The #5 seed Chargers travel to Foxborough to take on the #2 seed Patriots on Sunday. The Patriots lead the all time series 24-15-2, and have won straight head to head in the matchup.
The Chargers defeated the #4 seed Ravens 23-17 in the Wild Card round to advance. In week 16, they lost 22-10 to those same Ravens and in week 17 they beat the Broncos 23-9.
The Patriots are coming off their first round bye, but defeated the Jets 38-3 in week 17. In week 15, they lost to the Steelers 17-10, and in week 16 they beat the Bills 24-12.
GTBets has the Patriots as 4 point favourites with an O/U total of 45.5.
Los Angeles Chargers
(13-4 overall, 8-1 on the road)
The Chargers offense has been fun to watch, and offers a lot of different ways to combat defenses. Philip Rivers has thrown for 4468 yards, 32 TDs, and 12 INTs on the year while completing 68.3% of his passes and averaging 8.3 YPA. Keenan Allen has been a star, catching 101 passes for 1233 yards and 6 TDs. Melvin Gordon (51/493/4), Mike Williams (45/706/10), Austin Ekeler (43/418/3), and Tyrell Williams (43/662/5) fill a lot of different roles for them as well. Melvin Gordon has been their most efficient running back, carrying 192 times for 925 yards and 11 TDs in 13 games. Austin Ekeler supplements him with 117 carries for 583 yards and 3 TDs.
The Chargers regular season allowed 20.6 PPG, ranking 8th in the league. Their passing defense ranked 9th allowing 227.9 yards per game and 23 TDs through the air while their pass rush ranked t-19th with 38 sacks. Their rushing defense ranked 9th, allowing 105.8 yards per game and 11 TDs on the ground. Their defense forced 20 turnovers and as a team they owned a +1 turnover differential.
Injuries and Inactive Watch
RB Melvin Gordon (knee) – questionable, DT Brandon Mebane (personal) – questionable
New England Patriots
(11-5 overall, 8-0 at home)
The Patriots offense has shifted into a more run-centric approach, but Tom Brady is still doing his thing. Brady has thrown for 4355 yards, 29 TDs and 11 INTs while completing 65.8% of his passes and averaging 7.6 YPA. Running back James White has gotten a huge share of their targets, catching 87 balls for 751 yards and 7 TDs. Julian Edelman (74/850/6), Rob Gronkowski (47/682/3), and Chris Hogan (35/532/3) are still reliable targets as well. Sony Michel has carried the load on the ground with 209 carries for 931 yards and 6 TDs, while James White (94/425/5) and Rex Burkhead (57/186/0) get involved as well.
The Patriots regular season scoring defense ranked 7th, allowing 20.3 PPG. Their passing defense ranked 22nd, allowing 246.4 yards per game and 29 TDs through the air while their pass rush ranked t-30th with 30 sacks. Their rushing defense ranked 11th, allowing 112.7 yards per game and 7 TDs on the ground. Their defense forced 28 turnovers (t-5th) and as a team they owned a +10 turnover differential.
Injuries and Inactive Watch
WR Cordarelle Patterson (knee) – questionable, S Devin McCourty (concussion) – questionable
Another excellent playoff matchup pits the two elder statesmen in the playoffs against each other. The Chargers offense should find success attacking the middle of the field with guys like Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates while Jason McCourty and Stephon Gilmore have their hands full with the Williams duo. Running the ball should not be an issue, as the Patriots give up almost 5 yards per carry, and utilizing Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler on the edge and in the pass game could be lethal.
The Patriots offense will be methodical and decisive, controlling the clock as good as any team in the league with multiple backs and a lethal short passing game. The X-Factor will be Rob Gronkowski, as the Chargers will surely match rookie phenom Derwin James on him. All in all, this game should come down to the wire, with whoever getting the ball last putting his team in position for the win, and with these two quarterbacks at the helm it could be either squad.
Final Pick: Chargers (+4)