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Patriots Vs. Chargers: Game Preview

Thomas SalernoContributor IIOctober 21, 2010

Patriots Vs. Chargers: Game Preview

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    This week the 4-1 New England Patriots travel to San Diego to play the 2-4 Chargers. The Chargers have been having a down year so far but they always finish strong and maybe this will be a statement game for them. The Patriots are of course coming off a huge overtime win against the Ravens and might be about to hit their stride.

    So ahead of this potentially very important and very exciting battle between two high powered offenses led by star QBs lets look into some of the key points that will decide a winner in this game.

Antonio Gates

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Antonio Gates has been a beast so far this year with 31 receptions for 490 yards and a team leading seven touchdown catches. Good news for the Patriots defense is that Gates is injured and is only questionable for the game on Sunday. Yet Gates will still have to game planned for as he is just too good not to be.

    If Gates is nowhere near 100 percent then the Patriots will have a big advantage before even starting the game. If Gates is healthy then the Patriots may have some problems as their pass defense cannot stop anyone on a consistent basis, and with Phillip Rivers throwing the ball Gates could slice this defense open.

Effect Of Special Teams

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    The Chargers' special teams units have been horrific so far this year and the last thing they need is a repeat of the Oakland game two weeks ago where they conceded nine points through blocked punts in the first quarter alone. Other concerns for the Chargers on fourth down is that Pro Bowl kicker Nate Kaeding is going to miss the game with an injury.

    On the other side of the coin the Patriots' special teams have been a big reason for the teams success with Brandon Tate having two KR touchdowns already this year and the Patriots already winning a game almost solely based on special teams domination against the Dolphins. Also in terms of kickers, Stephen Gostkowski has hit his six field goals after a slow start to the season, and rookie punter Zoltan Mesko came up with a massive 65-yard punt at a key time in overtime last week and has kept a 44.2 yard average.

Patriots Pass Rush

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Last week, the Rams of all teams managed to sack Rivers a total of seven times and it was a real problem for the Chargers. Luckily for them though, the pass rush is one of the Patriots' weaker points.

    If the Patriots can get enough pressure on Rivers then this game could turn ugly for Chargers fans. And even more bad news for the Chargers fans is that second round draft pick Jermaine Cunningham really showed up last week and pressured Joe Flacco on a consistent basis.

Run Games

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Both teams running games have question marks around them so far this season with Ryan Mathews not hitting the ground running with him only averaging less then 50 yards a game and being forced to share carries with Mike Tolbert. Good news for Patriots fans is that they looked very stout against the run last week holding Ray Rice to just 88 yards on 28 carries.

    The Patriots running game isn't much better though as starting running back Fred Taylor continues to be hampered by injuries during his time in New England. This has left the slot open for BenJarvus Green-Ellis to step in and rush for 235 yards and three TD's on 57 carries.  Since Danny Woodhead was signed to replace the injured Kevin Faulk there hasn't been much of a drop off in the level of play, with Woodhead already having 200+ rushing and receiving yards in just three games.

Conclusion

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    With the way each teams form has been you have to make the Patriots favorites. Add in the fact that the Chargers are losing Nate Kaeding, Malcolm Floyd and possibly Antonio Gates to injury and it all looks to be going the Patriots' way.

    Though if the Patriots underestimate the Chargers they are likely to get burnt so don't expect Brady & Co. to be going easy on the Chargers.

    In the end my prediction is a comfortable win for the Patriots after they have a suspicious start against an always dangerous Chargers team.

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