Commentary

AccuScore numbers game: Chargers can't stop Pats

Even if Philip Rivers, LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates were at full strength, the Chargers would have little chance of knocking off the Patriots, according to AccuScore simulations.

Originally Published: January 14, 2008
By Stephen Oh | AccuScore

The Chargers pulled off a big upset at Indianapolis in the divisional round, but things do not look good for them going into New England. Even if LaDainian Tomlinson, Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates were healthy, the Patriots would be heavy favorites.

The Patriots are winning nearly 90 percent of simulations and converting more than 53 percent of third downs. Patriots QB Tom Brady completes 70 percent of his passes for 333 yards and more than three touchdowns per simulation.

[+] EnlargePhilip Rivers
Brian Spurlock/US PresswireIf Philip Rivers doesn't have a big game, the Chargers can forget about beating the Patriots.

Laurence Maroney actually is outrushing Tomlinson in both yards per carry and total rushing yards, with Maroney averaging 4.3 yards per carry as opposed to Tomlinson's 4.1. For San Diego to pull off this upset, it needs Rivers to pass for at least two touchdowns and no interceptions. In simulation losses, Rivers averages one touchdown pass and 1.1 interceptions, but in simulation wins, he has a three-to-one touchdown-to-interception ratio.

The Chargers' defense needs to intercept Brady twice. Although the Chargers managed to do that against Peyton Manning, there's less than a 10 percent chance Brady will throw more than two picks. Look for Pats WR Randy Moss to bounce back from his one-reception performance against Jacksonville with at least 95 receiving yards and one touchdown.

What if Tomlinson and Rivers both are out?
It might seem blasphemous to say this, but Tomlinson's presence or absence will not have a huge impact on the outcome. Michael Turner and Darren Sproles both produced big plays against Indianapolis, and Turner is considered one of the best backup running backs in the league, if not the best. In simulations in which Tomlinson is out, the Chargers are winning 9.5 percent of the time. With Tomlinson playing, they win 10.6 percent of the time. The team is better with Tomlinson but not dramatically better.

Likewise, Rivers' presence or absence will not having a huge impact. Billy Volek has not played much since joining the Chargers, but his career completion percentage and touchdown rate are virtually the same as Rivers'. In simulations in which Rivers is out, the Chargers are winning 9.8 percent of the time; with him playing, they win 10.6 percent of the time. Again, the Chargers are better with Rivers but not dramatically.

With both Tomlinson and Rivers out, the Chargers are winning just 8.1 percent of simulations.

What if San Diego had home-field advantage?
The Patriots upset the Chargers in San Diego last year, and this year would be no different. If the game were in San Diego, the Chargers' chances would nearly triple, going from 10.6 percent to 28.8 percent. But they still would be seven-point underdogs.

Cromartie makes a big difference
The Patriots beat the Chargers badly in Week 2. New England came out firing, passing on 15 of its first 18 plays. Antonio Cromartie was not starting at cornerback then, but he eventually emerged as a Pro Bowler, leading the league with 10 interceptions. He had a key interception to end the first half in Indianapolis.

In addition to his high number of interceptions, Cromartie's presence led to a lower completion percentage and fewer long pass completions by opposing quarterbacks. In simulations in which Cromartie does not play, the Chargers are winning just 7.4 percent of the time. In this specific matchup, Cromartie will have a larger impact on the outcome than offensive stars such as Tomlinson and Rivers.

Welker's Impact
Wes Welker might have dropped one notable pass against Jacksonville, but his presence obviously was a huge part of the Patriots' record-breaking season. In simulations in which Welker does not play, the Patriots are winning only 84 percent of the time -- a drop of nearly 5.5 percentage points. Brady is forecasted to pass for 333 yards with Welker, but just 295 yards without him.

Stephen Oh, an NFL analyst for AccuScore, is a contributor to ESPN.com.

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