By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Patriots and Chargers meet in the AFC Divisional Playoff on Sunday, and there are plenty of intriguing matchups to watch in the game. None may be bigger than the battle of the league's top home and road teams. But there are some intriguing individual player matchups to watch for as well.
Let's take some educated guesses as to how the two teams will match up on Sunday, and go over the key battles to watch when they take the field in Foxborough.
Stephon Gilmore vs. Chargers WR Keenan Allen. Duh. The Patriots' First Team All-Pro cornerback is likely to draw a matchup against the always-dangerous Allen, who has cooled off in recent weeks but is always capable of going off for 10-plus catches. The Patriots may mix up their coverages against Allen, who can line up either inside or outside. But Gilmore is the most trustworthy option in terms of size, length, and ball skills to stick with Allen in coverage on a consistent basis. This should turn out to be one of the game's marquee matchups.
Trey Flowers vs. Chargers RT Sam Tevi. Trey Flowers was one of the Patriots' two most impactful players on defense this season, and may have had All-Pro consideration if the position wasn't so damn stacked across the league. He finished as Pro Football Focus' fourth-ranked edge rusher on the season. Tevi, meanwhile, ranked 76th at the tackle position with a weak 52.5 grade. So if the Patriots' front-seven wants to impact the game, attacking Tevi is probably their best option and Flowers has the best chance of winning that matchup.
Patrick Chung vs. Chargers TE Antonio Gates. It's really about Chung against all of the Chargers' tight ends, including the recently activated Hunter Henry. That's especially the case in the red zone, where Chung has been up-and-down this season. If and when Philip Rivers gets the Chargers into the red area, Chung's coverage on the tight ends in the end zone is going to be as crucial as anything.
Trent Brown and Marcus Cannon vs. Chargers edge rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Packaging two individual matchups together here, mainly because both tackles are probably going to have to be ready for both Bosa and Ingram. Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley will line each of them up on either side of the defensive line at times. It's a bit of a cliche at this point to say that the Patriots need to protect Brady in order to win, but in this game it's as true as ever. When the Pats have the ball, whoever wins the matchups on the edge is arguably the No. 1 key to how they perform.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].