After a historic performance by Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense on Monday night, New England now will play at home for the first time this season. Brady has already told the crowd in his own unique way to get loud for this game because this is going to feel like an AFC Championship Game. This weekend, the Pats take on Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers.
San Diego was not impressive in the first half of their opener against the Minnesota Vikings. They were down 17-7 at half and their lack of special teams hurt them on the opening kickoff. However, they found a way to win with their vast amount of talent with Rivers and running back Mike Tolbert as well as their number one ranked defense limiting Donovan McNabb to just 39 yards passing. This is the team that some experts think will finally break through and make it to the Super Bowl. However, they have to show they can beat the Patriots first!
Here are my keys to the game:
- No Kicking Kaeding: Last week, the Chargers lost their franchise kicker Nate Kaeding in the first quarter due to a torn ACL. Even though he has had his playoff chokes in the past, Kaeding is one of the more accurate kickers in the game today. Just look at the impact of his absence in last year’s matchup. They signed Kris Brown last year to make up for the loss, but Brown missed a 50 yard field goal to lose the game. This year, that replacement is Nick Novak. Novak competed at Jets’ training camp for their kicking job, but lost to Nick Folk. If this game comes down to a 50 yarder like last year, I will be less nervous with Novak kicking than with Kaeding.
- Send Him Down The River: We all know that Philip Rivers is in the upper echelon of quarterbacks in the NFL. The one team however that Rivers can’t seem to beat is the New England Patriots. Over the course of his career, Rivers is 1-4 against the Patriots with a 78.4 passer rating. The only win he has against Bill Belichick was when Matt Cassel was quarterback. Last year, the Patriots did not ring up a sack total, but they did have two sacks and forced Rivers into an interception. We know the Chargers’ QB will be in the red zone often, but the Patriots need to do what they did five years ago and that is to make them kick field goals.
- Standing Around In Awe: The big storyline this week around Patriots’ camp has been the tweet that Chad Ochocinco put out about he was in awe with Tom Brady’s historic 517 yard performance Monday night. He has been ripped by Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison, former Patriots, after Chad only had one catch for 14 yards. Surprisingly, Chad has been quiet this week, which tells me he has focused more on his playbook instead of his Twitter account. I expect him to contribute more in the passing game this week.
Prediction: Tom Brady has won 28 straight regular season home games dating back to 2006. I think it will be 29 this week, but it will be a close game. The Chargers can match points with the Patriots’ offense especially with Vincent Jackson at wide receiver and their physical running game. The Patriots will force Rivers into a mistake like they always do.
Keep an eye also on if Julian Edelman can return a punt or a kick that gives Brady excellent field position late in the game. San Diego has poor special teams and in a shootout, a kick/punt return can make all the difference. The Chargers will have the ball late, but they miss a field goal that decides this game.
PATRIOTS 27 CHARGERS 24