What did we learn over Divisional Weekend? That the NFL is a passing league, for sure, but that defense is still important to winning championships.
Of the teams with the most explosive offenses, only New England survived. New Orleans, out. Green Bay, out. San Francisco moves on, as do the New York Giants, who looked like a balanced team winning on the road at Lambeau Field.
The Patriots, though, finally assembled a complete, 60-minute ball game against the Denver Broncos, while the Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens put on a defensive clinic. If New England looked motivated and focused against the Broncos, imagine how they might come out Sunday afternoon against the Ravens, who beat them at Gillette two years ago on Wild Card Weekend.
That's just one of the storylines we'll be working on this week as PFW covers the AFC Championship Game. It begins this afternoon, when players will be made available for locker room interviews.
On Tuesday, conference calls with head coach Bill Belichick, de facto defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, and player personnel director Nick Caserio will begin at noon. There'll be a new Ask PFW for you on patriots.com, as well as our weekly radio lineup beginning at noon tomorrow.
The NFL will arrive on Wednesday to coordinate all press conferences for the rest of the week, which you can watch on patriots.com (they'll also be broadcast live on NFL Network).
What makes this week different from a normal regular season affair is that Belichick will hold a presser Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday (as opposed to just two days), and QB Tom Brady is scheduled to do two – one Wednesday and other on Thursday – instead of the typical solo weekly one. Several other players will take the podium for media questions each day as well (the exact lineup is tentative at the moment).
Practice updates will be posted right here Wednesday through Friday, with a team walkthrough on Saturday (no media access).
Thursday night, as always, tune in to PFW TV Thursday night at 7:30 on Comcast SportsNet New England. Then, on game day Sunday, beginning at 12:45 p.m. Eastern, Andy and Paul will get you prepped for the AFC title game on the Pre-Game Social. Visit the Patriots Facebook page to listen and contribute to the show with your e-mails, phone calls, and pictures from your tailgating parties.
Kickoff is at 3 p.m. Eastern on CBS, with a trip to Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI on the line.