Following a blowout win vs the New York Jets, the Patriots (3-4) head west to take on the upstart Los Angeles Chargers (4-2). Despite the difference in records, the Patriots actually come into this matchup as the 13th rated team by DVOA, and the Chargers at 17th. Beyond that, the Patriots have a strong “consistency” advantage in the form of DVOA Variance, coming in at 12th, while the Chargers are currently sitting at 25th. All of this is not to mention the Patriots absolutely annihilated the Chargers last year 45-0 on their home turf. Yet, besides being able to play a cross country match up from the comfort of home, the Chargers also come into this game well-rested/off their bye week with 7 extra days to prepare for the Patriots. Both teams come into the game with lots to fight for as the Patriots are clinging to a 39.9% chance of making the playoffs, and the Chargers are in a very tight race for the AFC West (based on Football Outsiders odds of winning the AFC West: Chargers 37.3%, Raiders 31.3%, Chiefs 23.0%).
Ryan’s Season Totals
Assigned Games: 6-7 *2 Underdogs winning outright
Best Bets: 14-6, Up 958%
- Opening Line: Los Angeles -5
- Current Line: Los Angeles -5.5
- Over/Under: 49
- Location: SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, CA
- ILStart Time: 4:05 PM EST, SUN 10/31
- Last Meeting: Patriots 45, Chargers 0 in at Los Angeles in 2020
The Patriots came into the season with two significant, yet conflicting talking points among the analytics crowd: there were some serious negative regressions coming in the form of “non-sticky variables” they got lucky in last year (Bottom 4 for 2021 in 3rd down rebound, Fumble recovery luck and YPP). Yet, as Football Outsiders pointed out in their almanac, the Patriots were set to have “The Biggest Net AV Over Replacement Gain on Defense” ever (at least since they started recording said variable), mainly from all the returning Covid Opt-Outs on the defensive side of the ball. Amidst all this, they had to break in a rookie QB in Mac Jones, who did have a monster 2020 college season (from an advanced analytics standpoint), similar to Joe Burrow’s a couple of years back. However, many draftniks were worried he didn’t have the elite tools to merit a top 10 pick. Jones has done his best to prove all of them wrong, sitting in as the 12th highest graded QB by PFF Ratings (80.5 Rating), and the top rookie QB, through 7 weeks.
On the other side, the Chargers came into 2021 as a very intriguing team. Similar to what the Patriots have this season, they seemed to hit the “Young QB Jackpot” last year with a rookie of their own in Justin Herbert. However, many pointed out that much of Herbert’s production last year was propped up by less sticky variables in high leverage situations, like on 3rd down, throwing under pressure, and red zone production. Hence, some negative regression was expected for the young QB in 2021 (even though Herbert has surprisingly remained strong this season) in those areas, but the consensus in the field ended up being: Herbert is likely a very good QB, yet we may have seen his peak (oddly as a rookie) last season. With a solid-to-very good, young QB in their back pocket, the Chargers franchise came into the season with a very solid nucleus of players (in key positions) and made changes at their weak points, notably upgrading O-Line and at Head Coach. That Head Coach is Brandon Staley, possibly one of the sharpest young minds on the defensive side of the ball, particularly in stopping the modern explosive NFL offense.
The two teams match up well, with both offenses seeing significant advantages vs their opposing defense, by PFF Ratings. As a matter of fact, this game’s +42.8 Net Offense vs Defense ratings, is the highest of the week, hinting towards an over bet (where 61% of the cash is, even though 88% of the total tickets are on the Under, meaning the sharps are going with the over). The one area that’s most interesting though is between the Patriots O-Line and the Chargers Pass Rush. The Chargers have a +10 Net Pass Rush Grade for the contest, and this advantage is only increased by the “inside-outside split” we introduced a couple of weeks ago. Simply put, not captured by “whole OL/DL pressure type stats”, we take it a step further and identify strong/weak pass pro vs opposing pass rush splits by interior vs outside. *Think similar to a defense that’s ranked 5th against the pass, yet is 30th vs the deep ball/1st in the short areas playing a team that takes a bunch of deep shots. And the Chargers are far more productive in outside pass rush, with the Patriots protecting better on the inside (according to SIS Points Added metric). This all leads me to believe that the Chargers pass rush will get to the young QB, Mac Jones a couple of times this game.
- Against the spread, New England is 3-4-0 this year.
- Los Angeles has beaten the spread four times in six games.
- One of Los Angeles’ six games has gone over the point total.
There is a lot of evidence to show that the Patriots MAY be a better (or at least more efficient) team despite the records and public perception. However, I think there are too many variables in the Chargers’ favor here. Not the least of which is a Rookie QB flying across the country vs. a well-rested team, for only his 3rd away matchup vs. a strong pass rush. I am staying away from the ATS, but like the OVER on the Total, especially seeing the sharp money pour in. If you have to play the ATS I think the Patriots barely cover/but lose the game straight-up.
Prediction: Los Angeles 27, New England 23
The Picks: Patriots +5 (stay away) / OVER 49
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Ryan Newman is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Ryan, check out his archive.