The NFL kicks off its divisional round tomorrow afternoon in Kansas City, when the Chiefs play host to the Colts. That game will be followed by Rams-Cowboys later Saturday night and then Chargers-Patriots and Eagles-Saints on Sunday. This year, more so than in past years, the playoff field feels wide open. One could make an argument for any of these teams to move on to the conference championship games. Or, you could make the case for why every single one will lose this weekend.
Long-time NFL analyst Merril Hoge shared that exact sentiment when he stopped by the CBS Local studios on Friday. Hoge, who was in town promoting his book Brainwashed: The Bad Science Behind CTE and The Plot to Destroy Football, told us that this was the first time since he has become an analyst when he thinks you could pick any team and have pretty good odds of being right.
“When you look at the matchups that exist, this has not been a year where I can say I’m definitive on one side or the other, like I have been in the past,” said Hoge. “When I look at stuff now, it’s like, ‘Wow.’ Easily I could come up with all kinds of reasons that the Chargers could beat the Patriots going on the road. The way Indianapolis is playing, going into Kansas City. Philly and the way things have gone as they go into New Orleans. It’s going to be a fantastic run.”
One of the teams hoping to go on a run is the Los Angeles Chargers who enter this weekend as winners of six of their last seven games, and they avenged their only loss in that stretch when they beat the Ravens last week.
This week is a different animal however, as Philip Rivers has never beaten Tom Brady in his career and this game will once again be on the road, this time in Foxborough. However, Hoge thinks that after playing the past two seasons in a temporary home while waiting for the new stadium to be built, the Chargers are more used to playing “road” games.
“I heard something come out of their locker room, I don’t know if it was a coach or a player, but they said after winning on the road, ‘Yeah, you know what, we’ve been playing on the road for a couple of years.’ And, if you think about it, they really haven’t had a home in L.A.,” said Hoge. “Right now, this is like a pit stop before they get to their home. There is some truth to that. I can tell you this. From a player’s perspective, winning on the road, in a hostile environment, is much more satisfying than winning at home.”
“Yes, you like to celebrate with your home fans, absolutely,” Hoge continued. “But, when you win games on the road, there is a sense of confidence and strength you get from doing that. This team has been doing it for a long time. Does it bother them to go to New England? Nah.”
The Chargers and Patriots kick off their divisional round matchup this Sunday at 10:05 a.m. Pacific Time on CBS.
Hoge’s book, “Brainwashed: The Bad Science Behind CTE and The Plot to Destroy Football” is available now at all retailers.