Thanks to the Colts win on Saturday night in Houston and Chargers 23-17 victory Sunday afternoon in Baltimore, Philip Rivers’ L.A. squad will come to Gillette Stadium this coming Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. for the Divisional Playoff against the Patriots.
As the No. 2 seed, the Patriots host the highest remaining seed – the No. 5 seed Chargers -- at this point in the postseason, while Indianapolis will travel to Kansas City to take on the top-seeded Chiefs.
After finishing the regular season with a 12-4 record, including a Week 16 loss to Baltimore, the Chargers used four first-half field goals for a 12-0 lead on the way to Wild Card Weekend victory over the Ravens. L.A.’s defense dominated rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson as the home team had four punts and a pair of turnovers on its six first-half possessions, while Rivers and the visiting offense did just enough to control the game most of the afternoon before a late Ravens touchdown tightened things up to make it interesting with just under two minutes to play.
"We'll be there next Sunday," Rivers said with confidence on CBS after his team's latest road win. Meanwhile pass rusher Melvin Ingram yelled in the background, "Any squad, anywhere."
Los Angeles matched the Saints, 7-1, for the best record on the road during the regular season. After the road win in Baltimore to open the postseason, the Chargers will have to fly across the country for the second straight week to take on a Patriots squad that was the only NFL team to notch a perfect 8-0 home record during the regular season.
Despite losing two of their first three games to open the year, the Chargers were one of the most well-rounded teams in football all season. They finished the year ranked No. 11 in total offense and No. 9 in total defense. L.A. tied for sixth in scoring on offense and ranked eighth in points allowed. The Chargers finished with a plus-1 turnover margin for the year with 20 takeaways (13 picks, 7 fumbles recovered) compared to 19 giveaways (12 picks, 7 lost fumbles).
All four Chargers losses this season came in California, three home defeats to the Chiefs, Broncos and Ravens, as well as a defeat across town at the hands of the L.A. Rams.
The 37-year-old Rivers, like Tom Brady, continues to defy his age in his 15th NFL season. The veteran threw 32 touchdown passes compared to just 12 picks during the regular season, completing 68.3 percent of his throws for 4,308 yards and a 105.5 passer rating.
The rest of the Chargers offense includes a pair of potent receivers in Keenan Allen (97 receptions for 1,196 yards and 6 TDs) and Mike Williams, who averaged 15.4 yards a catch during the regular season with a team-best 10 touchdown catches.
Though he’s been battling knee issues, L.A. running back Melvin Gordon is a two-way threat after rushing for 885 yards and 10 touchdowns to go with 50 receptions and another four scores.
Defensively the Chargers have impressive playmakers at all three levels. The pass rush is led by Ingram and Joey Bosa, who combined for 11.5 sacks during the regular season. The back end includes versatile, stud first-round All-Pro rookie safety Derwin James, All-Pro defensive back Desmond King and veteran cornerback Casey Hayward.
The Patriots and Chargers actually have an interesting playoff history, dating back to a win for then-San Diego in the AFL Championship in 1963. More recently the Patriots beat the Rivers-led Chargers 21-12 in the AFC title game in January 2008. A year earlier New England pulled off the upset in the Divisional Playoff in San Diego thanks to a Troy Brown forced-fumble following a would-be Chargers interception.
The last meeting between the two teams in the regular season came in October 2017, a 21-13 Patriots win at Gillette.