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The Throwback Reds and Bailey Zappe are in for the Patriots against the Snakebitten LA Chargers

I can't speak for everyone else, but it's felt like an eternity since the Patriots have played a true home game to me, far longer than the month gap between the Washington Commanders game and this weekend, where the Patriots draw the snakebitten Los Angeles Chargers. Finding new and inventive ways to lose every year, the current iteration of the Bolts has ridden losing streaks of at least two games three times this season, including now, losing three straight against the Lions, Packers, and Ravens.

This is a team led by a coaching staff of Brandon Staley, Kellen Moore, and Derrick Ansley, who've not gotten the best out of this roster, and the walls appear to be closing in. Almost every team would kill to have the kind of star power the Chargers possess: Justin Herbert, Keenan Allen, Austin Ekeler, Rashawn Slater, Joey Bosa, Derwin James, Khalil Mack, etc, but it simply hasn't worked in 2023. Now at 4-7, this team will likely need a perfect six-game stretch to potentially have a chance to simply get an AFC Wild Card spot. So, it's fair to say one team needs to win more than the other, and it's certainly not the Patriots.

Then, on the other side, the big news is that Bailey Zappe is now under center for the Patriots, marking his first start in over a year. Not perfect by any means once he took over Mac Jones last Sunday, but it was a different look, which this team has needed for several weeks now. What can the Western Kentucky product do against a Chargers team desperate to snap a three-game skid?

Game Info

Date: Sunday, December 3

Start Time: 1:00 EST

Location: Foxborough, Massachusetts

Stadium: Gillette Stadium

TV Info: CBS (Spero Dedes and Adam Archuleta on the call)

Patriots Uniform Info: Pat Patriot Reds

Players Already Ruled Out Before Sunday

Los Angeles Chargers: Zack Bailey (OT), Nick Vannett (TE), Ja'Sir Taylor (CB)

New England Patriots: Pop Douglas (WR), Kayshon Boutte (WR)

Los Angeles Chargers


Despite some of the elite talent this Chargers team has defensively, they've been a beyond brutal passing defense, ranking dead last in pass defense and total defense. On average, LA gives up 280 per tilt through the air and allowed over 300 yards four times, and 400 twice. This is a corner room, especially given the deficiencies they have trying to run a Fangio scheme, that is ripe for the picking. I wouldn't call a trio of Asante Samuel Jr, Deane Leonard, and Michael Davis, a Pro-Bowl caliber unit they'll be throwing out there this Sunday. Bailey Zappe is going to have some chances to make stuff happen.

That is, of course, if he can get the ball out in time. Despite the lack of quality play on the backend, the Chargers are just one of five teams in the league with over 35 sacks, at least 100 pressures, and a pressure percentage of at least 21%. Even though Joey Bosa sits on IR due to a foot injury, Khalil Mack has quietly put together what could be the best season of his career. His 13 sacks are the second most he's ever had (also more than in the two seasons he won and finished runner-up in the DPOY voting), is about to put up back-to-back 50 tackle seasons, which he hasn't done since '16-'17, in addition to breaking up a career-high five passes and forcing four fumbles. Not bad for a 32-year-old. Mack should see additional blockers all day and be considered at the height of his powers. He's been that good in 2023.


Every once in a while, you'll see or read something and do the Leo DiCaprio meme from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Yep, that's the one, the very same. That was me when I saw Bill Belichick's brief quote talking about Justin Herbert earlier this week.

"[Justin]Herbert can do everything you need a quarterback to do. Very athletic. Can make all the throws."

That final part has been a telltale sign over the years that Belichick does not think that highly of an opposing quarterback. Sure, when he says that about guys like Zach Wilson, that holds more weight, but Herbert? By all accounts, he's one of the 10 best signal callers in football. While I think the lack of defining clutch outings doesn't help his cause, the fact he plays for the Chargers of all teams certainly doesn't help. That said, Herbert has been brutal against the Patriots in the previous two times he's played them, so I imagine that doesn't help Belichick's perception.

As far as weapons are concerned, there's a bit of a scare this week, as Keenan Allen is nursing a quad injury and only practiced on Friday. That got a half-hearted joke out of Belichick, saying the Patriots wouldn't mind if he got the weekend off. Should that be the case, the Chargers will heavily lean on Austin Ekeler in the run-and-pass game, as well as rookie wideout Quentin Johnston, who's had a rough rookie season to put it lightly. Having watched him a decent bit at TCU, he's the kind of guy you set up in the short area, so he can do major league damage after the catch. Of his 190 yards, just 72 come after the catch this year. I still think he can be a good player, but the Chargers aren't using him right. But, with Josh Palmer and Mike Williams on the shelf, they need bodies who can play on the outside, and he technically fits that bill.

New England Patriots


If for nothing else, this Patriots-run defense has surprisingly been lights out in 2023. Currently sitting at seventh in yards allowed per, plus the first in yards per carry allowed and the No. 1 EPA run defense since the middle of October. In that span, here are the notable backs the Patriots have drawn: Josh Jacobs (2022 NFL lead rusher, 77 yards on 25 carries), Raheem Mostert (46 yards on 13 carries), Jonathan Taylor (69 yards on 23 carries), and Saquon Barkley (46 yards on 12 carries). There's a good outing for Brian Robinson mixed in there, but that's an insanely good stretch for this Patriots front.

It's felt like the run defense has been a defacto weakness of this team ever since Vince Wilfork left for Houston, so in a year like this, that's a big step in the right direction going into next season. Give a ton of credit to guys like Davon Godchaux, Ja'Whaun Bentley, Deatrich Wise, and Jahlani Tavai for leading the charge.

Another big boy up front who has quietly been the Patriots' best player these last few weeks is Christian Barmore, wreaking absolute havoc as an interior pass rusher. In the entire league this year, there are six (6) interior defensive linemen to have a pass rush win rate of 15 percent or higher, a double team rate of at least 60 percent, and have accumulated at least 165 pass rush snaps per ESPN. Those six players are Aaron Donald, Dexter Lawrence, DeForrest Buckner, Javon Hargrave, Quinnen Williams, and Barmore. Those five other guys are perennial First-Team All-Pro candidates, and for good reason. Barmore is playing as well as any of them right now, and that'll get him PAID sooner rather than later.

With all that info in mind, this game defensively will come down to the Patriots' defensive backs, and how they can limit a heavily banged-up Chargers receiving core. J.C. Jackson is coming off another rough outing, getting shredded by Jaylin Hyatt of the Giants. Here's to hoping he has some extra pep in his step going up against his former team, for his sake, if anything else.


Now that Bailey Zappe is officially under center, I'm curious to see if these Patriots games will still be these Big 10-West affairs with about 20 total points scored or if the Patriots can find more than a couple of good offensive drives per game. Well...that might not be the case this week, as Demario Douglas is already ruled out with his concussion from last Sunday, which likely sets things up for a main trio of DeVante Parker, Juju Smith-Schuster, and Tyquan Thornton. If you remember from last year, Zappe did have a good level of rapport with Parker, picking up six grabs on eight targets for 88 yards and a touchdown in the Green Bay and Cleveland games in 2022. Smart money would suggest he and Hunter Henry will be his go-to guys, along with the backs in the passing game.

I think it's also important to reiterate that Zappe isn't going to come in and light the world on fire. What he will do, however, is be smarter with the ball than Mac Jones had been recently, and give the Patriots a functional look under center. Will that win a significant sum of games? Most likely not, but the offense should be improved from what it has been.

Points Spread: LAC -5.5 (-105) | NE +5.5 (-115)

Moneyline: LAC (-235) | NE (+194)

Over/Under: O 40.5 (-105) | U 40.5 (-115)

Lines via FanDuel as of Friday, December 1

Short and sweet this week: Chargers, outright, ATS, under. Fade the Patriots for as long as you can, even with the cover last weekend (depending on the book), that triad of picks feels like a safe course of action.


To say again, the Chargers need to win this game more than the Patriots need to lose it, which is saying a ton about the former and how they've failed to meet expectations in 2023. Historically, I've liked to heavily fade west coast teams going cross country to play in a cold weather game, but this isn't one of those affairs. Don't be surprised if the Chargers start sluggish, but I would be stunned if they don't win what should be a freebie at this point in the year. If not, I can easily envision LA's coaching staff getting axed about a month early. Also the Chargers should lose every draft pick they own if they don't use their home uniforms this week. The Pat Patriot Reds vs. the Chargers powder blue tops with the yellow pants look would be a generational uniform matchup.

Final Score: Los Angeles Chargers 24, New England Patriots 13

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