I had a feeling the New England Patriots would somehow run into the Los Angeles Chargers during this year’s NFL playoffs.
My sense, though, was that they would meet in the AFC Championship at Gillette Stadium after the Patriots would defeat Houston and the Chargers would knock off Kansas City in the Divisional Round.
As you know, things didn’t play out that way, because the No. 6 seed Indianapolis Colts upset the No. 3 Texans in the Wild Card Round, which automatically sends Indy to Kansas City for the Divisional Round.
That meant the winner of the Chargers and Ravens Wild Card Game in Baltimore last weekend would end up having to come to Foxboro. And as we now know, it’s LA who won that game, giving us a Divisional showdown between the Chargers and Patriots on Sunday at 1 p.m ET.
You can break down the X’s and O’s all you want. But the only question I keep finding myself asking in the days leading up to this game is, “Will the Chargers be the Chargers?” Or more specifically, “Will Philip Rivers be Philip Rivers?”
If we’re being honest about Rivers, then let’s call him what he is. He’s a choke artist.
As the Chargers’ 2018 season unfolded, I never once looked at their team and envisioned a Super Bowl celebration. Instead, I sat back and waited for the collapse.
Being tied for the most wins in the AFC at 12-4 isn’t anything to roll your eyes at, but if Rivers and the Chargers didn’t completely fold under the pressure in a Saturday night home game in Week 16 against the Ravens, then they’d be the No. 1 seed in the AFC right now, coming off the first-round bye, hosting the No. 6 seed Colts.
LA ended up losing the tiebreaker to Kansas City for the top seed, based on their division records. So, ya, in a way, Rivers has already choked once this season in the big spot, thanks to a stat line of 181 pass yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions in that 22-10 Week 16 loss to Baltimore.
The big question now is, did Rivers get all the choking out of his system?
Since his first full season as a starting quarterback in 2006, Rivers has played in 10 playoff games. In those 10 playoff games, he has a 5-5 record, while throwing 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions, averaging 233 pass yards per game.
Rivers is 1-4 in the Divisional Round and 0-1 in the AFC Championship Game. His first playoff appearance actually came against the Patriots in the Divisional Round in January of 2007. The Chargers had the best record in the NFL during that 2006 season, at 14-2. The Patriots, at 12-4, were the No. 4 seed in the AFC. The Patriots won that game, in San Diego, 24-21, thanks to a Stephen Gostkowski 31-yard field goal with just over a minute left to play in the fourth quarter. Turns out, it was just the first of many heartbreaking losses for Rivers and the Chargers.
This year marks just the second time that the Chargers are in the playoffs in the last nine seasons. It’s their best season since winning 13 games in 2009 and being the No. 2 seed in the AFC, which is also the last time they won the AFC West. The Chargers were then upset by the No. 5 seed New York Jets, in San Diego, in the Divisional Round.
Now, the Chargers come to New England, with the best team they’ve had in years and a quarterback who’s due to come through in the clutch and make a serious Super Bowl run. And while LA is 8-1 on the road this year, the Patriots are 8-0 at home.
The Rivers I know? He won’t be the first one this season to escape Foxboro with a win.
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