by Scott Benson

On Friday, it struck me: if I could get a few fans to submit their thoughts on tonight’s epic AFC Championship showdown between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts, I could decrease MY workload for the day and leave myself free to start on the cocktails a little early.


Seriously, though, I owe you guys. I’ve had a great time sorting through your responses and hearing your thoughts on yet another incredibly exciting Football Sunday in New England. Even if you did make me feel inadequate. Thanks very much for being such good friends of BSMW’s Patriots Game Day, and for being such great fans of our Patriots.

Well, to be truthful, we did hear from one guy who I don’t think is a Patriots fan, and frankly, I don’t think he likes us much either. See if you can figure out which one he is!

Let’s get to it. Honest to God, I did not make this stuff up. What follows are the words of actual people.

53 years of black Irish pessimism have usually stood me in good stead as far as the Patriots are concerned. I’ve either had my worst fears confirmed or been pleasantly surprised. That’s why the optimism I feel for the game has me disconcerted. The reason for this era of good feeling? The Colts “defensive resurgence”. I think it’s fraudulent. Sure, their defense has suddenly become Doomsdayesque in the playoffs, but consider the opposition. The Kansas City Chiefs backed into the playoffs, were clearly just happy to be there, had a quarterback with more cobwebs in his head than Mountain Rivera, and were an execrable road team all year long anyway. The Baltimore game gave me pause until I actually observed Steve McNair calcifying while dropping into the pocket. Add that to the fact that if he broke parole tomorrow, I don’t think Jamal Lewis could crack the Mean Machine starting lineup and I remained skeptical.

NFL wizards and shamen from coast to coast have tried to explain it. I read someone who attributed their renaissance to Booger McFarland suddenly “getting it”. Booger McFarland? THE Booger McFarland? To paraphrase Nicholson’s witness stand speech in A Few Good Men, “Please tell me you’re not pinning your case on a washed up journeyman lineman. Please tell me you have more evidence than that. The playoff lives of these men are at stake”.

A wise scribe once said, “if you’re born round you dont die square”………or some damned thing like that, and the Colts spent 16 weeks finishing 32nd against the run and 32nd on third downs. I just dont believe that the addition of a defensive back who is an inch shorter than I am can turn these undersized, non tackling stiffs into the Steel Curtain.

What was startling about the 27-20 loss earlier this year was the lack of answers the coaching staff had for the Colts. I just don’t see that happening again. I’m going against centuries of Irish heritage, but I like the Pats on Sunday.

I believe this week and (hopefully) next week may constitute the official passing of the torch: from the dominant LBs to the dominant DL. I know it’s been happening for a couple years, and many might argue the torch has already been passed. I believe we’ll see it on full display this weekend. Barring injuries over the next 2-4 years, the big three will dominate in a way that no big three in Boston sports has dominated since Bird (Seymour), McHale (Warren), and Parish (Wilfork).
Chris from Reading

Once upon a time, the Million Dollar Man – the great Ted DiBiase – had his own segment on the Saturday morning WWF show. In one such segment, DiBiase brought a young boy up from the crowd on stage with him and his bodyguard Virgil. DiBiase told the young lad – who couldn’t have been much more than 9 or 10 years old – if he could bounce a basketball on the floor ten consecutive times, he would give him $500. He had his loyal minion Virgil fan out the money to show the little boy the cash, and his eyes lit up.

The young lad bounced the ball, and the crowd cheered him loudly and chanted along: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9…

After the ninth bounce, DiBiase kicked the ball into the stands. The little boy got nothing and left the stage sobbing uncontrollably as The Million Dollar Man doubled over laughing.

The Patriots play the role of Ted DiBiase on Sunday.


Win or lose, I am already quite proud of this Patriots team. I honestly did not see them getting to this position to start the year. I figured we’d win the division, win a playoff and I would’ve consider this a successful season. I actually expected them to be much better next year, especially since we should be loaded with cap space, we have two first round picks and will likely get quite a few extra picks because of the players we lost in the offseason.

However, for some reason, I am rooting more for the Colts and Peyton Manning to not to make the Super Bowl more than anything else. All I’ve been hearing this week is talk about “Peyton’s year,” and I think I like it better when we consider him a choker. I’d love to grab another Super Bowl title, but if we can’t, I’d rather not allow Peyton and the Colts to get one at our expense.

This is Peyton’s best shot, I feel, since they finally got the home field advantage and the Pats aren’t the same team they were a few years ago. However, what makes me feel more confident is knowing that I thought that last year’s Colts team was much better than this years, and the Steelers gave them a good beatdown in the RCA Dome that was much more convincing than the Steelers’ 3-point victory would indicate.

I predict this game to be a close one and it will go down to the fourth quarter. I expect us to have our best day running the ball, compared to our earlier two playoff contests. I know we will not crumble early in this one, but at this point, I still have no idea how this one will end up. I sure hope Coach Belichick, Tommy B. and the rest of the Pats do. I do know, however, that I will not be able to handle watching ESPN and other sports news outlets for the next two weeks if Peyton Manning and the Colts win.

Manny, Nazareth, PA

It’s going to be a slaughter. The Colts defense will force a couple turnovers in the first half, and jump to a early lead. Pats will never be able catch up. Score will be a lot closer then the game indicates. 31-23 Colts.
Dan, Medford

The reoccuring theme for this game nestles somewhere between “This Game Means More to Peyton Manning” and “Manning is Due.” What a load of crap said by people who just don’t get it.

First, “It Means More:” Wow. Why? Because of his legacy? His place in history? Are we to believe that this game has more historical merit to the career of Peyton Manning than Tom Brady? Maybe, but only if we ignore the fact that Tom Brady has something more important than a legacy at stake.

For many, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will forever be each other’s foil. They were the two best at the same time in the same conference. For those who think about the game, that is reason enough to see why the game means just as much to Brady. The Montana/Marino argument would be a lot closer if Marino had beaten Montana in the Superbowl.

In fact, Peyton is playing with house money. How can he fall further? He can’t be more of the guy who can’t win the big one, can he? He can’t suddenly have less than no Superbowls. Tom Brady has as much to lose as Peyton Manning has to win. Brady is playing with his own money, earned in three Superbowls, and he is the quarterback whose legacy can grow OR shrink. Manning can’t lose what he doesn’t have.

On top of all of that, Brady still has more to win tomorrow.

Every time Tom Brady takes the field he is competing with guys like Montana, Unitas, Elway, and Marino. Today, Tom Brady has the chance to take a step so rare that Manning would have to win four of these games tomorrow to be near. It just so happens that for him to take one more step up that ladder it has to be done on the jersey of Peyton Manning.

Peyton Manning might be playing for his legacy.

Tom Brady is playing to be a Legend.

Lots of guys have legacies, few are legends.

And only people who don’t get that would think the game means more to Peyton Manning.

(Oh, and two: Just ask Chamberlain and West how “due” they were against Bill Russell.)

Go Pats.
Michael, Everett, MA

Much more after the jump. Read on!

This to me will be the best game ever – my wife and I had our first baby on Friday night – so nothing will put me in a bad mood. Pats carry the day anyways: 30-20 behind a lot of running, and a couple big break aways by the combo backfield of Dillon, Maroney, and Faulk.

How do I love the Patriots in this game? Let me count the ways.

1) Adam Vinateri (my all time favorite kicker, and sure fire hall of famer) will have at least 1 short kickoff that the Patriots will run back to midfield. Brady will take advantage of that for 7 points.

2) Marvin (alligator arms) Harrison will be hit hard early in the game, and stop trying to catch balls by mid-game.

3) Indy’s run defense is not good. Despite what the past 2 weeks have made mediots think.

Pats win, 20-17, Maroney is MVP of the game.
Jeff in NH

I love the late start. I’d rather watch the game earlier in the day, but starting it at 6:30 seems to make it an even bigger game, bigger stage, which should help the Patriots. It allows the Colts players to sit around longer on Sunday and get all hyped up and nervous. The Patriots can not only handle the big stage, they thrive on it. The Colts however, have tended to buckle under the big game / playoff pressure. Too bad they didn’t start the game at 8:00, that would be even better.
Sean, Andover

Remember the Pats-Oakland game in the snow? My sister got married that day. After the reception everyone raced home (in the snow) from Falmouth to Wareham to watch the end of the game. After the Pats won, I remember high fiving my brother and debating the game and the call for a couple of hours after. The next morning when my brother came down for some coffee, he asked me if the Patriots won. Glad I didnt drink.

It’s gonna come down to the zebras; they have been too quiet. Go Pats.
Terry, Erwin N.C.

Pats 31 – Indy 27. Peyton throws 3 and Adam kicks 2, but it’s not enough to hold off scores from Maroney & Dillon along with 2 TD passes from Brady and a Gostkowski 47 yarder.
Mike, San Francisco

In a h/t to HBO’s luscious & vile Rome, which will follow the game, I offer thumbs up/thumbs down for the other prognosticators out there:

Thumbs Down to everyone who dismissed the Pats four months ago for letting too much talent walk away and now dismiss their appearance in this game as so much business as usual. No matter how this game turns out– even with the wet dream of Pats Haters everywhere: the Viniatieri winning kick, the Axis of Competence in Foxboro has proven once again that they know what they’re doing.

Thumbs Up to SI’s Michael Silver, the only national writer who seems to get it.

Thumbs Down to all those picking the Colts because, uhm, “Peyton’s time has come” (unlike last year when they were facing the wild card Steelers at home and “Peyton’s time” was making its way through security at ATL.)

Thumbs Up to Tiki Barber’s retirement and the hope of fans everywhere that next year at this time he will be filling the godawful Michael Irvin’s chair at Countdown with cogent, articulate analysis.

Thumbs Down to me after spending a week telling my San Diego County neighbors how the Pats would overcome the Chargers advantages through cunning and guile, and then spending the game hiding out in the bathroom as they did just that.

Thumbs Up to the Colts fans on the Indy Star message board who slapped down one of their own this week who tried to make the case that Brady was the most overrated QB in NFL history. (One could only hope that NE fans would show as much integrity if some yahoo tried to make that case against Manning.)

Thumbs Down to Scott Benson for thinking this game is going to be close.

Thumbs Up Pats: 34-20!

I am picking the Pats. My reasons are: 1) They beat a much better team (Chargers vs Ravens); 2)The Pats have been the Colts’ nemesis over the years, even before the good years. I remember Zolak beating them in Indy. If it was the Broncos in Denver I would uneasy. I sort of feel the way I did before the Jets game. Uneasy because of the Mangini mystique – with the Colts mainly because of the brainwashing of the national media.

Here we go again, and I say it with nothing but glee. No disgust, no exhasperation here. True, I’m Pat’s blue thru and thru, but all this New England/Yankees business is for the feathered ones. We come in with no murderer’s row, no luxury tax receipts dangling from our back pockets. Gaffney, Caldwell? The comparison is idiotic beyond the fact that both teams are there, in the end, fighting while others are gone. Can’t handle another Brady-Manning squareoff? Tough. Siddown, shaddup and watch some football that your team would kill to be playing, and likely you’d do the same to root on. Go Pats!
Daniel, Olympia, WA

Let me get this straight. Peyton Manning, ESPN’s wonderboy, has done zilch in the playoffs in an otherwise decorated career. His playoff numbers have been horrid thus far, especially in comparison to his annual MVP worthy regular seasons. He is now up against a Patriot team manned by the clutchest quarterback of the decade, coached by the best game planner football has ever seen. He has had zero success against this team in the playoffs and on the other side of the ball, he has to watch the statistically worst run defense in football.

Everyone talks about how fast the Colt’s defense is. Your telling me the Chargers aren’t fast? Your trying to sell me that Freeney is any quicker then Merriman off the line? Your calling Bob Sanders a top 5 safety in this league? Your trying to convince me that Peyton Manning is sleeping like a baby tonight, when a gorilla is doing pilates on his back as we speak?

I don’t care what ESPN tells me. It’s blatanly obvious that they’re just painting this flawed team as a the best team of 2007, when 5 weeks ago they were throwing Manning underneath the bus. Speaking of buses, this “spin” worked out nicely last year with the severely overblown “The Bus is Coming Home World Tour!”

Look, the Bills faced the same thing. There comes a point where a team beats you so many times in the most important situations, that you know you’re going to screw it again up. We’re giving far to much credit to the Baltimore and Kansas City offenses and not enough to the Patriot defenses for containing a pretty good Jets O and a excellent San Diego attack.

It’s not going to be close my friends. San Diego was the test, we’re going to roll over these guys. And the mainstream media will jump on the Saintswagon when they crush the Bears, as I get to read some more Patriot bashing since you know, we don’t have a marquee receiver.

Pats 31
Colts 13

Tom Brady remains “overrated.” 4-0 in AFC Championship games will mean nothing to the idiots who use fantasy stats as a measure of a player’s greatness.
ek, boston

I am nervously yet eagerly looking forward to yet another very tough challenge for the Pats on Sunday evening. I am just as jittery going up against Indy as I was when the Pats took on the Chargers. Let’s face it, the Colts are a good club; any attempts to deny that would be obtuseness in action. They have a bit of recent history on their side, having defeated the Pats in their last two meetings. Having to play the game in the RCA dome in front of rabid fans increasingly desperate for a Super Bowl appearance at the expense of their greatest tormentors merely ups the ante.

It’s a tremendous opportunity for the Pats, though; it presents a chance to further solidify what this franchise has been able to accomplish in the Belichick era. If they are able to beat the Colts on Sunday, it will strikingly reinforce what Bob Ryan has been telling us for several years now: these are indeed the “good old days.” I am profoundly grateful to be able to experience them as they happen.

And to do it with the greatest clutch kicker in NFL history on the othersideline, the one guy who the Pats supposedly could not do without? Or to have the chance to once again drive Bill Polian into alcohol-inducedincohent rage? I can’t wait to see if it happens.

I’m excited that the degree of difficulty has been raised. Might as well shoot for the moon.
Steve, Brunswick, Maine

We’re about 20 hours or so away from kickoff here in Denver. Tomorrow the ski resorts will probably bepacked with the locals, since their beloved Broncos won’t be participating. I must admit that the wife and I took advantage last year of hating both the Broncos and the Steelers and enjoyed a great day at Vail. The year prior, I was in New Zealand during the AFC Champ game and unable to watch it live, so I’m especially excited for tomorrow’s tilt.

As for schedule/prep, we’ll be watching the NFC gameat a friend’s house who is a Bears fan. He and his wife just had their first baby, so they’re only good for one game. While we’re over there, I’ll have a pork shoulder slow cooking, I’ll start it around 6 AM tomorrow. My brother will be joining us here at myhouse since he doesn’t have HD. Over the last few days, I’ve been watching previous playoff games to get the juices flowing. Just watched SB XXXVIII this
morning, I’ll probably watch XXXVIV tomorrow AM. As a fan, I feel I’m as ready as I’m gonna be. Let’s play this game and see who’s the best.

Most prognosticators have no faith in the Patriots tomorrow, which of course suits me and everyone on the board just fine. I feel that the Patriots are definitely the looser of the two teams — they’ve been here before, have won two of their most recent AFC championships on the road, and no one is expecting them to win. The Colts on the other hand, have got to be tight considering last year’s failure and Peyton’s mortality so far in the playoffs. I expect both
offenses to come out throwing early and throwing often. The Patriots, as crazy as this sounds, are a turf team in my mind, and they’ll play the turf stylegame and should thrive in this environment. I don’t think the kickers are going to play a factor at all, and in the end, I believe that Addai and Maroney will be bigger factors than many believe or expect. I’m not a numbers or score predictor, but I’ll go out on a limb and say Maroney’s gonna bust a big run or two and go over 100 yards, and Daniel Graham is gonna play a big role blocking. Patriots will win this, not sure by how much or what score, but they’ll win, and head to Miami in a rematch of SB XX.
Peter in Denver (aka Lebron)

From Beyond 128: yes, there are people who live out here, Boston!

Pre-Game Thoughts On Patriots vs. Colts

1. Bill Polian will complain about the officiating *before* the game starts (“Boo hoo! They’re too *rough* out there in warm-up!”)

2. Ron Borges picks the Colts over Pats, 40-7.

3. Michael Felger still isn’t convinced that the Pats have any depth, and those wide receivers are just awful, awful! (Man, Felgie, you used to be a good reporter. I guess getting your own radio show ruined you.)

4. Some national media hack will sneer at BB’s gray hoodie (“Homeless bum”).

5. The Pats and Tom Brady have won 3 out of the last 4 Super Bowls, but the Colts are just too good *not* to win.

6. The national media is sick of the Patriots. Never mind that they might be watching the greatest team of all time if the Pats pull off a win tomorrow and in Miami. 4-in-6, baby!

7. The Patriots will run the ball, say the experts. Therefore, they will throw it.

8. Tony Dungy is a nice guy. Bill Belichick is pond scum.

9. Did the national media mention that BB dresses like a bum?

10. The Patriots are boring. (I guess it’s true: excellence is no longer acceptable in America, just mediocrity.)

11. If Tom Brady was Superman, Ron Borges would slip him a Kryptonite mickey.

12. After Adam misses a last-second FG, he’ll reveal himself as the embedded Patriot!
Brady Girl

My “pre-game ruminations” are going to be of the “win or lose” variety. Win or lose today, the Patriots have proven the Boston media to be WRONG about just everything when it comes to the Pats. It was supposed to be the “end of the world as we know it” when the Patriots lost Vinatieri, Givens, Branch and McGinest. Yet here they are in the AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME. To me this shows the Pats knew what they were doing all along. I bring this up because yesterday I sent MUSTARD and JOHNSON an e-mail on the subject. Mustard read it on the air, then says,”Well, we won’t know if the Patriots were correct in letting Vinatieri go until AFTER tomorrow”. My reaction was, “SAY WHAT?!” Most of these “pundits” were saying the Pats wouldn’t even MAKE THE PLAYOFFS without Vinatieri, Givens, Branch and McGinest. What is the AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME? Chopped liver? This is what we are going to have to look forward to should (God forbid) the Patriots lose. The media “second guessers” will be out in full force, most likely calling the Patriots season a “failure” Yes, there is no doubt, if the Pats lose today I will be extremely disappointed. However I will NOT consider the season to be a “Failure”. The changes in personel the Patriots had to deal with and how far they have gotten (so far) as only made me respect the organazation more. It pains me to say it but the Boston media has worn me down. I am very confident of the Patriots chances today. However, should they lose I know what is going to come down the pike from the “second guessers”. So I have made the decision that if the Patriots should (god forbid) lose. I WILL NOT read, listen to, or watch anything from the sports media for 2 months. Maybe I shouldn’t take it so seriously, but it just won’t be worth the aggravation. In closing I would like to say – GO PATS! If the unthinkable happens and they lose, I’ll see (read) you in 2 Months.
Drew, Middletown RI

First of all, I never thought home field or weather was a big deal to the Patriots or Colts games of yesteryear. I thought the Patriots just stuffed the stretch play and their corners beat the crap out of the Colts receivers. That’s why we won those games. I think that will be the blueprint again. In other words, I don’t give homefield advantage much emphasis, in this game, personally.

Second, the Ravens are a good, tough defense, but arguably the Patriots are tougher against the run and not as good against the pass. So I think that Addai and Rhodes will not get those crucial 5 yard runs to set up short third downs, and I do not think Manning can play a conservative game in the fourth quarter, even if ahead, in order to grind out the clock. But he may not have to if he plays brilliantly, because then they’ll be up 14.

Third, I think Brady and Manning could each play brilliantly, or each play up and down, but I think both are too good to play as poorly as each did this past weekend. I don’t think Mathis and Freeney present as much problem as Merriman and Phillips did (although they were both injured in that game, remember), so I think Brady will feel like he has a little more flexibility and time. I think the Patriots are not as good with mixing up blitzes and they do not have the personnel to be dropping guys like Adalius Thomas or Ray Lewis into coverage: Bruschi cannot keep up with the Colts TEs or the RBs on check downs. This is a long way of saying I don’t think the pass rush for either team will be a major issue. Patriots will try to just rush their front three, occassionally sending BantaCain or Colvin, but that’s it.

Fourth, I think Gostkowski and Vinatieri will be completely irrelevant. Kicks are somewhat random. Gostkowski kicks the ball off farther, Vinatieri probably will be less nervous come time for a big kick. Maybe this is just wishful thinking, but it my biggest hope about the game if the Patriots lose, that it has nothing to do with Vinatieri, because I don’t want to have to read articles in the Boston papers for the next nine months talking about how we never should have let him go. But I do think that special teams will be interesting: because both punters seem pretty good (go Sauerbrun!), but both teams coverage units were poor in the regular season (though Pats seem to have worked out some kinks by largely limiting Justin Smith and Michael Turner).

Fifth, I think the Patriots are much better on offense overall than the Chiefs and Ravens. I think they will not be stuffed on the run game because the Colts have to respect the passing game more than they did in week 8 and more than they did in the past two playoff games. So I think the Patriots will be able to run the ball, although I’m nervous because both Dillon and Maroney look worn out to me. Faulk looks better than either of them the past two games. Anyone else notice that? In any event, the three of them together should be able to get something going.

Sixth, I think if either quarterback has a great game, that team wins. If Brady can protect the ball and get 200 yards out of his receivers, they win. If Manning plays as well as he did in their first meeting, then the Colts win. Right now, I have an uncomfortable feeling that Manning is actually playing looser than Brady. And I hate historically-related statistics (e.g., Brady is 12-1 in the playoffs, Manning is not — so what? That has nothing to do with this game). But I think the safest thing is to presume both guys make some mistakes and make some great throws and end up fairly even.

Finally, I guess I think the Colts’ ability to run and stop the run has been a little exaggerated in the past two games. But there’s nothing illusory about the Patriots front three, whom I do not think will be manhandled by the Colts the same way the Ravens were. And I also think that the Colts cannot sit Bob Sanders in the box all game. So while I think the passing games and quarterbacks are fairly evenly matched (and obviously I could be wrong about how it plays out), I give an edge to the Patriots in the run game. And for that reason (and not because of any stupid mystique or luck or Manning “can’t win the big one” or Belichick’s Jedi mind tricks, or destiny, or any of that crap the sportswriters seem to rely on) I am calling a Patriots win: 28-21.

Pretty good, huh? Thanks again to everybody that wrote in. Here’s to a return engagement next week. And that means you too, buttercup!

Dear Scott,

Say you were a Colt receiver, what way would you prefer Peyton to scold you after a play? Would you like the head roll “I-can’t-believe-that-idiot-blew-the-play” move or the “You-were-suppose-to-cut-IN-not-out” hand motion?

You got to know babe,
I’d go with the MOTION

Oh, it’s got to be, babe
the hand MOTION

to rock the boat, don’t rock the boat baby
rock the boat, don’t tip the boat over
rock the boat, don’t rock the boat baby
rock the boat-t-t-t-t

buttercup from Peyton’s place

Dear Scott,

If you could be one ex-Patriot watching this run with envy, who would you be? I would be Willie McGinest because he is called “Big Willie”! Could you imagine having that nickname? I could!

buttercup from Peyton’s placemat

Buttercup sent me another ‘if you could be’ about Joseph Addai, but I really didn’t get that one. Not that I ‘get’ buttercup in the first place. Still, I wish he/she would write more often.

Thanks again, everybody. Enjoy the game.