With AFC mediocrity, Patriots really do have a shot

Alan Greenwood

Consider the following a murky admission of semi-guilt:

Upon further review, the Pats’ odds of making the Super Bowl are no worse than the rest of the AFC’s Final Four.

Now this is not a reassessment of the team’s flaws, specifically the ones that were skillfully exploited by a coach in Miami who was fired seconds after the final gun ended the Dolphins’ season. It is not as if the Pats trudged home from an ugly loss in Pittsburgh and magically regained the luster we have come to expect – and demand – since 2001.

It just took some of us a bit slower than others in realizing that there is really no great team in the AFC – or in the NFC, for that matter.

The San Diego Chargers of Los Angeles will be in Foxborough on Sunday. They have the best road record in the NFL, but that doesn’t include a stop at Gillette Stadium.

Visitors are typically befuddled at Gillette Stadium. The fans are loud and it is quite possible that the weather will be at least as bad as it was in Baltimore for the Chargers’ wild-card round win.

But the Pats’ home domination has a scent of the old Boston Garden (and what a scent that was). Red Auerbach was alleged to have air conditioned the Celtics’ side of the court and shut off hot water in the visitors locker room, among other forms of gamesmanship.

Maybe Bill Belichick has found a way to make it snow only on the visitors sideline, or placed pockets of quicksand that arise only when the opposition has the football.

Whatever the reason, it says here that the Pats will win Sunday and will be home for the AFC Championship game against the Baltimore Colts of Indianapolis.

Prepare for the onslaught of Deflategate jokes.

TIME TRAVEL: Jan. 10, 1969 – “The Nashua High track team, under the guidance of Fran Tate and Gus Giardi, moved one step closer to taking the state title as they came from behind to top Laconia at the UNH track, 471/2-291/2.

“Nashua’s Roger “Ramjet” Dussault and Mel Briggs scored for the Panthers with a first- and third-place in the 50-yard dash. Nashua’s Butch Bagwell took a third in the 45-yard high hurdles while Jim Proko and Syeve Longfellow registered firsts in the 1,000 and mile runs.”

TIME TRAVEL II: Jan. 10, 1969 – Venerable former sports editor Greg Andruskevich suggested that the 18-point spread in Super Bowl III was a bit high.

“The Jets have to be installed as at least the sentimental favorite against the established Colts, but that will also be argued by ardent Baltimore fans. No matter you look at though, the issue will be resolved late Sunday afternoon. Until then, the choice is still yours.”

Always listen to your sports editor … and keep his number available should he cost you significant bucks.

Alan Greenwood can be reached at 594-1248, agreenwood @nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_ AlanG.