A preview of the AFC divisional-round matchup between the Los Angeles Chargers and New England Patriots
When: Sunday, Jan. 13, 1:05 p.m. ET
Where: Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
Line: Patriots by 4 1/2
Injuries: The Chargers are relatively healthy but still could have some noteworthy absences. Tight end Hunter Henry missed the wild-card round victory against the Ravens as he continues to recover from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in May. Linebacker Jatavis Brown suffered an ankle injury in the regular-season finale and missed the wild-card win against the Ravens. Starting nose tackle Brandon Mebane has been away from the team for non-football related issues, as he tends to his daughter, who was born prematurely in November with a rare chromosomal disorder. And cornerback Brandon Facyson sustained a concussion Sunday against the Ravens.
The Patriots could get a few players back after their first-round bye. Receiver Cordarrelle Patterson missed the regular-season finale against the Jets with a knee injury. Star safety Devin McCourty suffered a concussion in that game and missed New England’s two practices last week.
THREE THINGS TO KNOW
1. A tough history for L.A.: In his career and including the postseason, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers hasn’t won any game he has played in Foxborough, going 0-4 since he became the team’s starter in 2006. In fact, he’s 0-7 against the Patriots in games when Tom Brady starts at quarterback. In those games against Brady, Rivers’ touchdown-to-interception ratio is 7:10. His lone victory against the Patriots in his 13-year run as the Chargers' starter came in 2008, when backup Matt Cassel played in place of Brady, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in that year’s opener.
2. Checkdowns and passes in the flat: The Chargers posted an incredible defensive performance against the Ravens in which they used several defensive backs to infuse speed on the field to neutralize athletic Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson. Against the Patriots, they may look to the same strategy for a different reason. Los Angeles allowed 973 receiving yards to running backs, which ranked second-to-last among all teams. That could be potentially problematic, since New England relies on its backs – especially James White – in the receiving game. White led the Patriots in receptions (87) and receiving scores (seven) and ranked second in receiving yards (751).
3. Road warriors: One trend Los Angeles does have on its side, however, is a track record of excellence on the road this season. The Chargers went 7-1 in the regular season in away games, with their one loss coming Week 3 against the crosstown Rams. And, when adding their wild-card round upset on the road against the Ravens Sunday and their Week 7 victory against the Titans in London, their mark when traveling outside of L.A.’s city limits is 9-0. One potential problem for the Chargers and their success away from home: In the regular season, the Patriots went 8-0 in Foxborough.
Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.
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