Past Expert Picks
The Pats' defense has been abysmal on the road. They're 1-4 SU and ATS on the road, giving up an average of 28.4 points. Look for Justin Herbert (23 TDs, 7 INTs), Austin Ekeler and Keenan Allen to shine as the Chargers improve to 3-3 at home.
In seasons past, the Patriots' defense rose to the occasion in cold-weather months under Tom Brady. Even with a depleted roster, the unit is turning the corner once again. The Chargers have found ways to lose late in games all season. Take the Patriots, who are getting value based on a 1-4 ATS road record.
The Patriots offense wants to run the ball, ranking third in rush attempts and fourth in rush DVOA. And that's good news in this matchup, as the Chargers rank 31st in rush DVOA on defense. The New England defense typically owns rookie quarterbacks, and even though Justin Herbert isn't playing like a rookie, Bill Belichick's stop unit has shown up in two of their last three games after struggling earlier in the year. If this game is close, as the line indicates, don't you trust Belichick to make the right calls to win the game? And don't you expect the opposite from Anthony Lynn at this point? Let's play into that coaching mismatch and take the Patriots as a pick 'em.
The return of Austin Ekeler will continue to help the Chargers, but the wrong team is favored in this game. My simulations make the Patriots -1.6 points better in a 2020 "road" game against the rookie QB. Justin Herbert is a solid player, but the Patriots have a massive coaching edge in this one. Take the points.
These teams are similar in many ways when you look at the numbers, but this matchup tilts toward New England in my mind. The biggest reason for this is that the Chargers defense ranks 31st in the NFL in Football Outsiders' Rush DVOA metric. That's not good, considering they'll be going against a Patriots offense that ranks fourth in the NFL in Rush DVOA on offense. Also, considering this game is a pick-em, we can expect it to be close. The Chargers are awful in close games. They're 2-7 in one-score games this season and 13-22 in them since Anthony Lynn took over in 2017.
Cam Newton threw for 84 yards and was picked off twice last week, and that was at home. New England has no offense. Justin Herbert continues to impress; he's thrown 23 touchdowns against seven interceptions. Back the Chargers.
If you don't look at which uniforms the players are wearing, it's clear the Chargers have much more talent all over the field than the Patriots do. There's also the fact that New England QB Cam Newton apparently isn't 100 percent with an abdomen injury, which may explain his horrible passing performance last week (not like he's been that great all season). My only concern here is that Bolts coach Anthony Lynn figures out inventive ways to mismanage the clock/blow close games, which is why he will be fired on Black Monday, but the Chargers should win this fairly easily otherwise. They are 7-3 in their past 10 hosting East Coast teams, while New England's lone road win in 2020 is at the Jets.