Crumbling Patriots, slumping Chargers set for battle

League: NFL

Posted on: 02 Dec, 2023 at 01:19 AM

Credit: Kevin R. Wexler / USA TODAY NETWORK

Things have gone from bad to worse for the New England Patriots.

New England has lost seven of its past eight games and, after struggling to officially name a starting quarterback last week, could be set to deal with more turmoil when it faces the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday afternoon in Foxborough, Mass.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick waited until game day to reveal who would be his signal-caller for last Sunday's game against the New York Giants. He opted to stick with QB1 Mac Jones, but the move backfired.

Jones completed 12 of 21 passes for just 89 yards with two interceptions before being benched in the second half. Bailey Zappe took over, but he failed to generate a spark with 54 yards and an interception as New England (2-9) fell 10-7.

It marked the fourth time this season that Jones has ended up being benched in favor of Zappe.

If the revolving door under center wasn't a big enough concern, Belichick made it clear no one's job is safe with Los Angeles (4-7) coming to town. He went the entire week without naming Jones or Zappe the starting quarterback.

"I'm not going to make any announcements on our lineup at any position," Belichick said. "So, it doesn't matter what the position is. We'll see how practice goes, see if everybody is ready to go.

"Hopefully everybody is ready to go, see what the injury situation is, and we'll go with who we think is best on Sunday."

Zappe has taken plenty of first-team snaps in practice this week. But when asked if he would start Sunday, the second-year pro deferred.

"Nothing's set in stone. I'm just taking it day by day, treating every rep that I get in practice like it's a game rep and just preparing like I do every other week," Zappe said.

The Chargers' situation isn't nearly as dire, but Los Angeles is starting to see its playoff hopes fade.

Since back-to-back convincing wins over the Chicago Bears (30-13 on Oct. 29) and New York Jets (27-6 on Nov. 6), the Chargers have dropped three straight games, including last Sunday's 20-10 setback against the Baltimore Ravens.

Los Angeles coach Brandon Staley isn't giving up, though, and he believes his team can make a push to secure a second consecutive playoff berth.

"Our focus is on beating New England. That's what our focus needs to be," Staley said. "The AFC is wide open. It will be to the end, like it has been.

"The only way that we're going to have a shot is if we beat New England, and that's where our focus needs to go right now."

However, the Patriots have often proved to be a challenge for the Chargers, who are 1-10 in their past 11 games vs. New England. That rut includes three playoff losses.

Making things even tougher for Los Angeles is the fact that it could potentially be without star wide receiver Keenan Allen. He leads the NFL in receptions (97) and ranks second in receiving yards (1,117) this season, but he is questionable to play due to a quadriceps injury.

Tight end Nick Vannett (concussion), offensive lineman Zack Bailey (back) and defensive backs Ja'Sir Taylor and JT Woods (both illness) were ruled out, while tackle Trey Pipkins III (wrist) is questionable.

Patriots receivers Demario Douglas (concussion) and Kayshon Boutte (shoulder, illness) were ruled out.

Tackles Trent Brown (ankle, chest) and Riley Reiff (knee), guard Sidy Sow (ankle), running back Ezekiel Elliott (thigh), linebacker Chris Board (back) and defensive lineman Deatrich Wise Jr. (shoulder) are considered questionable.

--Field Level Media