Disclaimer: Look this is Playoff Football, anything can happen. This has been a fantastic & grueling season. No one deserves to be sent home but it's going to happen. I'm not about picking ATS because it's do-or-die and teams will do whatever it takes to accumulate points. I'm a playoff purist and I don't want to be checking the scoreboard and my betting slip so let's go for the MONEYLINE.
The Los Angeles Chargers are riding high off their home win against Baltimore last week. They played great on both sides of the ball, even with Melvin Gordon being banged up. I pegged them to win but that wasn’t easy. This week they enter the Belichick & Brady House of Horrors in Foxboro. Talent-wise, these teams stack up fairly evenly, with the Chargers being mostly comprised of young and talented players on the Defensive end. Let’s break down the positions
QB: Tom Brady vs. Philip Rivers
Both are Hall of Fame Quarterbacks. That’s just the facts Jack. Brady will receive top billing but Rivers has been a model of consistency and G rated trash talking his entire career for the Chargers. What this matchup is going to come down to is limiting the turnovers. Brady doesn’t give up a lot, while Rivers is more prone to live dangerously. Quietly LA has the best Defensive team in the AFC and their goal is to make Tom uncomfortable. Easier said than done. History will repeat itself because Tom is captain clutch and Belichick/McDaniels always have some tricks up their sleeve. If Rivers can have a career defining game then the Chargers will win but I’m sticking with the man who has a fist full of rings. Edge: PATS
Running Back: Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White vs. Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson.
Make no mistake, Melly Mel is still the best running back in this bunch but his knee injuries are very concerning, especially on the NE turf. Sony Michel is a monster and could be relied upon heavily in this game. Mix in the pass catching versatility of White & Burkhead and the Chargers defense could be on their heels up and down the field. Ekeler is capable of the same and will need to break a big play but he’s not 100% either. In playoff football, the Pats control the clock with the run game and if they get a lead, don’t be surprised to see them chew up clock as Champions do. EDGE: PATS
Wide Receivers: Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan &. Phillip Dorsett vs. Keenan Allen, Tyrell & Mike Williams
Julian Edelman is a friend of mine and the I AM RAPAPORT: STEREO PODCAST. He is incredible and may be a double agent who is bringing me over to the dark side of actually rooting for the Patriots. He is going to have to come up big without Josh Gordon and not knowing which Gronk will Show Up (he has to). Derwin James will likely be blanketing him at cornerback and that rookie is excellent. Jules should still catch 7 balls and a TD but it’s going to be a long day. Will the real Chris Hogan please stand up? Probably, he has to stretch the field or the Pats will have to go RB heavy throughout. Dorsett is sneaky good too but doesn’t play a ton of snaps usually, he may have to with no Josh Gordon.
The Chargers are filled with two-guard receivers and Keenan Allen is just terrific. Capable of double digit receptions, he could be the recipient of Rivers game defining ball. Tyrell Williams has been a little too quiet down the stretch, that could change. Mike Williams has come on late in the season and if he has 1-2 Touchdowns, the Chargers will be in good shape. Travis Benjamin may have something up his sleeve too. These Chargers WRs are versatile and this Pats D has its flaws, especially in the Secondary. EDGE: Chargers