Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers are red hot, and they're playing the cliche playoff football we hear about every year.
The Chargers pulled off the upset today, winning by a decisive 27-10 score over the hosting Cincinnatti Bengals. The win by San Diego sends them on their way to Denver to face the Broncos. As for the Bengals, Andy Dalton and his four turnovers will be packing up their lockers instead of packing for Foxborough.
The Patriots will begin preparations to face an impressive young Colts team at Gillette Stadium this Saturday, but fans should be keeping an extra eye on the San Diego Chargers.
The Chargers will play the day after the Patriots do, so we'll already know whether or not New England will be appearing in their third straight AFC Championship game. Of course, Patriots fans always want to keep track of what's happening with Peyton Manning, and the Bengals' ineptitude may have just sent Manning's kryptonite to Denver.
Since 2005, Manning is 4-6 against San Diego, including two playoff losses in both the 2007 and 2008 seasons. He's thrown 23 touchdowns versus San Diego, but also 17 interceptions. That includes one six interception game in 2007. Manning has had some success against San Diego recently, as he's 3-1 against them since he moved into their division as a Bronco. Still, he's thrown an interception in every game against them but one.
Of course, two of those games came against last year's 7-9 Chargers team with coach Norv Turner on his way out. This year, Manning will face a rejuvenated San Diego that is back to playing the brand of football that got them those two post-season wins.
One of the biggest things the Chargers had going for them against Manning's Colts back then were an effective ground game. Of course, that helps turn the time of possession and keep the five-time MVP (soon to be six-time) off of the field.
San Diego ran for 99 and 167 yards respectively in each game. This year's Chargers team just ran for 196 yards against the Bengals. In the month of December, the Chargers ran for an average of 149 yards a game while going 4-1 to eventually earn themselves a playoff berth.
One of those December games included a 177 yard day against Manning's Broncos in a 27-20 win in Denver. Which brings us to the next cliche of playoff football.
It's not just the ground game, but also the defense that's stepped up for San Diego. Holding the Broncos' historically great offense to only 20 points is actually the second highest amount of points they've given up in over a month (the highest being 24 to Kansas City last week). The Chargers have held opponents to just an average of 16.3 points since the beginning of December.
They are playing their best football and now look to go undefeated against Peyton Manning in the playoffs next weekend.
Regardless of the result of the Pats game, you know all Patriots fans hope they go 3-0 in that matchup.
Photo Via: Matt Detrich, The Indianapolis Star