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Patriots’ playoff experience a tough hurdle for Chargers

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 20: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots is congratulated by Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers after the Patriots 21-12 win in the AFC Championship Game on January 20, 2008 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 20: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots is congratulated by Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers after the Patriots 21-12 win in the AFC Championship Game on January 20, 2008 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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The Los Angeles Chargers’ next opponent is a New England Patriots team lacking depth and talent, but have the abundant playoff experience that could overwhelm the Bolts.

A frigid and snowy afternoon is expected in Foxboro, Massachusetts for the AFC divisional round playoff game on Sunday between the Chargers and Patriots.

But the bone-chilling elements of the northeast U.S. might not be the biggest obstacle presented to the Bolts. It could very well be the Pats’ profusion of postseason experience that has made them the NFL’s gold standard franchise for nearly two decades.

Is this the most talent-rich squad New England has brought to the playoffs? Absolutely not. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has not been consistently dominant like he has in recent years. The future Hall of Famer has shown subtle signs of slowing down this season, which includes missing passes he would normally make without hesitation.

The Patriots’ offensive personnel has not been much better during the 2018 campaign. Former All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski has looked considerably slower, and the wide receiver group of Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson has not been extremely reliable.

And while New England’s defense is seventh in the NFL in points allowed per game, they have been prone to allowing loads of yardage on a weekly basis.

But once the postseason rolls around, the Patriots are as dangerous as any club in the 12-team tournament.

New England’s postseason experience starts with their five-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback. Brady’s Lombardi Trophy total is an all-time NFL record, so are the following playoff statistics he holds: most playoff games started (37), most playoff wins (27), most playoff touchdown passes (71), most Super Bowl MVPs (four), and the most Super Bowl appearances (eight).

Brady also has 10,226 career playoff passing yards, also an NFL record. His postseason accolades have led many to believe he is the greatest quarterback of all-time, and arguing against that is difficult.

In comparison to the Chargers’ veteran quarterback, Philip Rivers is 5-5 in his postseason career. In those 10 games, the  Bolts long-time gunslinger has tossed 11 touchdown passes and nine interceptions and has completed 61.2 percent of his passes.

New England’s playoff experience does not stop with Brady, though. The Patriots’ offensive core of Gronkowski and Edelman have two Super Bowl rings while running back James White has one. Furthermore, that trio has contributed significantly to their back-to-back AFC Championships. And do not forget legendary head coach Bill Belichick, who also has an NFL record five Super Bowl wins.

The majority of the Patriots’ defense was on last season’s squad that lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII. Moreover, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, and safeties Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty were all members of the New England roster that went to Super Bowl’s XLIX and LI.

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Not a single player on the Chargers has the wealth of postseason experience like the aforementioned Patriots. The only members of the Bolts with a Super Bowl appearance are tight end Virgil Green, who played Super Bowls XLVII and 50 for the Denver Broncos, and punter Donnie Jones.

Prior to the 2018 playoffs, wide receiver Keenan Allen, tight end Antonio Gates, and linebacker Melvin Ingram were the only Chargers who played on the 2013 club that made the playoffs. That was the last time the Bolts played meaningful January football.

The Chargers enter Sunday’s tilt against the Patriots with the better roster. L.A. boasts more depth and skill on their 53-man bill. But postseason football is still fairly new for the Bolts, and combining that with New England’s playoff prowess could be a poisonous mix for the Chargers.

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