New England Patriots v. Chargers: Week 8 game preview and predictions

FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 22: Kyle Van Noy
FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 22: Kyle Van Noy /

The New England Patriots head into week 8 of the season with a 5-2 record. They’ll go for win number 6 against LA before they head into their bye week.

With a week of rest coming up thanks to their bye week the New England Patriots will look to end the first half of the season on a high note. The bye is perfectly placed in the middle of the season. After Sunday’s matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers, it’ll be 8 games down, and 8 games to go.

After this game, New England will regroup before we see them again on November 12th on Sunday Night Football against the Denver Broncos. They’ll continue their AFC West stretch the following week as well in Mexico City against the Raiders. Then, the bulk of the AFC East play begins with a Steelers game sprinkled in as well. For now, though, the Patriots have to remain focused on Phillip Rivers and the Chargers.

Tom Brady will look to maintain his stellar 40-year old performance, as he’s established himself in the league MVP conversation once again. TB12 is currently the league leader in passing yards and is second in passer rating and touchdowns. He’s spread the ball to a ton of different guys, but he clearly still favors Gronk, Amendola, and Hogan in crucial situations. That said though, new receiver Brandin Cooks is actually 3rd in the NFL in receiving yards at 537. He falls right behind Antonio Brown and A.J. Green.

Cooks thinks he can still be even better in this offense which is crazy. Of those three wideouts mentioned in the league lead, Cooks actually has the best yards per catch ratio at 19.2. A lot of his catches are deep, but he has just 28 receptions compared to Green’s 35 and Brown’s 52. I’d imagine that as the chemistry between Brady and Cooks continues to grow, so to will Cooks spot on the league leaderboard.

Defensively, the Patriots will have to find a way to replace the production and leadership of linebacker Dont’a Hightower. Hightower is out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury and a torn pectoral muscle. He’s already had surgery and is expected to be ready for the start of the 2018 season. In his absence, New England will likely turn to Kyle Van Noy and David Harris. When Hightower was out earlier this season, Van Noy wore the green dot and was the team’s communicator on defense. That should happen again on Sunday and for the rest of the season. He’ll be asked to step up and pass rush a bit more, and he’ll need to find success for the Patriots to continue to win. Harris will be in on clear rush situations, as he is one of the best players against the run.

Hopefully, the Patriots aren’t overlooking the Chargers and ahead to their bye week, because Phillip Rivers can still sling it. This could be a close game if New England allows it to be. I don’t think it will be, so here are my predictions for the game.

Tom Brady: 33 of 37 for 390 yards and 3 touchdowns

Tom Brady will continue his MVP campaign on Sunday with just 4 incompletions. His accuracy will be the highlight of New England’s day offensively as they control the ball and the tempo for the majority of the 60 minutes. Brady’s 3 touchdowns will all go to different wide receivers as well.

Brandin Cooks: 7 receptions for 115 yards and 1 touchdown

Brandin Cooks will be on the receiving end of one of Brady’s passing touchdowns, and I think it will be a long one. Call it a 60-yard strike for the pair. Cooks will haul in another 6 receptions and will end the day with over 100 yards. Danny Amendola is a game-time decision, and even if he goes  I believe he’ll be limited. This will be a huge game for Cooks no matter what.

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Kyle Van Noy: 5 tackles with 2 for a loss and 1 sack

With Hightower out, Kyle Van Noy will now lead the defense. I think this is going to be a strong showing for the D and I expect Van Noy to make a difference. He should be closer to the line of scrimmage than usual in some situations, and that will result in a few tackles for loss and a sack of the Chargers QB.

Stephon Gilmore: 2 receptions allowed and 1 interception *Gilmore is now expected to be OUT*

If Stephon Gilmore plays today, I think he’ll want to really prove himself. Johnson Bademosi played extremely well while Gilmore was out, and some began to question if Bademosi should really be taken out when Gilmore returns. Gilmore is going to put his receiver on lockdown and will allow just 2 receptions all day while he also intercepts Phillip Rivers.

*Well, Gilmore is out once again. Give the interception and stats here to Johnson Bademosi!*

Game Prediction: Patriots 37, Chargers 17

The New England Patriots should not lose this game to the 3-4 Chargers, but that’s what Broncos fans thought last week. Los Angeles ended up shutting out Denver 21-0 for their 3rd straight win. After a 0-4 start LA has rattled off wins against the Giants, Raiders, and Broncos, The Patriots will not become the 4th. This is going to be a game that the Patriots control from start to finish in all 3 phases of the game.  In the 4th quarter, we may even see Jimmy Garoppolo take the field.

Next: 5 key Patriots against the Chargers

New England and Los Angeles will play at 1 PM on Sunday on CBS. Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts will have the call in what’s expected to become a very messy, windy and rainy game. Forecasts are calling for temperatures in the mid-60’s with winds of over 15 MPH. A Nor’Easter is rolling in, but no one seems to know just when the rain will start. Some models have it starting before the game, and some say it won’t come until the 4th quarter. Either way, this game could get sloppy.