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Patriots-Chargers Preview


New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton leaves the field after an NFL football game against the against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert passes during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

LOS ANGELES (AP) Cam Newton can empathize with what Justin Herbert is going through in his rookie season with the Los Angeles Chargers.

The New England signal-caller set several rookie milestones when he was the top overall pick of the Carolina Panthers in 2011. While it led to Newton being the Offensive Rookie of the Year, it didn't translate into immediate success for the Panthers, who were 3-8 through their first 11 games. That is the same mark the Chargers have going into Sunday's game against the Patriots at SoFi Stadium.

''I just remember as a young player I really didn't know the nuances of how to win,'' said Newton, who threw for a rookie-record 4,051 yards.

''I knew I was talented, but there's still certain things that go into playing hand-to-hand football. Offense playing alongside with the defense, defense playing alongside with the special teams and vice versa. This game transitions so much from the collegiate level to the professional level and it's all in a manner of plays. In college you get so many times to win or to lose so to speak. But in the NFL it kind of comes down to three to five plays that you know, that you can point back to and say this is when the game was won.''

Herbert experienced plenty of losing during his first season at Oregon, which he has said has helped him in trying to get through the valleys of this year.

''I've been through it before, and I've kind of seen it. And, you know, going forward is never easy. It's never fun for anyone, but you have to stick through and you have to stay with your guys and take control of that locker room and steer into the right direction,'' he said.

Herbert is averaging 301.5 yards per game, which is third in the NFL and joined Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes last week as the only players to reach 3,000 yards in their first 10 starts. Herbert has tied Andrew Luck's rookie mark with six 300-yard games and needs five touchdowns to pass Baker Mayfield's first-year mark of 27 with Cleveland in 2018.

Herbert has struggled with AFC East teams, but is facing a New England defense that is allowing 7.6 yards per pass attempt, which is second most in the league.

''He really has no weaknesses. He's young and has a long way to go, but you can see the talent and improvement,'' Patriots coach Bill Belichick said.

Newton's 1,984 passing yards are 23rd in the league, but he has five games with 10 more rushing attempts as well as three multi-TD rushing games.

''He's a weapon with his legs and his arm. So whatever it takes to move the ball down the field, they are one of the top teams in the league in the least amount of three-and-outs. So they figured out how to move the ball, stay on the field and eat up that clock,'' Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said.


Though they aren't quite back to .500, the Patriots (5-6) kept their playoff hopes alive thanks to their last-second win over the Cardinals last week.

New England has qualified for the postseason in each of the past 11 seasons and only failed to make it to the playoffs only three times since Belichick's first season in 2000.

Recent history says the Patriots still have at least a chance of extending their current streak. In 14 of the past 16 seasons, at least one team with a losing record through 11 games has qualified for the playoffs.


The Patriots will play consecutive games at SoFi Stadium when they take on the Rams on Dec. 10.


Los Angeles' offense got a boost last week with the return of running back Austin Ekeler, who was leading the AFC in scrimmage yards before he suffered a hamstring injury in early October that kept him sidelined for six games.

Ekeler had 129 scrimmage yards in last Sunday's loss against Buffalo. The Chargers though have had an inconsistent running game the past three weeks and have been held under 100 yards.


New England has the league's fifth-ranked rushing attack, averaging 149.6 yards per game. Damien Harris has emerged as the lead back, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. James White scored his first two rushing touchdowns of the season last week and Sony Michel has returned from a knee injury.


When asked this week about the challenge presented by the Chargers defense, Joey Bosa was at the top of Belichick's list.

New England has only faced the Chargers star defensive end twice since he entered the league in 2016. But what Belichick saw in those games and on film since then has been more than enough for him to dub the 25-year-old ''a one-man wrecking crew.''

The Patriots have done a decent job protecting Newton this season, only allowing him to be sacked 18 times. But Bosa's been one of the most disruptive defenders in the league. He's tied for ninth in the NFL with 7 1/2 sacks and is tied for third with 15 tackles for a loss.


Belichick will coach in his 455th NFL game on Sunday, passing Tom Landry for the third-most games coached in league history. Don Shula leads the way with 526 followed by George Halas' 506.

Belichick is 39 victories away from tying Shula's all-time mark of 347 wins. Halas is in second with 324. This is the first time Belichick has coached a game in Los Angeles since 1993, when Cleveland took on the Los Angeles Raiders.

Top Headlines

Five Hot Plays: Week 13

The Paur Report
Player Notes
Travis Kelce Dec 4 9:50am ET

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce will look to continue his strong season versus the Denver Broncos in Week 13. Kelce will look for revenge against a Broncos Defense that limited him to just three catches for 31 yards in Week 7. The Broncos have been holding opposing tight ends to just 46 yards and under five receptions a game, but Kelce is in a class of his own when it comes to the tight end position and remains a huge part of the Chiefs offense. Managers shouldn't worry about his performance in Week 7 and can safely fire up Kelce as a TE1 in Week 13 and beyond.

From RotoBaller

Tyreek Hill Dec 4 9:50am ET

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill is coming off of an incredible performance of 13 catches, 269 yards and three touchdowns versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 12 and will look to keep his strong season up against the Denver Broncos in Week 13. Hill has scored a touchdown in every game besides one and caught six balls for 55 yards and touchdown when he faced the Broncos in Week 7. Hill along with tight end Travis Kelce have continued to be the focal point for quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs and that shouldn't stop on Sunday. The Broncos have limited opposing wide receivers to around 146 yards per game, but Hill's involvement in the offense and ability to score touchdowns makes him a WR1 on a weekly basis.

From RotoBaller

Patrick Mahomes Dec 4 9:50am ET

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes will look to continue his magnificent year against the Denver Broncos in Week 13. Mahomes only passed the ball 25 times for 213 and one touchdown when the teams met in Week 7, but he leads the league with 3497 passing and is third in the league with 30 touchdowns. Managers shouldn't worry about Week 7 as much was attributed to the game flow in that contest. Mahomes remains one of the best and safest options at any position and should continue to be a QB1 regardless of the matchup.

From RotoBaller

Cleveland Browns Dec 4 7:40am ET

The Cleveland Browns Defense has been a pleasant surprise for fantasy gamers this season, ranking seventh in the league with 17 total takeaways and 11th with 27 sacks. Despite those strong stats, they will have their work cut out for them against the Tennessee Titans in Week 13. The Tennessee offense is eighth in yards per game and fifth in points per game, setting this up as a difficult road matchup for the Cleveland defense. While they are expected to get star pass-rusher Myles Garrett back, which will help, there should be better streaming options out there as far as fantasy defenses go.

From RotoBaller

Austin Hooper Dec 4 7:30am ET

Cleveland Browns tight end Austin Hooper found the end zone last week, although he finished the contest with just two catches. He will look to turn in a bigger performance in a Week 13 road matchup against the Tennessee Titans. Tennessee's defense has struggled to defend against the pass this season and that has carried over to tight ends, where they are allowing the eighth-most fantasy points per game to the position this year. While it is an excellent matchup for Hooper, he has not been seeing the required volume to be a trustworthy play in fantasy this season. The Titans are six-point home favorites so there is a chance they get out to a lead and force Cleveland to throw more frequently than usual. Treat Hooper as a high-end TE2 in fantasy this week.

From RotoBaller

Jarvis Landry Dec 4 7:10am ET

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry turned in an excellent performance last week, posting his first 100-yard game and first touchdown of the season in a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. He will look to replicate that success in Week 13 against the Tennessee Titans. He does have a good shot to be productive again as Tennessee's pass defense has struggled this year, allowing the eighth-most fantasy points per game to the wide receiver position. The Titans are six-point home favorites in this contest, so expect Cleveland to have to throw more frequently than they have been over the past several weeks. Fantasy gamers can treat Landry as a low-end WR2 this weekend.

From RotoBaller

Kareem Hunt Dec 4 7:00am ET

Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt has been quiet over the past two weeks, having posted just 83 all-purpose yards. He was surprisingly not active in the passing game it was just the second time all season that he was held without a catch in a game. He has a good shot at bouncing back in an excellent Week 13 matchup against the Tennessee Titans. Tennessee's run defense is allowing the seventh-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs on the season. This game has a 53.5-point over/under with the Titans set as six-point favorites, so it is very likely that the Browns fall behind at some point and have to lean on Hunt in the passing game more than they have over the past few weeks. Treat Hunt as a low-end RB2 in fantasy.

From RotoBaller

Nick Chubb Dec 4 6:50am ET

Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb has been racking up the yardage since returning from a knee injury in Week 10, having topped 100 yards in each of his three games and finding the end zone twice. He has a good shot at extending that streak in Week 13 against a struggling Tennessee Titans run defense. Tennessee has allowed the seventh-most fantasy points per game to the running back position this season and ranks just 17th in run-defense DVOA. Chubb can be safely started as a top-six running back in fantasy this weekend.

From RotoBaller

Baker Mayfield Dec 4 6:40am ET

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield broke a streak of three straight games without a passing touchdown when he threw for 258 yards and two scores last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He draws an excellent matchup in Week 13 on the road against a weak Tennessee Titans secondary. Tennessee's pass defense has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks and ranks just 27th in DVOA. Despite the plus matchup, exercise caution plugging Mayfield into starting lineups as he hasn't attempted more than 30 passes in a game since Week 5 in the run-heavy Cleveland offense. Treat him as a mid-range QB2 for Week 13.

From RotoBaller

Jimmy Graham Dec 4 1:43am ET

Chicago Bears TE Jimmy Graham is unlikely to be on the team in 2021, in the opinion of the Chicago Tribune's Brad Biggs, who says he'd be 'surprised' if Graham is back and 'shocked' if he's back on his current deal that's set to pay him $7 million next season.

Fantasy Spin: Graham started fast but has done little recently so unless he rallies in a big way you'd have to think Biggs is correct and the Bears will need that money to plug holes elsewhere. At this point Graham is a TE2 that could be used as little more than a desperation play.

From TheHuddle

Philip Rivers Dec 4 1:03am ET

Indianapolis Colts QB Philip Rivers (toe) has 'a really bad problem with his foot,' according to teammate OG Quenton Nelson. Rivers has downplayed the injury publicly, according to the Indianapolis Star's Joel A. Erickson.

Fantasy Spin: Rivers famously played through a torn ACL in the playoffs years ago, and mobility has never been a strong suit. Still, it's worth keeping an eye on Rivers' performance to see if there's any noticeable dip. He's no better than a QB2 most weeks anyway.

From TheHuddle

Ezekiel Elliott Dec 3 11:53pm ET

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott has not scored a rushing touchdown since QB Dak Prescott (ankle) was injured, and he is averaging 3.7 yards per carry without Prescott.

Fantasy Spin: Between the injury to Prescott and injuries along the offensive line, Elliott's pedestrian numbers are understandable. Drafted to carry fantasy lineups, he has become a low-ceiling, volume-based RB2.

From TheHuddle

Clyde Edwards-Helaire Dec 3 11:10pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and cornerback Bashaud Breeland missed Thursday's practice with a non-COVID-19-related illness. You'll want to keep an eye on Edwards-Helaire's practice status on Friday. If for some reason he can't face the division-rival Broncos in Week 13, Le'Veon Bell would vault into the RB2 conversation. CEH was a bust for his fantasy managers in Week 12 against the Buccaneers and has more bust potential moving forward with Bell in the picture. However, the Broncos Defense is crumbling and has allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to RBs in the last five weeks. If the rookie plays on Sunday night, he's a solid RB2 with upside for more.

From RotoBaller

Lamar Jackson Dec 3 11:10pm ET

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh wouldn't say whether reigning NFL MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson would play on Tuesday night against the Cowboys in Week 13 after he tested positive for COVID-19 last week and sat out of the loss to the Steelers on Wednesday. He'll complete his 10-day quarantine this weekend, and he could get one full practice in before facing the Cowboys if he's activated on Sunday. Backup Robert Griffin III (hamstring) left Wednesday's game late in the fourth quarter and was replaced by Trace McSorley. If Jackson is activated from the COVID-19 list this weekend, he should be a no-brainer start in a bounce-back opportunity against Dallas' defense. But if he misses his second straight game, you'll probably be best off avoiding Baltimore's entire offense, especially if McSorley has to start under center.

From RotoBaller

Phillip Lindsay Dec 3 11:00pm ET

Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay (knee) was limited in practice on Thursday after not practicing on Wednesday. It gives him a chance to play in Week 13 on Sunday night against the division-rival Chiefs. Lindsay was injured in the blowout loss to the Saints in Week 12 and had just nine carries for 20 yards before departing. If the 26-year-old can't play, it'll make Melvin Gordon III more of an RB2 against Kansas City. Royce Freeman, who saw a season-high eight rushing attempts in an abnormal game against the Saints, would back up Gordon. Even if Lindsay plays, he's an unappealing RB3/4 in a timeshare with Gordon in a game in which the Broncos could easily have to abandon the run. With just two receptions all season, Lindsay just isn't involved in Denver's passing attack, either.

From RotoBaller

Josh Allen Dec 3 10:50pm ET

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (ankle, knee) was on the team's Week 13 injury report on Thursday, but he was a full participant in practice. Allen should be all systems go for Week 13 against the 49ers on Monday night. San Francisco's defense has been getting healthier and improving in recent weeks and have been pretty decent against opposing signal-callers in terms of fantasy points allowed all season. They've allowed just 217.6 passing yards per game, which is the second-lowest mark in the NFL through 12 weeks. Allen has been a bit of a boom-or-bust QB1 this season, but his rushing ability makes him a must-start in single-year formats. The Niners have been good against the pass, but they've been vulnerable to QB rushes, allowing a league-high 335 rushing yards to the position.

From RotoBaller

Dalvin Cook Dec 3 10:40pm ET

Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (ankle) was limited in practice on Thursday for the second day in a row. Cook was banged up in the Week 12 win over the Panthers, but the Vikings continue to downplay his injury and he should be fine for Week 13 against the Jaguars and their terrible defense. The 25-year-old is a must-start, high-end RB1 and has three 150-yard rushing games in 2020 alone. The Jacksonville defense also has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points per game to running backs. Even though Cook might be a little banged up from all his usage this season, he's still one of the best backs in the NFL and is set up with a great matchup. Start him everywhere.

From RotoBaller

Deebo Samuel Dec 3 10:40pm ET

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel (hamstring) was held out of practice as a precaution on Thursday, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan. Samuel proved that he was fully healthy in his return in Week 12 against the Rams by catching 11 passes for 133 yards. That should ease any concerns that fantasy managers may have had after he missed the previous four games with a hamstring injury. The return of rookie first-round receiver Brandon Aiyuk will definitely take some targets away from Samuel on Monday night against the Bills, but fantasy managers should treat him as at least a low-end WR2 in Week 13. Quarterback Nick Mullens is more successful on short passes, and the Niners love to get the ball to Samuel in the flats and let him work.

From RotoBaller

Nick Foles Dec 3 10:30pm ET

Chicago Bears quarterback Nick Foles (hip) returned to a full practice on Thursday and is expected to serve as the backup to Mitchell Trubisky in Week 13 against the Lions. Until Trubisky either plays his way out of the starting job again or gets injured, it looks like Foles will hold the clipboard on the sideline. Neither signal-caller has been the answer for Chicago's inept offense this season, but Trubisky at least gives fantasy managers in superflex leagues a little bit higher of a ceiling because of his rushing ability. The Lions Defense was just shredded on Thanksgiving by the Texans, so Trubisky does actually have some QB2 streaming appeal on Sunday. The 26-year-old turned the ball over three times in the blowout loss to Green Bay last week, but he also threw three touchdowns.

From RotoBaller

A.J. Brown Dec 3 10:10pm ET

Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown (hip) and tight end Jonnu Smith (knee) were sidelined at practice on Thursday. Brown wasn't on the injury report on Wednesday, so this is something to watch. As long as he practices on Friday, he should be good to go for Week 13 against the Browns as a must-start WR1. The 23-year-old has seven touchdowns in 2020 and has proven to be a beast at the receiver position in just his second season. Cleveland is also plenty beatable through the air, allowing the 11th-most fantasy points per game to pass-catchers. Smith also missed practice Wednesday and is trending in the wrong direction. He also didn't have a single target last week against the Colts, making him a fade as a touchdown-dependent, low-end TE1. Anthony Firkser and MyCole Pruitt would see bigger roles if Smith is deemed inactive.

From RotoBaller