Their seven-game winning streak now history, the New England Patriots will look to avoid back-to-back defeats for the first time since September 2012 when they visit the San Diego Chargers on Sunday. The Patriots were unable to keep pace with Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay in last week’s 26-21 road loss but remain even with Denver and hold the tiebreaker for the top seed in the AFC. Tom Brady threw for 245 yards against the Packers – his lowest total since Week 4 – but he is 5-0 lifetime versus San Diego.
The Chargers have rebounded from a three-game skid to rip off three wins in a row, including last week’s 34-33 stunner at Baltimore in which Philip Rivers threw a pair of touchdown passes in the final 3:40 to erase a 10-point deficit. No teams are better over the final quarter of the season than New England and San Diego, who are each an NFL-best 17-3 over the last four games of the season since 2009. “You get down to the home stretch and it just has a little different feel to it,” Rivers said. “And you throw in the fact that we will play one of the best teams ever, as far as tradition-wise, what this franchise has done over the last 15 years or so.”
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC.
LINE HISTORY: The Patriots opened as 3-point road faves and have moved to -3.5. The total opened 50.5 and is up a half-point.
INJURY REPORT: Patriots – QB Tom Brady (Probable, ankle), RB Shane Vereen (Questionable, ankle), CB Kyle Arrington (Questionable, ankle), G Dan Connolly (Questionable, ankle), WR Julian Edelman (Questionable, thigh), LB Dont’a Hightower (Questionable, shoulder), WR Brandon LaFell (Questionable, shoulder). Chargers – LB Andrew Gachkar (Probable, knee), QB Philip Rivers (Probable, chest), DE Corey Liuget (Probable, knee), LB Donald Butler (Questionable, quad), T D.J. Fluker (Questionable, concussion), DT Ryan Carrethers (Out, elbow).
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: Patriots (-8.0) + Chargers (-2.75) + home field (-3.0) = Chargers +2.25
WEATHER: Temperatures will be in the low-60s with wind blowing across the field at 3 mph.
WHAT CAPPERS SAY: “The Patriots had their seven-game winning streak snapped and are heading to San Diego. New England is 5-12 ATS in its L17 road games. San Diego needed a big win and got it in Baltimore to remain a game out in the AFC West. Chargers host Patriots and Broncos before closing with two road games.” Covers Expert Matt Fargo.
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (9-3 SU, 7-5 ATS, 8-4 O/U): New England averaged 39.6 points during its winning streak but was forced to abandon the running game and play catch-up against the Packers, who held the ball for 36 1/2 minutes. While Brady has thrown 28 touchdowns passes versus only six interceptions, the Patriots are only 3-3 on the road and the two-time Super Bowl MVP has been limited to 257 yards or less in five of those games. Tight end Rob Gronkowski has 32 receptions and five touchdowns over the past five games and Brandon LaFell caught a pair of scoring passes last week, but New England must find a way to pressure Rivers. The Patriots were unable to generate any pass rush against Rodgers, who threw for 282 yards in the first half alone as Green Bay racked up 478 yards of total offense.
ABOUT THE CHARGERS (8-4 SU, 6-6 ATS, 6-6 O/U): San Diego’s playoff hopes appeared to take a major hit following a 37-0 drubbing in Miami entering its bye week, but it has bounced back with three straight narrow victories to move within one game of the first-place Broncos in the AFC West. Rivers, who leads the AFC in completion percentage at 69.1, had three TD passes and threw for a season-high 383 yards in the improbable victory over the Ravens. Wideout Keenan Allen, who has struggled to maintain consistency following a superb rookie season, had a pair of touchdown catches among his career-high 11 receptions while going over 100 yards for the second straight week. Ryan Mathews has rushed for 215 yards and two TDs since returning from injury but the defense has permitted 57 points in the past two games.
* Under is 4-0 in the last four meetings in San Diego.
* Patriots are 0-9 ATS in their last nine games on grass.
* Chargers are 10-1 ATS in their last 11 games in Week 14.
* Over is 4-1 in Patriots last five games in December.
COVERS CONSENSUS: According to Covers Consensus, 66 percent of bettors are on the Pats.