|AFC Championship... a familiar rivalry|
by Dean Nicosia
The Patriots arrive in Indianapolis on Saturday.
Is the Dynasty back for another run, or is this just another step away from the greatness that we witnessed for the past 5 years?
That question and many more will start to be answered as the Patriots host the Bills today at Gillette to kick off the 2006 season.
That was how I started the pre-season kickoff article back in September of this past year. There were a lot of questions to be answered about this team and where it was headed. Don't forget that this teams lost Givens, Branch, McGinest, and of course the best clutch kicker of all time, Adam Vinatieri. So the question of whether this team could continue it's success of the past 5 years, or go into some sort of rebuilding mode was looming over all of us Patriots fans, as well as the rest of the league.
To the delight of Patriots fans everywhere, and to the dismay of the rest of the AFC, most notably the Jets and Colts, the Patriots not only continued their winning ways by winning the AFC East for the 4th straight time, but they now find themselves facing yet another AFC Championship game against who other than the Indianapolis Colts. With a win in this game, the Patriots Dynasty will be headed to the Super Bowl in an attempt to match the Dynasty of the 70's Steelers, with 4 Super Bowl wins in 6 years. And even with a loss, of which I don't want to even mention, the Patriots Dynasty remains in tact, having room under the salary cap and 2 first round draft picks at their disposal for next year. This team is a Dynasty, and like no other Dynasty since the 49ers, it doesn't show any signs of dying anytime soon.
So here we stand on the eve of another huge game for our Patriots, the next in the line of so many this past 5 years, and with no less on the line, and no less excitement of any of those past huge games. This game means the world to both teams, and this game should go down as one of the best AFC Championship games ever, at least from the eyes and minds of Patriots fans.
The pressure for a game like this is great, so who better to handle said pressure than a team that has had to fight it's way through 3 winning Super Bowl seasons in the past 5 years. During those runs we saw 4th quarter comebacks, game winning field goals in the final moments and of course the now infamous "tuck rule". This team is battle tested with it's veterans and hungry for a big win with it's newcomers and veterans alike. This team has the right balance of cool under fire, toughness and insane desire to win. This team wants it all, but doesn't seem to show it under pressure. I wouldn't want to be facing this team if I were the Colts come Sunday.
On the other hand the Colts, almost desperate for a win, are not battle tested and haven't been able to do what it takes to win the big one. They have lost the big games in every conceivable way, and done so more often than not against the Patriots. This Patriots team is almost single handedly responsible for preventing Peyton Manning and the Colts from even seeing a Super Bowl, let alone win one, while on their way to 3 such wins.
This rivalry has not only played out in the post season but also in the regular season, having faced each other almost every season since the days when they were in the same division. The Colts have managed to beat us a few times in the regular season, including the last two straight (I was at the last one in Foxboro) but not yet in the post season, during this Belichick, Manning, Brady era.
This is a familiar rivalry, and they play again on Sunday, with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. The question now is, will the Colts and Manning finally be able to get past the Patriots, or will it be business as usual for the Patriots?
My money is on my favorite team, the Dynasty that is the New England Patriots!!
God Bless and Go Patriots!