On to the AFC Championship: Speculation, Schmeculation
by Amy Lignor
Do they ever lose when everything is on the line? No, really…do they? There are many who went into this weekend hoping that the New England Patriots would lose. People were assuming (or wanting) this team for once NOT to go to the AFC Championship Game just to see something different. But, alas, all the speculation was one gigantic ball of schmeculation. Or, perhaps, just wishful thinking.
The best and most respected TE in the business, Gronkowski, showed no signs of being hurt in any way, shape or form. Even though he was supposedly nursing a hurt back and knee. And WR Julian Edelman returned. Out since November, he returned with a slightly shaky start, missing Brady’s torpedoes that he kept throwing on target. But, of course, Edelman’s shaky start (and all those stories regarding him in the x-ray room before the game) soon disappeared, and he produced another perfect game while looking completely pain-free.
In fact, in Foxborough, Massachusetts, on Saturday the Patriots ALL looked as if they had returned to perfect domination. Tom Brady (who supposedly was having trouble with his ankle) came out and looked like the champion QB he is. He even ran for a TD, got it revoked, did a QB sneak and got the TD, only to then march off the field like John Wayne in a western. It may be ego, which he’s earned after four rings, or it may simply be a flick of his nose at the rest of the world who’s been trying to give him a bad name, but whichever it is, Tom Brady proved once again that he has the will and skill to keep heading to the Super Bowl.
The never-phased coach Bill Belichick didn’t break a smile. But in the end, for the FIFTH consecutive time, the Patriots are heading to the AFC Championship Game. And let’s face it, this supposed NFL offense is looking more and more like “The Avengers” with Brady being a great stand-in for the mighty Thor (minus the long, blonde locks, of course).
The only other “ho-hum” detail would be if they played the Denver Broncos in the Championship because the phrase, “Brady versus Manning,” has been stated a million times. But what was really “ho-hum” was the actual game between the Steelers and the Broncos. Talk about boring. In fact, wherever the Patriots were on Sunday they were most likely sleeping, seeing as that neither team they will be meeting up with was even slightly remarkable.
The Pittsburgh Steelers came into Mile High and had to play without the highly talented Antonio Brown who suffered from a concussion last week. Big Ben is their mighty QB who was definitely under speculation considering the injuries he’s sustained. But, right off the bat, by overthrowing his WR Ben proved that his arm was just fine. In fact, most believe that Ben would play if all his bones were broken just to help his team. It was three-and-out, but he did give the Broncos’ defense something to worry about.
The harsh winds are what gave the offense something to worry about. Peyton Manning could do nothing in the first half even though he was set up inside Steelers territory time and time again. When halftime came about, Denver had only managed to achieve three field goals. Score 10-9. The second half was almost just as boring, even though there were a few big plays.
All in all, even though it was a snoozer, having a bi-week and home field advantage most definitely helped Peyton Manning. The legendary QB wants that ring just one more time before he retires. But it would have been fun to see Coach Mike Tomlin of the Steelers meet up with Bill Belichick of the Patriots for the AFC Championship. Tomlin has made it more than clear that he definitely does not like Bill’s home turf and the “odd” things that happen there – like radio signals going out.
But, no surprise, get ready for yet another “Brady versus Manning” AFC Championship Game to see who heads to the Super Bowl.
Something tells me that the Patriots are not all that worried about it.