|Are the Patriots Still Legitimate Super Bowl Contenders Without TE Rob Gronkowski?||Notes and Observations Week 14: Patriots Mount Another Improbable Comeback; Beat Browns 27-26||Connelly’s Top Ten – Patriots Stink but Exciting; Poor Gronk||Patriots Lose Gronk But Complete Miraculous Comeback to Beat Browns, 27-26|
The Game: AFC Championship Game – San Diego Chargers at New England Patriots
The Place: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.
The Time: 3:00pm
The Channel: CBS
The Skinny: It’s not the dream epic match-up we all thought it would be, but the AFC Championship is still on the line today against the Chargers. The Colts were unable to beat the Bolts at home and so it would be unwise to take them lightly. The Pats looked very sharp last week against the Jaguars and playing at home in near below 0 temperatures they should be as jacked up as ever. Chargers QB Phillip Rivers and TE Antonio Gates are listed as doubtful, while RB Ladanian Tomlinson is listed as questionable. I expect all three to suit up, but as to how effective they are, we’ll see. The Chargers were able to pull out the gusty win at Indy without all three of their stars playing significant roles, but for Billy Volek and Michael Turner to break the Patriots undefeated streak would take something miraculous.
3 Keys to the Game:
I’m headed to Foxborough to freeze shortly, and I do have to admit it’s not nearly the same as it would have been if the Pats and Colts were playing. But it is the AFC title game and the Patriots are 17-0 (also 10 straight home playoff wins) and are looking for their fourth Super Bowl title in seven years. It was something special to see the Bolts shock the Chargers with backups last week, but that was more of a choke by the Colts than anything else. The Patriots have match-up advantages all over the field, and the injuries woes for the Chargers could prove deadly. The Bolts had to fly from San Diego to Indy, back to San Diego than all the way to the East coast to play in freezing temperatures. If the Pats offense doesn’t turn it over it shouldn’t be close. Maroney should play another major role and run for nearly 100 yards, and the defense will be able to stifle a hobbled LT. I don’t see Rivers or LT playing more than three quarters. Big win for the Pats, bring on Arizona and 19-0!
Patriots 31, Chargers 17