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Quick-hit thoughts on Patriots vs Chargers: New England has a tough road to the Super Bowl

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There will be no march of the tomato cans this year.

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Los Angeles Chargers at Baltimore Ravens Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Sorry Dan Shaughnessy, but there are no tomato cans left in the AFC. Sure, the Los Angeles Chargers were coached by the ghost of Marty Schottenheimer in the fourth quarter (I’ll save you the Google, he’s not dead yet), but they’re still a formidable opponent. Luckily, the New England Patriots will be at home in the divisional round. That may not be the case in the AFC Championship Game, though.

Let’s start with the Chargers, who the Patriots will be playing next weekend. They were one of only three teams in the NFL who were top-10 in scoring offense and defense. Not only are they a top scoring defense, they are also top-10 in both passing and rushing yards allowed. They are great at pretty much everything on defense. And, oh by the way, they have Philip Rivers at quarterback and Melvin Gordon at running back. They’re about as tough of an opponent as you’ll ever have to face in the divisional round.

Now let’s take a look at the other divisional matchup. If the Patriots win next week, they’ll obviously be playing the winner of that game. The Indianapolis Colts are headed into Kansas City, and before you dismiss them, they are another one of those three teams who have top-10 scoring offenses and defenses. They completely dominated the Houston Texans this weekend: they shut down what had been a pretty good offense, and, in the first half at least, did pretty much whatever they wanted to offensively. Like it or not, they’d be a tough matchup in the AFC Championship game. The Patriots would have the edge, but only because they’d be at home.

Speaking of home field advantage, let’s discuss the Chiefs. As crazy as it sounds, I think the Patriots would have the best chance to beat them. Their defense is just so bad, and they’re still coached by Andy Reid. The only problem is they would be playing the game in Kansas City. Not only are there very bad memories from Arrowhead Stadium, but the Patriots have been downright terrible on the road.

We’ve all heard that none of the teams that beat the Patriots this season made the playoffs, and that’s a fun stat, but that also means that the Patriots lost to five non-playoff teams on the road this season. In fact, they only played one playoff team — the now-eliminated Chicago Bears — on the road. At home, they played three in the Texans, Colts, and Chiefs. Not only would going into K.C. be tough, it would be a game in which I would give the Chiefs the edge. Of course the Patriots would still have a chance to win, but it’ll be difficult.

When the playoffs started, I was happy the Patriots had the #2 seed because I felt that the Chargers and Chiefs were the two best teams in the AFC. I assumed that the Texans would win and the Chiefs and Chargers would be playing each other, with the Patriots only having to play one of them. Now, with a Colts loss next weekend, the Patriots could be playing both after all, and doing the second one on the road. That’s pretty much worst case scenario for the Patriots.

The hope is that the Colts win on Saturday and the Patriots are able to beat the Chargers one day later. Then the Patriots would be hosting Indy in the AFC Championship Game. But make no mistake, even if that’s the outcome, it’s going to be a tough road to Atlanta and Super Bowl 53 for New England.

Pat is the host of The Patriot Nation Podcast

Interact with him on Twitter @plane_pats

Welcome to Pats Pulpit Live: Wild Card Weekend Edition! Brian Phillips and guest Ryan Keiran break down the Chargers trip to Foxborough next weekend

Posted by Pats Pulpit: For New England Patriots News on Sunday, January 6, 2019