I must admit that I think that being a Patriots and Red Sox fan has easily taken 5 years off my life. The level of stress in watching playoff games can't be healthy. But with the Pats returning to the AFC Championship game, it's worth it.
The Pats beat the Chargers yesterday in a hard fought, down in the trenches kind of game. Neither team seemed to be able to get a sustained rhythm going. The Chargers got something going in the first half and got two touchdowns; but the Patriots scored right before the half to keep the game with in 4 and then in the second half the Patriots just seemed to be building while the Chargers seemed to fade: they started to make more mistakes and panic a little. I was surprised to see them move away from the run as much as they did. LT wasn't breaking too many big runs, but he was doing a good job of wearing things down. The Patriots, supremely confident in their ability to win, just kept coming and eventually evened the score and then went ahead on the young rookie kicker's leg.
This game was one of the most stressful games I've ever watched. I swear it was more gut-wrenching than the Super Bowls--but that's probably just because of proximity.
So on to Indy. This will be another battle. The Colts have been, surprisingly, winning with their D the last few games. But this game will be a real test for the Colts. The Ravens had little offensive power and the Chiefs, backing into the playoffs because of Denver's lost, were just not a very good football team this year. They were basically one-dimensionally on offense and so a team like that is going to be stopped in the playoffs. The Patriots are not one dimensional. They can score on the ground or in the air. (Dillion and Maroney combined for 23 yards and the Pats put up 24 points). Manning is always a powerful offensive weapon -- even when he's not playing well. It'll be an exciting, heart-pounding, hair-pulling out game; but I like the Pats chances for a fourth Super Bowl appearance in the Double-O Decade.
I'm also going to go with Saints in the NFC Championship game. I continue to be under-impressed by the Bears; though kudos to Grossman for playing well yesterday.