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New England Patriots Gameplan: San Diego Chargers

Wonder twin powers, ACTIVATE!
Wonder twin powers, ACTIVATE!

The humane thing to do when an animal is suffering is to put it out of it's misery. To finish it off Old Yeller-style with a shotgun out behind the shed. The San Diego Chargers are wounded animals right now, and it's up to the Patriots to send them back to the middle of the NFL pack. However, wounded animals are often most dangerous.

Statistically the Chargers look formidable, and they're a tough team at home (unless it's the playoffs). New England will certainly have their work cut out for them.

The Pats gameplan for the Chargers after the jump...

1. Stop the Shot Putter - Philip Rivers' delivery is one of the most annoying things in football to me. Sure, he's the leading passer in the NFL, but just about everything about him gets under my skin. The Pats are in a similar situation to when the two teams met in the 2007 AFCCG. The Chargers are banged up, and it looks like Antonio Gates will play but probably be limited. They'll also be without Malcolm Floyd, one of their better receivers.

On paper (if you don't look at the 2-4 record) the Chargers look like one of the best teams in the NFL. They are ranked 5th in Football Outsiders' Offensive DVOA and 4th in Defensive DVOA. However when you look at teams the Chargers have played (and lost to) they're really not that impressive.

For example the offensive DVOA of the Chargers opponents are, in order, 10, 21, 23, 31, 29, 28. So I'm not so sure how good this Chargers D really is despite their ranking. The defenses the Chargers have faced are ranked a slightly better 12, 25, 29, 19, 9, 30. So what do I take from that? The Chargers offense is to be more feared than their defense.

You must respect San Diego's passing game, and in a case of the game plan being just the opposite of last week, stopping Philip Rivers' passing attack will be paramount. I would expect the Patriots to run more of their 3-3-5 nickel package, that was so successful late against the Ravens, with Dane Flecter spying Darren Sproules.

While the Patriots were playing a majority of 3-4 defense last week I expect this week they'll be in more subpackages. This will be an excellent test for a Patriots pass defense that was just starting to show signs of excellence against the Ravens. 

2. Take Advantage on Special Teams - While the Chargers look like world beaters in offensive and defensive DVOA they are ranked dead last in the NFL in special teams. You're probably well aware of this after seeing San Diego get gashed for a touchdown per game on Special Teams every time you turn on Sportscenter.

We saw how the Patriots took advantage of the Miami Dolphins and basically won the game with superior special teams play. That is what must happen again this week. I'm not sure either defense can stop either offense, so the field position and scores that the special teams are able to set up could likely be the deciding factor in this game. 

3. Ground and Pound - I expect the Patriots to have a balanced attack this week but to stay far more dedicated to the power run game than they did against the Ravens, with Benjarvus Green-Ellis leading the way. The Rams ran all over San Diego, and granted Law Firm isn't Stephen Jackson, but the Patriots should be able to move the ball on the ground.

4.Master Gates - Antonio Gates is going to play, but he's not going to be completely healthy. It will be important to be physical with him, to force him to fight through jams at the line of scrimmage and make it a long day for him. He is really the key to the offense, especially without Vincent Jackson. If you force Philip Rivers to rely on Patrick Crayton and Buster Davis you should be able to take advantage of the matchups.

5. Win - The Chargers are going to come out and play with everything they've got despite being shorthanded. Their season is really on the line and a win against a solid Patriots team could be just the spark they need. San Diego plays well at home, but Tom Brady and the Pats know how to win there. New England must come out and play quietly efficient from the first snap. I expect a high scoring game, so like last week, the Pats must remain focused and execute until the final second. If they do that they have a very good chance to be 5-1 heading into the return of Moss.