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Posted at 11:15 AM EST.
1:05 PM EST. It’s hard to imagine that in the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era that the Patriots stock would be lower than their opposition’s for a playoff game in Foxborough but that’s precisely what we’re seeing here. You are going to hear and read about all the positives that surround the Chargers this week and that’s after watching them dismantle Lamar Jackson and the Ravens last week. The final score of 23-17 is not indicative of what transpired on the field. The Chargers had a 23-3 lead late in the fourth and took their foot of the pedal, thus allowing Tim Tebow Lamar Jackson and the Ravens two garbage time TD’s. That win ran the Chargers road record to 8-1 this year. Not only are they 8-1 on the road, their last four road wins occurred against the Steelers, Chiefs, Broncos and Ravens. This is a mature Bolts’ squad with a formidable defense and great balance. However, we have our concerns.
Philip Rivers will come prepared. Make no mistake about that, as he is as competitive and dedicated as Tom Brady or any other QB for that matter. Rivers drives nearly two hours daily to get to the Chargers new facility in Costa Mesa. Even though the Chargers moved to Los Angeles last offseason, Rivers still lives in San Diego. He didn’t want to uproot his family, which includes eight children (with a ninth on the way). To make sure he’s still a thousand percent prepared, Rivers hired a driver and customized SUV with a 40-inch screen, wifi and a satellite dish so he can watch film during the commute. However, Philip Rivers also looks a little beat up and fatigued. The running backs are also beaten up. In the last three games, Rivers passing rating is 55, and the Bolts are averaging 18 points a game and just 240 yards over that span. Those aforementioned last four games have taken a big toll on the Bolts, as they went from L.A to the midwest to play Kansas City and back home to play Baltimore before playing in the high altitude of Denver then back home to prepare to fly back to the East Coast to play Baltimore last week. This week they are right back to the East Coast for another game. In fact, if we take it back six weeks, the Chargers played in Pittsburgh and then they came back home for a game against Cincinnati. The games against K.C, Pittsburgh and of course last week against Baltimore were of the highest intensity and two games came against the bruising Ravens defense. The travel, the games, the intensity and the difficulty is one of those intangibles we refer to often.
The Chargers used experience to win in Baltimore against a rookie quarterback backed by a great defense. Now they face the opposite - the most veteran quarterback in the NFL with an average defense but an average defense can play very good given the right situation ( see K.C and the Rams yesterday). Then of course there is the master himself ---BB.
Off a bye and into the playoffs, the Patriots are 11-1 in the BB era. They are also undefeated at home this year. There's no denying that Tom Brady has looked less sharp at times this year and Rob Gronkowski has all but fallen off the map, but this is the playoff game and what the Patriots are built to play. When comparing the two teams down the stretch in terms of a situation advantage, it’s not even close. The Patriots closed the season with two games at home against the Jets and Bills respectively. The last time the Pats traveled was four weeks ago when they went to Pittsburgh. The Patriots are well-rested while the Chargers are the complete opposite, having traveled probably close to 20,000 miles or more over the past six weeks, not to mention once again having had to play the Ravens twice. The Patriots do not have the better players but what they do have is one of the biggest situational advantages you will ever see. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are the last coach/QB combo in the history of this game that one wants to give any edge to, let alone one this massive in terms of the toll the schedule has taken. The point-spread has not accounted for any of that. We are.
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