FOXBORO — The Patriots won 11 games and (of course) the AFC East while advancing to the playoffs for the 16th time in the last 18 seasons, including the past 10.

Still, it was an unusually strange season despite being typically successful.

Although undefeated at home, the Patriots repeatedly sputtered on the road and rarely played a complete game in which all three phases were efficient for four quarters. They were 5-1 with a plus-110 point differential against their dismal division foes and 6-4 and plus-1 against everyone else.

That inconsistency fueled speculation about the impending demise of the New England dynasty. It was talk that didn’t go unnoticed at Gillette Stadium.

“I know how much scrutiny this team’s under, how certain players on this team are under (it), how coaches on this team are under (it) and it’s a little bit amusing at times,” special teams captain Matthew Slater politely said.

The Patriots, fresh off a first-round bye, will begin their quest to get the last laugh when they host the road-tested, well-balanced and ultra-confident Los Angeles Chargers at 1 p.m. Sunday in an AFC divisional-round game.

They’re certainly rested and presumably ready for what they hope will be a run of three wins over the next four weeks that delivers a record-tying sixth Lombardi Trophy.

“One play at a time, one game at a time,” steadily effective defensive end Trey Flowers said. “I don’t get too high as far as all the possibilities, as far as looking forward into the future, things like that.”

Looking back on this past season has offered a glimpse into what might be in store for the Patriots going forward as the terrific trio of quarterback Tom Brady, receiver Julian Edelman and tight end Rob Gronkowski were often mere mortals rather than gridiron gods.

Brady threw 11 interceptions, matching his highest total since 2012, often seemed flustered in the pocket and had a blatant trust issue with the majority of his receivers. The 41-year-old (say it ain’t so) frequently looked his age.

Edelman put up big numbers after returning from a league-imposed, four-game suspension to start the year, but lacked his trademark elusiveness. For the most part, where he caught the ball is where the play ended.

Like the Patriots as a whole, Edelman stuffed his stats against the AFC East. He caught 33 passes for 413 yards and four touchdowns in five divisional games. It was 41 receptions for 437 yards and two TDs in his other seven games.

As for Gronkowski, he experienced a dramatic drop-off when it came to creating separation and yards after catch.

And who can forget the sight of Minnesota Vikings’ safety Anthony Harris making a solo, open-field tackle on Gronk in Week 13 despite giving away five inches and 78 pounds? That stuff isn’t supposed to happen.

Count all of that in the past.

“I mean, the playoffs are a whole new season,” Gronkowski said. “It’s a fresh start.”

Then again, it wouldn’t surprise nearly anyone if the Patriots were finished come late Sunday afternoon.

Unlike some of the football frauds who have traveled here in recent years for divisional mismatches — we’re talking about you, the Texans, Colts and Titans — the Chargers should be taken seriously.

Like the Patriots, they have both a top-10 ranked offense and defense along with some superb special teams players. Their 12 wins tied for the AFC lead and they’re 9-1 on the road, which includes a “home” game in London and a loss to the Rams in LA.

Coach Anthony Lynn and quarterback Philip Rivers have both embraced the challenge of taking on a team that has won 15 straight home games and been to seven consecutive AFC Championships and two straight Super Bowls.

Most importantly, the Chargers are acutely aware they’re going to have to come in here and take the game away because the Patriots aren’t going to give it to them.

“Well, really, it’s about us — not them,” Lynn said. “We’re going to have to play our best ball and not beat ourselves. That’s something they do well — they don’t beat themselves.

“And they have one of the better quarterbacks to ever play the game. That makes them hard to beat alone. Like I said, it's about us more than it is about them.”

The same can be said of the Patriots come Sunday as they try to extend this uncharacteristically uneven, but classically successful season.