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Patriots.com News Blitz - 1/20/2012

Final preparations for the AFC Championship game begin. The Patriots head across the pond. It’s all inside today’s edition of the Patriots.com News Blitz.

Greg A Bedard of the Boston Globe previews the Patriots-Ravens AFC Championship match-up position-by-position. The Patriots gain an edge with Tom Brady at quarterback, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Deion Branch at receiver, Matt Light, Logan Mankins and Brian Waters on the offensive line, Stephen Gostkowski, Zoltan Mesko and Matthew Slater on Special teams and Bill Belichick as the coach.

Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald writes about the phenomenon of the Rob Gronkowski spike celebration. "All the fans liked it, so I just kept with it," Gronkowski said yesterday. "I always wanted to spike. Couldn't do it in college or high school, so I just started it here." According to Dan Thaler, an organizing member of the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Gronkowski's spike generates 645 pounds of force and leaves his hand nearly as fast as a 90 mile-per-hour fastball. "It's like he's drilling for oil," Pats coach Bill Belichick quipped.

Alex Marves of FoxSports.com writes about the Patriots defense jelling at the right time. The Patriots defense was criticized throughout the season for allowing too many yards, using offensive players on defense and had little pass rush outside of Andre Carter. However, last Saturday against the Denver Broncos the defense had its best performance of the season allowing only 252 yards. "In this defense, we always have moving parts," Patriots defensive end Vince Wilfork said Wednesday at team headquarters. "It's a tough defense [to execute] at times, but that's how Bill [Belichick] runs his ship. I think the guys have done a great job all year of getting those things down. The problems we had, we tried to correct them. For the most part, we did."

Howard Ulman of the Associated Press writes about recent comments from multiple Patriots players praising Tom Brady. "Tom thinks he's one of the boys," Deion Branch said. "He can't be one of the boys. This guy's the face of the NFL." Brady's role as a leader started from the day he was drafted when he had a brief talk with Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft. "He comes up and says, Mr. Kraft, I'm Tom Brady.' I said,I know who you are, you're our sixth-round draft choice from Michigan.' And he looked me right in the eye and he said, `and I'm the best decision this organization has ever made.' "

Rich Thompson of the Boston Herald writes about the advantage safety Patrick Chung gains by covering Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in practice every day. This advantage will help Chung cover Baltimore's tight end duo of Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta. "They are two very good players, so it always helps me covering or whether it is a linebacker or a corner or a safety," Chung said.

Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com writes about recent comments from Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft about the Patriots honorary captains for Sunday's game. Troy Brown, Ty Law, Teddy Bruschi and Drew Bledsoe were the four representatives selected from the 1996 AFC Champion Patriots. "I remember sitting in the stands for 34 years and we had one playoff game, which we lost to Houston in '78. I remember that '96 season when we had the privilege of hosting our first championship game. These four people were in the game and I remember the thrill I had getting that first Lamar Hunt trophy," Kraft said.

Jeff Howe of NESN.com writes about recent comments from multiple Patriots players about not taking advantage of the opportunity to play in the AFC Championship game. "It's real difficult," defensive end Mark Anderson said. "The last time I was at this point was in '06 [with the Bears], and I haven't seen the playoffs since. You've got to cherish every moment." That sentiment was echoed by Tom Brady. "To get to this point is very challenging," Brady said. "The game can't get here fast enough. There's a lot of anxiousness leading up to the game. You think about the game. It's the only thing really on your mind. Hopefully, we can go out there and do a great job. I'm really looking forward to it."

CSNNE.com writes about the Patriots being selected to be one of the two NFL teams who will play at Wimbley Stadium in England next year. The Patriots will travel to London to face the St. Louis Rams on Oct. 28, 2012 in Week 8 of the NFL season.

Mike Rodak of ESPNBoston.com writes about the announcement of Steven Tyler being this weekend's National Anthem singer. Tyler and Aerosmith have strong Boston ties, and according to Robert Kraft, Tyler "has been a loyal, good Pats fan."

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