America might be yawning at another Patriots AFC title
By BARRY WILNER
Jan. 18, 2018
That seems to be the reaction from everywhere except New England when Pro Picks has asked folks about the prospect of the Patriots being in yet another Super Bowl.
Apparently, they have become the team people love to hate: America's Team they ain't.
And they care not a bit about their popularity, or about what they've already achieved.
"I think it's a mistake if you take anything we've ever done in the past and translate it to what we're doing now," left tackle Nate Solder says.
"I think it's a different story. We're writing our own story this year, so what we're doing is preparing to see the Jacksonville team of this year and how we're going to beat them and be as ready as we can go to play our best football."
That might elicit more yawns, but it's indicative of how things work in Foxborough.
But there's a sneaking suspicion that the Patriots (14-3) are well aware of what All-Pro safety Jalen Ramsey of the Jaguars (12-6) has been saying about Sunday's AFC championship game, in which host New England is a 9-point choice. Ramsey guaranteed a Jacksonville victory.
"I think what I have learned for a long time is it's how you play, it's not what you say," Tom Brady said during his weekly radio appearance on WEEI in Boston.
"Everyone has different ways of handling things. Players do, coaches do. We do what works for us, other players do what works for them. The game is going to be decided by who plays the best, not who hypes the best or speaks the best."
This is a meeting of the No. 2 (Jags) and No. 5 (Pats) scoring defenses in the league. It's also a meeting of Brady against Blake Bortles.
Minnesota (minus 3) at Philadelphia
No shortage of attention here after both of these teams went down to the wire to advance.
This one figures to come down to defense: Minnesota allowed the fewest points in the NFL, 252, while Philadelphia was fourth stingiest.
That could mean it will be decided by the pass rush, and each team has some dynamic sack threats. The Eagles' Fletcher Cox was sensational against Atlanta last weekend, and is complemented by Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett and Chris Long. For the Vikings, it's Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter causing problems.
"We don't want to steer away from nothing different than what we do," Graham says, "and we're going to go out there and we're going to wreak havoc. We're going to go out there and give it everything because it's the championship, baby."
Philadelphia last made the Super Bowl for the 2004 season, losing to New England. The Vikings haven't been in the big game since — get this — 1977, their fourth loss in as many tries.
That's ancient history, of course. After what's been dubbed the "Minneapolis Miracle" that lifted them past New Orleans last Sunday, they believe anything is possible.
If they do things right.
"What matters is how we play on Sunday, how we execute today in practice, how we do those things," coach Mike Zimmer says. "I feel like I have a pretty smart, level-headed football team. They understand the magnitude of things and they know what's at stake, so let's just go out, let's continue to do what we've been doing all year long, let's play good, let's play together as a team, take care of the football. All of the things you talk about all year long, really."
As they say in politics, this one is too close to call. So going with the hosts.
Last week: Against spread (3-1). Straight up (2-2)
Season Totals: Against spread (122-124-10). Straight up: (165-97)
Best Bet: 10-9 against spread, 11-8 straight up.
Upset special: 10-8 against spread, 9-9 straight up