Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown did a solid job of handling the backfield duties Sunday, but Mathews proved himself to be a clutch performer as the Chargers were fighting to make the postseason. Case in point: His 29 carries for 127 yards were critical in that upset win over Denver last month. There's no way the Chargers beat the Broncos again without a similar performance from their best back.
9. Of all the quarterbacks still left in the playoffs, who is the most dangerous? Manning has the records, Brady has more Super Bowl rings. Luck has the pedigree. That said, no signal-caller looks as scary as San Diego's Rivers at the moment. Every time his team appears ready to be written off -- and that possibility already has been discussed a few times in this space -- he finds a way to help them get a critical win.
The Chargers now have won six of seven games, and Rivers has continually reminded people of how much head coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt have improved his play. Over the past seven games, Rivers -- who had 15 interceptions and 15 fumbles in 2012 -- tossed 14 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. Keep in mind, he's also guiding an offense with an aging Antonio Gates and a rookie wide receiver, Keenan Allen, who's become a go-to target. For all the love Manning and Brady have received in the MVP conversation, Rivers deserves some votes of his own.
10. Who is going to the AFC Championship Game? So much for that Bengals-Broncos prediction last week. Denver still looks like a safe bet, even with the Chargers knowing them as well as they do. The same holds true for New England. As well as Luck played in the second half of that win over Kansas City, he will find it for more difficult to make those same plays against the Patriots. The Chiefs made some mistakes that you simply won't see a Bill Belichick-coached team make at this time of year.
So it will be Manning versus Brady once again, with the Super Bowl hanging in the balance.
Something tells me nobody will be disappointed with that arrangement.