The Patriots enter as the number two seed, despite having a worse record than the LA Chargers. Having coming off a hard fought win in the Wildcard round in Baltimore, the Chargers appear primed to take down the Patriots. The game is seen as nearly even, as the Patriots are only a four point favorite. At a neutral site this would be down to a single point.
Taking a closer look at the teams through the regular season, they are nearly even in scoring and points allowed. New England ranked fourth at 27.3 points per game, while the Chargers were just a half point behind, ranking seventh. Defensively, the Patriots ranked sixth at 20.3 points allowed and the Chargers gave up just five more points for the entire season.
Los Angeles is lead by quarterback Philip Rivers, who threw for over 4300 yards and 32 touchdowns. He should have time to throw against the Patriots, who had only 30 sacks for the season. Keenan Allen has posed a problem for opposing defenses all season and this weekend shouldn't be any different. He had 97 receptions for 1196 yards and six touchdowns. While Allen is the primary target, Mike Williams has a nose for the end zone, scoring ten touchdowns on 43 receptions. Running back Melvin Gordon is utilized as well, as his 50 receptions for the season indicates.
The ground game has taken the pressure off Rivers all season. Although there are no 1000 yard rushers on the team, the backs are quite effective. Gordon ran for 885 yards and ten scores, while Austin Eckeler added 554 to a duo that averages nearly five yards per carry.
Tom Brady, the ageless wonder, had another excellent season. He threw for 4355 yards and 29 touchdowns while continuing to spread the ball to a slew of targets. Running back James White lead the team with 87 receptions, while Julian Edelman added 74 and tight end Rob Gronkowski had 47 despite being hampered with injuries much of the season.
An underrated rushing attack lead by rookie Sony Michel contributes to a powerful offensive attack. Michel ran for 931 yards and James White and Cordarette Patterson combined for over 650 yards and five per attempt.
The kicking game has been good for both teams, however Stephen Gostkowski is only 6-for-11 from beyond 40 yards. Mike Badgley has converted 15-of-16 this season, but in a pressure situation of the playoffs, the bet for making the big kick would be with Gostkowski.
In a tight match up, this one could be difficult to pick The Chargers have enough to steal this one late and wouldn't be shocked to see it happen. However, it's never wise to bet against a Tom Brady lead Patriots team at home. In a high scoring game, look for the Patriots to edge the Chargers by a field goal.