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History not on Schottenheimer's side

New England's "advantage" in coaching is one reason many believe the Patriots will upset the No. 1 seeded Chargers in San Diego today in the AFC divisional playoff game.

Fair or not, coach Marty Schottenheimer of the San Diego Chargers is associated with postseason frustration and failure.

New England's Bill Belichick, on the other hand, is one of the most successful postseason coaches in NFL history.

One of five coaches with 200 career victories or more, Schottenheimer -- a former Buffalo Bills linebacker -- is only 5-12 in postseason games with Cleveland, Kansas City and San Diego. Schottenheimer has lost five straight (three at home) in the playoffs since a 28-20 upset at Houston with the Chiefs in 1993.

Close defeats have dogged Schottenheimer in the postseason. He and the Browns were victims of "The Drive" orchestrated by Denver's John Elway in the 1986 AFC Championship Game and Earnest Byner's goal-line fumble at Denver in the 1987 AFC title game. He is 2-2 in overtime postseason games. Eight of the playoff losses for his teams were by five or fewer points.

Belichick is 11-2 (11-1 with New England) as a head coach in the postseason, including last week's 37-16 victory over the New York Jets.

Of course, Belichick must prove his genius by finding a way of controlling the NFL's Player of the Year, running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who led the league in rushing with 1,815 yards and scored a record 31 touchdowns.

The NFC game in Chicago seems drab in comparison to the AFC showdown. The lackluster Seattle Seahawks, who were only 9-7 in the regular season and managed to defeat Dallas, 21-20, last week when Cowboys holder Tony Romo dropped the ball on a gimme field goal try, face the Bears and embattled quarterback Rex Grossman.

Seahawks (10-7) at Bears (13-3)

TV: Ch. 29, 1 p.m.

The line: Bears (-9)

The scoop: Seahawks were drubbed, 37-7, in Chicago during the regular season but they were without RB Shaun Alexander. Still, Seattle has not been very impressive most of the season. They backed into the championship of perhaps the league's weakest division, the NFC West. . . . Making matters worse, Seattle was missing three cornerbacks in the Dallas game and has serious questions in the secondary. Chicago may not be able to capitalize, however. First of all, it's expected to be frigid and windy at Soldier Field on Chicago's lakefront. Second of all, Grossman. The Chicago quarterback threw for one touchdown with nine interceptions in the team's three losses. He had five games with a quarterback rating of 36.8 or lower. In those games, Grossman passed for one TD and had 16 interceptions. For the season he was 23-20. . . . Thomas Jones led the Bears in rushing with 1,210 yards. Chicago has big play receivers in Muhsin Muhammad and Bernard Berrian and one of the league's most dangerous return threats in Devin Hester. . . . After leading the league in rushing and TDs in 2005, Alexander missed six games with a foot injury. He flashed his MVP form only once, running for 201 yards against Green Bay. The Seahawks are still losing players to injuries. Their leading receiver, Darrell Jackson, will miss the game. MLB Brian Urlacher led a Chicago defense that was best in the NFC, had 40 sacks and caused 44 turnovers, including a league-best 24 forced fumbles. . . . The Bears are 3-8 (3-6 at home) in playoffs since their 1985 Super Bowl season.

Outlook: Bears do lose at Soldier Field in January but not this time. Chicago, 17-6.


Patriots (13-4) at Chargers (14-2)

TV: Ch. 4, 4:30 p.m.

The line: Chargers (-4 1/2 )

The scoop: Tomlinson is in a slump! No touchdowns his last two games after a stretch in which he scored 23 (21 rushing) over 10 games. Belichick must come up with a way to contain the NFL's top back. Tomlinson ran for 217 yards in a 41-17 win over the Pats in Foxborough in 2005 and scored twice in a 21-11 win over New England in San Diego in 2002. . . . First-year starter Philip Rivers of Chargers threw for 22 TDs with nine interceptions but suffered through two-game stretch late in season when he completed only 18 of 53 (34 percent) and seemed to lose confidence. Chargers have ordinary corps of wideouts so TE Antonio Gates is go-to receiver. . . . San Diego led NFL with 61 sacks but it's not easy pressuring Patriots QB Tom Brady into mistakes. Brady is 11-1 in postseason.

Outlook: Pats look playoff sharp. Rivers and Schottenheimer strategy are big questions for Bolts. Patriots, 34-27.


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