All poor play aside, the Patriots have made it to the Divisional Round after a first round bye. It almost seems like a mystery what might happen this time.
The Chargers feel hardly like a layup for this Patriots team this year. They didn’t end up with my ideal scenario of the Texans, but the Chargers feel like a better matchup than the Ravens would have been.
Rivers v.s. Brady isn’t exactly a classic matchup. Brady is actually 7-0 when he plays against Rivers, which isn’t exactly a two sided rivalry.
Brady really needs his targets to show up for him. The Chargers have a very strong pass rush and a very good secondary. The offensive line really needs to hold up for Brady. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are no joke, and we don’t need him taking too many hits from these guys.
The running game needs to come up huge. That means a combination of all 3 backs. That should keep everyone at bay to keep the pass rush off Brady’s back.
They also need to throw some new things at these guys, like maybe using Michel in the passing game. That just adds an extra person for them to cover. The Chargers have a such an effective pass rush that they play 7 DBs on the field a lot of the time. This should be a recipe for RBs and Gronk to catch a lot of passes. He might have been a shell of himself during the regular season, but this is the perfect game for him to blow up. Big games out of James White and Gronk this week should be a recipe for win.
At home the defense seems like it has stepped up, and that is a huge part of winning this divisional round.
The wide receivers of the Chargers scare me the most. Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Tyrell Williams, and Travis Benjamin. Keenan Allen and Stephon Gilmore should be a fun battle all day.
After that is when it gets scary. The Williams’ against Jason McCourty and JC Jackson is not ideal. Benjamin is usually a big play speed threat, and Jonathan Jones should take him fine.
With these two receiving threats aside, they also have Antonio Gates to worry about, as well as a freshly activated Hunter Henry coming off a torn ACL from the Summer.
This is a lot of threats to deal with and if the running game was fully healthy this wouldn’t look good. But Melvin Gordon wasn’t able to play the whole wild card game, and Ekeler has been banged up throughout the season.
The Patriots defense needs to do two things: Bend but don’t break, and attack on Rivers’ mistakes. If they can hold them to field goals early on like Baltimore did, the offense should capitalize to take a lead. And Philip Rivers is still Philip Rivers, and he will make mistakes. They just need to make the most of them and this is their game to win.
This might be one of the biggest challenges the Pats have faced in the AFC side of the playoffs in recent years. The stats may be down this year, but stats don’t win football games. Brady and Belichick know how to win football games, and they can do just that. 31-27 Pats.
-Jake Kobierski (@TheRealKobe83)
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