Published: Monday, January 8, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 8, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.
The San Diego Chargers probably expected to see the New England Patriots somewhere in the AFC playoffs. It will happen next Sunday, when the AFC's best team this season hosts the NFL's best team this decade.
· Indianapolis at Baltimore,
4:30 p.m. (CBS)
· Philadelphia at New Orleans,
8 p.m. (FOX)
· Seattle at Chicago, 1 p.m. (FOX)
· New England at San Diego,
4:30 p.m. (CBS)
The Patriots secured their trip to San Diego on Sunday with a convincing 37-16 victory over their division rivals, the New York Jets. Tom Brady guided three long scoring drives and threw two touchdown passes, and Asante Samuel had a 36-yard interception return for a score with 4:54 left.
That set up the matchup between New England (13-4), winner of three of the last five Super Bowls, and San Diego (14-2), which had the best record in the NFL and LaDainian Tomlinson, the league's Most Valuable Player, Offensive Player of the Year and leading rusher.
"It's a huge challenge, the best team in the NFL this year, the MVP," linebacker Tedy Bruschi said. "It's a huge challenge."
It always is against New England since Bill Belichick became coach. The Patriots are 11-1 under him in the postseason, and they manhandled the Jets (10-7) late in Sunday's game.
They aren't likely to do that against a Chargers team that has won 10 straight games, went 8-0 at home and scored 492 points, 65 more than anyone else.
Then again, these are the Patriots, the most resilient team in football. They have lost only one of their last eight games and went 7-1 on the road.
"They're good on defense," Belichick said about the Chargers. "They're good on offense. They're good on special teams. They can score. They can stop you. They had a week's rest. I'm sure they're going to be ready."
The other AFC divisional-round game will have Indianapolis at Baltimore next Saturday. The Colts beat Kansas City 23-8 on Saturday.
In the NFC, Philadelphia beat the New York Giants 23-20 on a last-second 38-yard field goal from David Akers. That sends the Eagles to New Orleans next Saturday night.
Seattle edged Dallas 21-20 on Saturday and will visit Chicago next Sunday.
All four home teams won this weekend.
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