots defense that is coming off one of their best performances and is now looking to stay consistent.
Defensively for the Chargers, it's hard to get by Joey Bosa. The talented defensive end is a pass rushing nightmare, leading the team by a good margin with 7.5 sacks. Bosa is a problem on every snap.
"If he's not the best defensive player we've played this year, he is certainly one of the top three or four that we played," said offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels of Bosa. "This guy's got a great motor, got a great play style, he can create issues in the running game and in the passing game and we need to know where he's at on every play because he deserves our attention, he stands out that much on tape."
Bosa is part of defensive coordinator Gus Bradley's zone-heavy scheme that he brought with him from Seattle. They love to rally to the football and McDaniels is well aware of the issues that they can create.
"They play very aggressive," explained McDaniels. "They create a lot of penetration and negative situations with their front and they really make you be disciplined and patient in the passing game. You're not gonna create a ton of big plays in the passing game on this team, that's just not the way to scheme is built and the players play it.
"The 'all about the ball' philosophy carries over. They try to strip tackle, they're very aggressive around the football and like I said, if you make a mistake in the passing game, there's gonna be a lot of eyeballs on that too."
|Stats||Patriots (5-6)||Chargers (3-8)|
|Offensive Third Down||12th||11th|
|Offensive Red Zone||24th||23rd|
|Offensive Rushing DVOA||4th||28th|
|Offensive Passing DVOA||27th||7th|
|Defensive Third Down||20th||14th|
|Defensive Red Zone||16th||13th|
|Defensive Rushing DVOA||28th||31st|
|Defensive Passing DVOA||30th||17th|
|Special Teams DVOA||4th||32nd|
|Turnover Ratio||t-18th (-1)||t-18th (-1)|