Chargers +4 (10 units)
1:05 PM EST
Chargers +4 over Patriots
This is my favorite play of the entire season. Vegas is crazy with this line. The only reason the Pats are favored in this game is because of their name and past playoff history. I’m not going to say Tom Brady has finally hit the wall but he has certainly looked very mortal over the past 8 weeks. People forget how terrible he looked mid way through the season because the Pats finished the year with two blowouts against the pitiful Bills and Jets where he looked fine but before that the Pats really struggled the previous 6 weeks going 3-3 straight up (2-4 ATS) over that six week span averaging only 21.3 points a game. I am the first one to fade the media when they overreact to the Pats struggles but watching every Pats game this year, this is the first time I have ever seen Brady look this bad, this is no overreaction.
The Pats historically have been virtually unbeatable in Foxboro in the playoffs but the past is the past. Tom Brady is 41 years old and time is taking it’s toll. Ever since losing Josh Gordon the Pats offense hasn’t been able to stretch the field and Brady made a lot of errant passes and late season mistakes to end the year. Gordon’s absence can’t be understated. Without him, the Pats don’t have any reliable receivers who can get open besides Julian Edelman. Edelman is great in the slot but the Chargers have Desmond King who is one of the top slot cornerbacks in the NFL and he’ll be able to limit Edelman. With Edelman mostly smothered, Brady is going to have to look elsewhere. But take a look at his other receivers in this game: Gronk who is 60% at best, Chris Hogan is nothing special, Phillip Dorsett and Corradalle Patterson, two middling at best receivers. James White is always a threat out of the backfield and that may be the Pats best chance. Sony Michel has come on down the stretch but the Chargers have a Top 10 rush defense and they just put the clamps on the Ravens potent rushing attack so limiting Michel shouldn’t be much of a problem.
I get it that the Chargers are a very public team but it’s for good reason. They were also a very public team last week and beat the pants off the Ravens — you have to look at the matchups on the field not at the betting percentages. They Chargers are more talented and have better depth than the Patriots this season. The only reason they’ve been forced to play on the road in the first two weeks is because they play in the same division as the Chiefs and they lost a fluke game they had all but won to the Broncos. The only reason the Pats are playing at home in this game is because the AFC East is a joke and they were gift wrapped six five free wins against their division. Ever since Week 12 I had the Chargers as my top team in the AFC and nothing has changed. This is the only team left in the playoffs that has a top 10 offense and defense. They have the pass rushers in Ingram and Bosa to give Brady fits. The Chargers can run the football and the Pats have really struggled at stopping the run (they let Jaylen Samuels, a former tight end at N.C. state rush for 142 yards on 19 carries). They have the best deep threat wide receivers in the game in Allen, Benjamin and Williams and the Pats have struggled against teams with the occasional deep pass. The Chargers rank third in yards per play while the Pats are 22nd against the pass and in total yards allowed.
All of the talk on ESPN is how Philip Rivers has never beaten Tom Brady but he’s also never had a supporting cast that includes Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen, Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams or a defense this good. This is by far the best Chargers team Rivers ever had and this team really impressed me last week with their dominant win over the Ravens. They will not be intimidated in this one. As for the Patriots, I don’t want to call for the “end of the dynasty” just yet but they are certainly a shell of their former selves compared to years past. Tom Brady did not finish the season playing at an elite level and the career worth of injuries have finally taken their toll on Gronk and their lone deep threat and Brady’s favorite redzone target Josh Gordon, is suspended. I truly believe the wrong team is favored here and fully expect a Chargers victory. That said, it still is Brady and Belicheck so even I have to give them their respects, at best they may be able to muster a last minute drive for the win but the 4 points should never sweat. Take the Chargers.