After all the injuries the Patriots have sustained at key positions throughout the season, it's a borderline miracle they finished with a 12-4 regular season record and find themselves playing in their eighth AFC championship. Matthew Slater echoed that sentiment:
Pats Pro Bowl special teamer Matthew Slater to @SiriusXMNFL: "I think there is something special about this team." Cites mental toughness.
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) January 13, 2014
Even the biggest Patriots optimists are a little surprised that the team is fighting for a chance to go to the Super Bowl. It takes a lot of guts and resilience to shake off the injuries of two defensive captains, the centerpiece of your passing offense and one of your most dependable offensive lineman. But the Patriots keep on chugging, as they go against the offensive juggernaut that is the Denver Broncos.
The position the Patriots are in is a unique one. From 2007 on, they were always viewed as the offensive juggernaut, and they were always the ones expected to win. Now the tables have turned, and judging by Vegas it is New England's turn to play spoiler, just like the New York Jets, Baltimore Ravens, and (gulp) the New York Giants have done in years past.
A popular phrase that has been thrown around lately is that the Patriots are playing with "house money" because they were never expected to make it this far with all their significant injuries. That might be a cliché that the media might continue to generate, but there is a good chance that New England doesn't agree with that mind set. They've had time to adapt to their losses; and they know what they have to do to win games. The Patriots believe in themselves and are confident they can beat Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
Photo via Boston Globe