Patriots-Chargers matchup of the day: Saturday

Posted Sept. 17, 2011 @ 3:48 p.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

Here is a key matchup to watch in the Week Two game between the Patriots and Chargers:

Chargers TE Antonio Gates vs. Patriots' defense

Gates is the best receiving tight end in the NFL and has been for years. He started his season with an 8-74 day receiving in Week One and is a top target of QB Philip Rivers. As important as it will be to keep WRs Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd in check, Gates has the ability to take over a game.

In last season's meeting, Gates had four catches for 50 yards and a touchdown. Late in the game, Patriots S Sergio Brown got the call to cover Gates. It was Brown's first-ever NFL appearance.

Brown split time with FS Josh Barrett in Week One, and those two will be part of the equation in covering Gates. Barrett's size (6-2, 225 pounds) could provide a tough matchup for Gates, but Barrett is young and inexperienced, as is Brown.

Patriots SS Patrick Chung, who is one of the team's top playmakers, has struggled in coverage, but expect him to also keep an eye on Gates. Pro Bowl ILB Jerod Mayo may also be thrown at Gates, but Mayo does not have the speed to keep up with the tight end.

Other options for the Patriots include ILB Dane Fletcher, who is fast enough but is mainly used to cover backs in the flat.

The Patriots have options in covering Gates, but he should have an advantage in any matchup. A double-team might be in order, but the Patriots' secondary can't forget about Rivers' other weapons.