Experts share their picks for the Patriots Divisional Playoff matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Mike Reiss, ESPN:
Pick: Patriots 27, Chargers 20
The Patriots' defense has been a different unit at home (where the team is 8-0) and that will ultimately be the difference-maker against a Chargers team that is dominant outside of Los Angeles County. The Patriots are well-rested and healthy coming off the playoff bye, and players felt like Wednesday's full-pads practice was an important one for them to ramp things up for a physical game. Meanwhile, the Chargers are banged up in some key spots (running back, for one) and will be making another flight across the country after playing in Baltimore on Sunday.
Eric D. Williams, ESPN
Pick: Chargers 24, Patriots 21
The Bolts will have to play a near-perfect game on the road to earn a victory. However, with a veteran coaching staff and two edge rushers, Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, who can pressure Brady, the Chargers have a chance to pull off the upset. The key for the Chargers will be limiting mistakes and scoring touchdowns on offense. The Patriots allowed 4.9 rushing yards per play during the regular season, tied for third worst in the NFL, which bodes well for Melvin Gordon. New England also allowed 59 passing plays of 20-plus yards in 2018, so the Chargers' receivers should create some explosive plays down the field.
Mike Golic, ESPN: Patriots
Seth Wickersham, ESPN: Chargers
Matt Bowen, ESPN: Patriots
Mina Kimes, ESPN: Chargers
Louis Riddick, ESPN: Patriots
Dan Graziano, ESPN: Chargers
Trey Wingo, ESPN: Chargers
Mike Clay, ESPN: Patriots
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports:
Pick: Patriots 27, Chargers 24
The Chargers are playing consecutive road games on the East Coast, while the Patriots are coming off a bye. That's a big edge to the Patriots.
Jason La Canfora, CBS Sports: Patriots
Will Brinson, CBS Sports: Chargers
Jared Dubin, CBS Sports: Patriots
Dave Richard, CBS Sports: Chargers
Jamey Eisenberg, CBS Sports: Patriots
Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports: Chargers
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk:
Pick: Patriots 24, Chargers 17
Something's got to give. The Chargers are 9-0 away from L.A., the Patriots are unbeaten at home, and Tom Brady has never lost to Philip Rivers. Playoff experience becomes the difference for a New England team that was left for dead not long ago.
Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk:
Pick: Patriots 24, Chargers 23
I actually think the Chargers are a better top-to-bottom team than the Patriots right now. But the Chargers' disadvantages are having to play against the Ravens while the Patriots were resting, two long cross-country flights, and an early kickoff. The Patriots' playoff experience can't hurt, and the Chargers are going to have to radically change their defensive approach this week against Tom Brady from the way they played last week against Lamar Jackson. The Patriots will pull out a close win.
Paul Perillo, Patriots.com:
Pick: Patriots 23, Chargers 20
Pats squeak out hard-fought battle with a Stephen Gostkowski field goal.
Andy Hart, Patriots.com:
Pick: Patriots 24, Chargers 21
Patriots run the ball and finish drives while Philip Rivers makes a couple of mistakes.
Erik Scalavino, Patriots.com:
Pick: Chargers 28, Patriots 24
There are plenty of factors in New England's favor heading into this game – history, weather, home-field advantage, to name a few – but Los Angeles seems to have an intangible quality that just might prove capable of overcoming all of them. The Chargers, who were very close to being the No. 1 seed in the AFC, also present matchup problems for the Patriots which will make this a close, tough game. L.A. eventually gets the better of New England to advance to the AFC title game.
Don Banks, Patriots.com NFL Columnist:
The Patriots are 7-0 in their past seven Divisional-round home games, but this time they drew no opponent from the Cupcake Division. The Chargers are legit, and they won't be intimidated by Gillette Stadium after winning in five different time zones this season, going 9-0 when they play outside of Los Angeles. Then again, the Patriots were the NFL's only 8-0 home club this season, and they've won 15 consecutive home games since falling in Week 4 to Carolina last season. So there are stats to back up both team's invincibility.
But at some point, I think the travel and perhaps the frosty weather will catch up to the Chargers on Sunday. They're trying to become the first team since the 1989 Rams to travel coast-to-coast for consecutive playoff games, winning both. It's not an easy trick, and beating the Patriots after a bye week is another statistical improbability to deal with. New England will have to play its best game and protect Tom Brady at all costs, and the Patriots can't afford to get behind and have to play catch up against that talented Chargers defense. In the end, New England knows how to win the tough games in January, and one more trip to the AFC Championship game is on the way.