BOSTON -- It's humorous -- almost -- the way it's shaping up.
No matter which side of the Bailey Zappe debate you've taken or observed over the past year-plus, there's always been the undeniable reality that his two victories as a starter came against two lousy football teams. The Lions were 1-3 (on the way to 1-6) when they lost to Zappe in Foxboro, having allowed 35.3 points per game before losing 29-0 to the Patriots. The Browns were 2-3 (on their way to 3-7) when they lost at home to Zappe and the Patriots. Zappe played poorly against the Bears, a team with a decent pass defense, and then was never seen again for the rest of the year.
Now set to get his first start in 2024 ... the script remains remarkably similar.
When Zappe takes the field Sunday as New England's starter -- and all indications are that he will be QB1 on Sunday -- he'll be doing so against a Los Angeles Chargers defense that has been atrocious against the pass this season.
The Chargers have given up more passing yards than anybody this season, at over 280 yards per game. They're allowing 7.9 yards per attempt, the second-most in the NFL. Opposing quarterbacks have a 98.7 passer rating against the Chargers, the third-highest mark in the league. Chargers defenders have just six total interceptions on the year, tied for fifth-fewest in the league.
They are getting to the quarterback, thanks to Khalil Mack's 13 sacks to go with Joey Bosa (6.5, though he won't be playing this week) and Morgan Fox (5.5). But that's about the only pass defense number that looks good for the Chargers.
They're a team that's allowed Patrick Mahomes to throw for 424 yards and four touchdowns, Tua Tagovailoa to throw for 466 yards and three touchdowns, Kirk Cousins to throw for 367 yards and three touchdowns, Jordan Love to throw for 322 yards and two touchdowns, and Jared Goff to throw for 333 yards and two touchdowns. Ryan Tannehill had a 123.3 passer rating against the Chargers, his only game over 100 on the season.
Spun another way: The Chargers have allowed the most passing yards in the NFL despite having Tyson Bagent, Aidan O'Connell and Zach Wilson on their schedule.
The Chargers did limit Lamar Jackson (177 yards, 1 TD) in the passing game last week, but quarterbacks have been quite comfortable when facing the Chargers this season.
That's not to say that if Mac Jones were to be given the opportunity to start this game, he'd light it up. Jones faced the comparably inept Commanders pass defense and only threw for 220 yards with a touchdown and a pick (albeit one that bounced off his receiver's hands) for a 66.5 passer rating. The third-year pro looks thoroughly perplexed behind the line this year, and some separation from the field is probably the only thing that might be able to reset his mainframe.
And for Zappe, who has a grisly 38.2 passer rating this year, a soft landing is probably needed.
It is, however, merely a note that if Zappe does play well against this porous Chargers defense, well ... we might want to wait until next week in Pittsburgh and/or the following week against Kansas City to get a proper picture of what starting quarterback Bailey Zappe can be in year two.
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