San Diego Chargers (13-5) vs. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (17-0); 3 P.M., Foxborough, Mass., Gillette Stadium, Chs. 9, 13
Byline: David Elfin, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
KEY MATCHUP "
Patriots WRs Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte Stallworth vs. Chargers CBs Quentin Jammer, Antonio Cromartie and Drayton Florence
When the Patriots rallied to beat the Chargers 24-21 in last year's divisional playoffs, receivers Jabar Gaffney and Reche Caldwell teamed for an impressive 17 catches, 183 yards and two touchdowns. But Gaffney and Caldwell don't measure up to Moss, one of the most dominant receivers of all time, lightning bug Welker or downfield threat Stallworth. Brady, who has 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 15 career playoff games (13 victories), makes all those receivers better. Cromartie led the league with 10 interceptions. At 6-foot-2, Cromartie can cover the 6-4 Moss so the Chargers could play man-to-man with Jammer on Welker.
WHEN CHARGERS HAVE THE BALL
San Diego's offense is no longer quite as centered around NFL rushing champion LaDainian Tomlinson. His NFL-high 375 touches were the fewest of his career. Tight end Antonio Gates had with 75 catches and nine touchdown in the regular season. Quarterback Philip Rivers has played his best lately. Rivers and Gates didn't practice this week because of knee and toe injuries, respectively, but still hope to play today. Led by left guard Kris Dielman, the line allowed just 24 sacks.
With the stars ailing, running back Michael Turner and receivers Chris Chambers and Vincent Jackson, have shined in the playoffs. New England's nonpareil offense overshadows its 3-4 defense, but defensive end Richard Seymour and cornerback Asante Samuel have a combined six Pro Bowl selections between them. The Patriots allowed 4.4 yards a carry, worst of any playoff team and they struggled against Tomlinson in 2005 and 2006 before controlling him this season.
WHEN PATRIOTS HAVE THE BALL
Tom Brady threw a record 50 touchdown passes (23 to Randy Moss) totaled 4,806 yards (third all time) and posted a 117.2 passer rating (second) in the regular season. Moss (98 catches) set the record for touchdown catches. …