The New England Patriots (11-5) are set to host the Los Angeles Chargers (12-4) in Sunday’s Divisional Round double-header. Kickoff is set for 1:05 EST at Gillette Stadium and will be televised nationally on CBS.
Oddsmakers currently have the Patriots listed as a 3.5-point home favorite with the total set for 47.5 points.
Patriots vs Chargers Vegas Betting Preview & Game Odds
Los Angeles managed to hang on against Baltimore last weekend after jumping out to a 12-0 lead after the first couple of quarters. Things got a little too close for comfort in the final ten minutes of the game, as the Ravens put up 14 points before falling just short. The 23-17 victory was huge for the Chargers, as they certainly had their hands full after traveling cross country and having to play first thing in the morning on Sunday. QB Philip Rivers didn’t make many mistakes, going 22 for 32 and passing for 160 yards. Although he was unable to find the end zone, he also didn’t commit any costly turnovers at inopportune times. RB Melvin Gordon was able to return to the lineup after battling a knee injury during the second half of the season, although he was forced to leave the game for several plays after appearing to re-injure his bad knee. Gordon had 17 carries for 40 yards and a touchdown. RB Austin Ekeler was busier than expected, rushing 11 times for 29 yards while also catching four passes for 14 yards. The receiving game struggled to get anything going all game long, as WR Mike Williams led the way with only 42 yards. Things should get a little bit easier against a New England defense that struggled at times during the regular season. As a whole, Los Angeles averaged 26.8 points per game (11th overall) this year.
The Chargers were fairly strong defensively for much of the season, limiting opponents to only 20.6 points per game (8th overall). They were equally tough against both the pass and the run, ranking 9th overall league-wide in both categories.
New England won their second consecutive game to close out the regular season after a disappointing stretch during Weeks 14 and 15 where they lost back to back games to Miami and Pittsburgh respectively. However, the Patriots still managed to clinch their 10th straight AFC East title and secure a bye during Wild Card Weekend. QB Tom Brady continues to defy Father Time, throwing for 4,355 yards and 29 touchdowns. He did struggle a little bit with interceptions at times this year, getting picked off 11 times. Brady has a ton of options out of the backfield, as Sony Michel, James White, and Rex Burkhead will all be available against the Chargers. WR Julian Edelman leads the way in the receiving game, catching 74 passes for 850 yards and six touchdowns during the regular season. Overall, New England averaged 27.3 points per game during the regular season (4th overall).
The Patriots had an up and down season on the other side of the ball, giving up 20.3 points per game to opponents (7th overall). They really turned things around during the second half of their schedule, holding opponents to only 112.7 yards per game on the ground (11th overall).
NFL Free Betting Prediction & Pick Against the Spread: Chargers +3.5
While New England certainly has a well-deserved reputation for being deadly at home in the playoffs at home, I think things might be a little bit different this time around. The Chargers have really shown me that they just might be the real deal this season after beating both Kansas City and Pittsburgh during the regular season before beating a tough Baltimore team on the road last weekend. The Pats also weren’t as sharp as they usually are during the regular season, losing to Miami, Pittsburgh, and Tennessee over the final seven weeks of the year.
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Los Angeles is a perfect 5-0 ATS over their last five road games. They are also a rock-solid 5-2 ATS in their last seven games overall and 6-1 straight up over that same time span. The Patriots have also been pretty good against the spread as of late, going 6-2 ATS in their last eight home games.
There is no doubt that the Patriots have owned the Chargers over the past decade or so, going 4-1 ATS over their last five meetings. They have also been dominant at home in this particular series, going 6-2 ATS over the last eight meetings at Gillette Stadium. Still, I Rivers and Co. have shown me enough this season to make me think that they can keep this one close right up to the final whistle. Even if they don’t find a way to pull off the upset, I think they will stay within a field goal. I’ll take the free points and roll with the road underdog – give me Los Angeles to cover.