Patriots vs Chargers ; For the second straight week, the Los Angeles Chargers cross the country for a road playoff game. After knocking off the Baltimore Ravens as road underdogs in the Wild Card, the Bolts are shipping off to Boston to play the New England Patriots in the AFC Divisional Round.
New England has won four in a row SU and ATS against the Chargers, going back to the franchise’s time in San Diego, and should hold a solid home-field edge with the forecast calling for sub-freezing temperatures in Foxborough – a far cry from the sun and surf of Southern California.
If you’re watching and wagering on this AFC playoff clash Sunday afternoon, here are the best ways to bet the NFL playoff odds for Chargers at Patriots, from quick-hitting props to the full-game spread and total.
The Patriots don’t take long to get started at Gillette Stadium, averaging just under a touchdown in the opening frame when playing at home. And when it comes to New England’s games, the action is hot an heavy out of the gate. A touchdown has opened scoring in seven straight games for the Pats, with Tom Brady & Co. recording four of those seven strikes for six points.
On the other side of the field, the Chargers have seen a touchdown open scoring in five of their last seven outings, however, L.A. was responsible for only two of those TDs and has been first to the score board in just three of those seven outings.
While Bill Belichick has a tendency to defer receiving to the second half, this defense has been solid in the opening frame in front of the friendly fans, allowing just 1.9 points in the first 15 minutes at home. On the year, L.A. ranked among the worst first-quarter stop units, allowing opponents to put up 5.8 first-quarter points.
PREDICTION: First score: New England touchdown +180
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Los Angeles should have rolled Baltimore last week, considering how many times the Ravens coughed the ball up. But the Bolts had to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns. They attempted six field goals, making five of those kicks, and watched their once-mighty red-zone offense struggle to crack the goal line.
New England may not come to mind when thinking about stout stop units, but this defense has been very stingy over its last six games. Since enjoying a bye in Week 11, the Patriots held opponents to an average of 14.8 points and in their last three games, they’ve allowed foes to find the end zone on just 33 percent of their trips inside the 20-yard line.
In classic “bend but don’t break” Belichick fashion, the Patriots will give up some yards but not the full six points in the first half of this ball game, leaving L.A. to kick more field goals than it would like.
PREDICTION: Los Angeles first-half field goals Over 1 +475For such a big personality, Rob Gronkowski has had a relatively small impact on the Patriots’ output in recent games. Gronkowski had just four total catches for 45 yards in the final three games of a very long season, in which the tight end battled nagging back and ankle injuries.
But, you can only quiet Gronk for so long, and he comes to play on the biggest stage. Gronkowski has scored nine touchdowns in his last eight postseason appearances and could have a very favorable matchup with this new-look Chargers defense.
Los Angeles went small and fast to slow down Baltimore’s run game last weekend, using more defensive backs than linebackers. That worked well against a poor Ravens pass game, but you won’t get away with that against Brady. If Gronkowski finds himself in a size mismatch, expect No. 12 to pick at that sore spot – especially when closing in on the end zone.
“The playoffs are always a different feel — no matter what — every single time we make it. Just the excitement level definitely turns up another notch,” Gronkowski told Boston.com.
Gronkowski has been a thorn in the side of the Chargers franchise in recent meetings, with five touchdown catches in their last four matchups overall. Get ready for at least one giant “Gronk Spike” Sunday afternoon.
The AFC side of the bracket is a “who’s who” of quarterbacks, and Philip Rivers versus Tom Brady seems like a matchup that would promise a lot of points. The Over/Under reflects that, sitting at 47.5 points.
Taking a deeper dive though, Los Angeles has been a fave for Under bettors, staying below the total in four of its last five games. The Chargers are an extremely methodical offense that ranks among the lowest plays per game in the NFL, letting the play clock – and often the game clock – tick away.
New England is always an offensive threat, but this defense has been the star of the second half of the season. Since Week 1, the Patriots have allowed just one of their six opponents to top 17 points and haven’t just built those stats against AFC East cupcakes, taking on capable offenses in Minnesota and Pittsburgh during that span.
The Patriots have paid out for the Under in eight of their last nine games overall, and these teams have stayed below the number in five of their last six matchups, going back to the Bolts’ days in San Diego.
We’ve heard this narrative before. There’s a strong group of doubters who believe Belichick and Brady’s best days are behind them. And every time the betting public plays into that, the Patriots slap them in the face.
New England’s biggest struggles came away from home. All five of its losses happened on the road, where the Pats boasted an average margin of victory of minus-2.6 as visitors. Flip the venue to Gillette Stadium, and New England blasted visitors by 16.36 points per game and finished 6-2 against the spread.
New England is the boogeyman for this Chargers franchise, having won and covered in four straight meetings, while posting a 6-1 ATS mark in its last seven Divisional Round showings and 38-16-2 ATS return in its previous 56 postseason home games. If the “Brady Bunch” is sliding, it’s not happening Sunday.