The Los Angeles Chargers are in the AFC divisional round for the first time since 2013, and despite a lack of playoff success in recent seasons, the Bolts are a trendy pick to upset the favored New England Patriots on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
The Chargers are 8-1 on the road this season after beating the Ravens in Baltimore in the wild card round. Los Angeles quarterback Philip Rivers looks more confident than he ever has, and the team's pass rush led by Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa is wreaking havoc on opposing offensive lines.
The Bolts are in a great position, so much so that one of their former players, Shawne Merriman, cannot envision them losing against the Patriots.
“Like a dominating win. For them, they’re a lock for me this week,” Merriman said Monday during "The Herd with Colin Cowherd" on FOX Sports 1. “The Patriots — yeah, you have Bill Belichick, you have Tom Brady there, but they’re not the same team they were in the past. They’re just not. They don’t bring that kind of stamp to the field anymore. I know they’ve been in the playoffs, they have the experience.
"But this Chargers team right now, like I said, they’re the most resilient team in football. They’ve been through so much. Injuries and the move and people not really paying attention to them and they just use all of it as fuel. Going out there is going to be no different. Them winning on the road, it hasn’t been a problem this year. They’ll go right into Foxboro. It will be competitive. It will be a good game. In the past, the Patriots have always found ways to win, right? Not this time, I don’t think that’s the case.”
Merriman might still be a little salty about his 14-2 Chargers being upset at home in the 2006 AFC divisional round against Brady, Belichick and the Patriots.
In any case, it's going to be tough for the Chargers to beat the Patriots despite their immense success on the road.
New England is 8-0 at home this season and has scored 32 points per game at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots also have won eight consecutive divisional round games and all of them were at home. Brady is 7-0 in his career against Rivers, including a pair of playoff wins.
The Patriots won't have an easy game against the Chargers. Los Angeles is a very good team -- it won 12 games after all. But the Pats are the better team and have the homefield advantage, and those are among the reasons why oddsmakers and the analytics both like New England's chances of reaching an eighth consecutive AFC Championship Game.
UPDATE (1:25 p.m. ET): Merriman later explained his bold pick on Twitter -- and we can't say we blame him.
If I’m asked who’s my lock of the week there’s about a 90 percent chance I’m going to pick my former team but good facts in the article and good read. https://t.co/ARhP5jdjGa— Shawne Merriman (@shawnemerriman) January 8, 2019
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