Since Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have been together in New England, the Patriots have always been near the top of the AFC, and in contention for the AFC East division. In fact, since 2001, the Patriots have only not won the division two times. In 2002, the New York Jets won it, and in 2008, the Miami Dolphins took the crown in a season that Brady missed due to injury. The 2014 campaign got off to a rocky start for the Patriots, but once again they host the AFC Championship and the spotlight will be on them.
In Week One, the Patriots were on the road and suffered a loss to the Dolphins, but then won the next two games. Looking to be back in business after the divisional loss, they were at a crossroads when they faced the Kansas City Chiefs. On Monday Night Football, the Chiefs rolled past the Patriots with a 41-14 win. The team looked out of sync, Brady looked old and the media was questioning if this would be the final run for the Patriots. Many wondered if Brady still had the same magic he had throughout his entire career.
The very next week, they had the football world watching again, as they were on Sunday Night Football in a clash against the Cincinnati Bengals. Brady bounced back and the team steamrolled the Bengals 43-17. After the tough loss to the Chiefs, the Patriots were able to string together an impressive seven-game win streak.
With a Week 13 loss to the Green Bay Packers, but then another three-game win streak, the Patriots were able to lock up the number one seed in the AFC. With nothing to play for in the final week of the season, the Patriots sat a lot of their starters and lost to the Buffalo Bills in the regular season finale.
During the first round bye week, the Patriots sat back and watched the Wild Card round, anxious to see who they would face. Out of the three possible teams they could face, the one team they wanted to face the least was the Baltimore Ravens, and that is exactly who they were going to have to play. Despite the team’s incredible playoff record, especially in Gillette Stadium, the Ravens have always given them the most trouble.
The last time the Patriots went to the Super Bowl, they had to play the Ravens in the AFC Championship game. The very next season, with a trip back to the Super Bowl on the line yet again, the Ravens defeated the Pats, and went on to win the Super Bowl against the San Francisco 49ers.
The two rivals faced off in what is already being called a classic game. The Ravens jumped out to a 14-0 lead, but New England battled back. The Ravens yet again took a 14-point lead in the game. The two teams fought it out until the very end, when the Patriots became the first team in NFL history to come back from two 14-point deficits and win the game.
With an incredible sixth trip to the Super Bowl on the line for Brady and Belichick, the Indianapolis Colts will come up to Foxboro. The two teams have faced each other in many playoff battles over the last decade. The Colts had a different signal caller in most of those match-ups however – Peyton Manning. The two teams faced one another last year in the divisional round, which resulted in the Colts not able to come up with a road victory.
The AFC Championship is on CBS Sunday, Jan. 18, at 6:40 p.m. The winner will go on to represent the AFC in Arizona in Super Bowl XLIX and face either the Seattle Seahawks or the Green Bay Packers. The NFC Championship is played first this year, so before the kickoff of this match-up, the teams will already know which opponent they will face.
Commentary by Andy Lapic
Photo by Keith Allison –Flickr License