Week 13: vs. New England Patriots
It feels weird to include this in trap games after the last two decades of Patriot dominance, but here we are. Tom Brady finally flew the coup to go join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While Jarrett Stidham is on track to be the day one starter, there’s a lot of uncertainty amongst the fans. There’s no undisputed number one option at quarterback in New England anymore.
All of that being said, be careful before declaring the demise of New England. Bill Belichick isn’t going anywhere in 2020, and neither is the potent defense that led the Patriots in the last few years. Sure, Brady is a loss for the team, but he was a below average quarterback statistically in the last few years. Brady was ranked 23rd in QBR last year, and that’s a spot below Philip Rivers, who threw 20 interceptions last year.
The defense became the best unit on the squad following the departure of Matt Patricia. This was evident in the 2019 Super Bowl when New England stonewalled the high flying Rams’ offense. In the 2019 regular season, New England was first in the league in total defense and second in fewest passing yards per game allowed.
What I’m mostly concerned about in this game is Tyrod Taylor vs. the Patriots. Taylor is efficient as a game manager, but New England’s defense usually forces quarterbacks to throw into tight windows. Even with an uncertain offense, there’s a good chance the Patriots can give the Chargers fits. Also, the Chargers haven’t beaten the Patriots since before the Marlon McCree fumble.
The LA Chargers can win all of these games. My prediction is that they have enough firepower to beat Miami, Carolina, and New York. New England will prove to be a bit tougher than those teams, as they still have that defense and Belichick pedigree. The national media has definitely put the Patriots to bed in favor of the Buccaneers too quickly.
Taylor is the most important variable when considering winnable games in the 2020 season. If he plays at a game manager level or even above average, the Chargers can sweep this series of games. If he begins to falter around the midpoint of the season or earlier, The Jets’ and Patriots’ defenses could prove to be problematic.
Another variable is just how good the defense is. If acquisitions like Murray, Chris Harris, and Joseph play to their abilities, they can beat a team like Carolina who relies heavily on McCaffrey. The rush defense will be key to stopping offenses these offenses that don’t have fully developed passing attacks either in scheme or personnel.