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The Los Angeles Chargers (13-4) continued their winning streak on the road by defeating the Baltimore Ravens 23-17 in last weeks’ Wildcard game. As most know, it was their ninth win in nine tries. This week, it get’s a little harder as they go into Foxboro to matchup against the reigning AFC champions, New England Patriots (11-5). Phillip River is 0-2 against the Patriots in the playoffs and New England tends to extend that streak. Although the New England Patriots weren’t quite themselves this year, they seem to raise their level of play in the postseason.
Keys To The Game
After facing the tough task of stopping the most potent running game last week, it becomes more of a chess match against the veteran team. New England will pose a much tedious task. Unlike last week, blitzing will come in handy forcing Tom Brady to get the ball out quickly. Unlike Lamar Jackson, they don’t have to fear the quarterback making plays with his feet.
Offensively, they might have faced the top overall defense last week but now they get a taste of the “Evil Genus”. Bill Belichick is a master of taking away your best option. Los Angeles have to be multidimensional in their play calling. This is the game that you want to rely heavily on running back Melvin Gordon. Not just in the running game but out in the passing game as well.
Coming into the game, the Patriots finally got the offense to click in the final game of the regular season. In order to to keep that going, the rookie Sony Michel will need to shoulder the load in the running game. This will soften that pass rush from the Chargers and allow Brady extra time to find Rob Gronkowski down the field.
Defensively, its a must to force Rivers and company in “third and longs”. New England’s cornerbacks are just as talented as the gifted wide receivers of Los Angeles. The pass rush must force Rivers to his left when he is trying to escape pressure. Although not mobile, he’s crafty and moving to his right while throwing is one of his strengths. If they control the game, Patriots should be looking at another AFC Championship birth.
Austin Ekeler is as important as any other player on this roster. Third downs is when he will get his most action. Not only catching out the backfield but blocking for Rivers will play a huge part in getting a win in a hostile environment.
Cornerback J.C. Jackson needs to be ready to be picked on. Yes, wide receiver Keenan Allen will be targeted heavy but Mike Williams has evolved into one of Rivers’ go to players for the Chargers. Jackson has emerged as the opposite cornerback of Stephon Gilmore late in the season and he should be picked on most of the game.
This will be more of a chess match with the two coaches and due to the fact that Los Angeles has more talent, Belichick will rely on experience. Patriots win in a low scoring game.