Something has to give: Patriots’ home-field advantage to be tested by road-savvy Chargers

  • FILE - In this Oct. 29, 2017, file photo, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) and Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) speak at midfield after an NFL football game, in Foxborough, Mass. The Chargers and Patriots meet in a divisional playoff game on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File) Steven Senne

  • Gillette Stadium field crew apply paint to an NFL football AFC divisional round logo, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. The Patriots are scheduled to host the Los Angeles Chargers in the AFC divisional round game, Sunday, Jan. 13, in Foxborough. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne

  • Gillette Stadium field crew foreman Thomas Mistowski, of Narragansett, R.I., walks near a freshly painted NFL football AFC divisional round logo, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. The Patriots are scheduled to host the Los Angeles Chargers in the AFC divisional round game, Sunday, Jan. 13, in Foxborough. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne

  • New England running back Rex Burkhead celebrates a touchdown with fans at Gillette Stadium during a win last month. AP

  • Herbert Dreher, of Natick Mass., walks through the parking lot of Gillette Stadium as he arrives for an NFL football game between the New England Patriots and the New York Jets, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa

  • A New England Patriots fan wears a hat supporting his team while tailgating in the parking lot of Gillette Stadium before an NFL football game between the Patriots and the New York Jets, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa

  • Fans arrive at Gillette Stadium for an NFL football game between the New England Patriots and the New York Jets, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne

For the Monitor
Published: 1/12/2019 10:52:13 PM

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – While home-field advantage may be an obvious asset in the NFL playoffs, that benefit may seem a bit more pronounced as the Patriots host the Chargers in Sunday’s divisional round game at Gillette Stadium.

The Patriots’ road issues are well-documented this season with a 3-5 record away from Gillette that included four measurably awful performances – at Jacksonville, Detroit, Tennessee and Miami. In those games, the Patriots had an average efficiency rating of minus-46.15, according to Football Outsiders. That mark is worse than what the last-ranked Arizona Cardinals had for the season (minus-44.8).

At home, however, the Patriots had a stellar DVOA of 37.95 and an 8-0 record that included wins over the Chiefs, Colts and Texans, all playoff teams. The Patriots have won 16 consecutive games at Gillette, including two playoff wins last year and haven’t lost there since Oct. 1, 2017. They have won eight consecutive postseason games in Foxborough since falling to the Ravens in the 2012 AFC Championship.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, however, gave no credence to the idea the Patriots derive any special benefit from playing well at home.

“I don’t think it’s any advantage,” Belichick said. “Last week three of the four road teams won. The advantage is the team that plays well. That’s what we’re going to try and do – play and coach our best game Sunday afternoon. That’s our goal.”

If there is one team making this argument for Belichick it is the 2018 Los Angeles Chargers, who come to Gillette Stadium as a team that has thrived on the road. Los Angeles lost four times this season and the only time they lost away from home was across town against the Rams. One of their five “home” victories came against the Titans in London.

“They’re a tough team, man,” Patriots safety Patrick Chung said. “They play good at home, play good away and they’re mentally tough also. It definitely shows how tough they are. They’re a good team, period. So, we have to be able to bring our ‘A’ game for this one or we go home. We have to get ready to go.”

Today will mark the Chargers’ fifth road game in the last seven weeks. They won each of the previous four games, including last week’s cross-country trip to Baltimore for a win in the wild-card round.

“We’ve had some tough road trips,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. “We’ve gone across the country and had a home game in London and been all over. It’s a tough group. It’s a tough team. We’re well aware that the Patriots haven’t lost at home and we haven’t lost out of L.A. County, so one of those streaks is going to be broken on Sunday.”

One adverse situation the Chargers have not faced this season is cold weather. Sunday’s forecast says the temperature will range between 24 and 27 degrees in Foxborough. That would mark the first time since 2008 that the Chargers have played in a postseason game with temperatures below 30.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said part of home-field advantage has been the ability to practice not only in the cold, but in conditions that changed throughout the week.

“It’s good to be playing when it’s cold out,” Brady said Friday. “It’s good to be playing this time of year in Foxborough. The weather changed a little bit yesterday. It snowed at the start and then got sunny and then got cloudy, then got windy, then got sunny and it’s just a bunch of different things. Just to practice in it, we’re prepared for it and hopefully we can use some of the things we’ve learned to our advantage.”

(Dave Brown is a freelance correspondent who covers the Patriots for the Monitor. Follow him on Twitter @ThatDaveBrown.)




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