Stew Milne//USA Today Sports

Thinking out loud: Some thoughts on Sunday's AFC title game

John Rooke
January 18, 2019 - 1:12 pm

Thinking out loud…while wondering what might be on the menu when the Red Sox visit the White House…

  • Like death and taxes, the Patriots are an inevitability.  In the AFC title game, again.  Eight straight seasons in the NFL’s Final Four?  Duke, Kentucky and Kansas can’t even come close to that.


  • But they’re a dog in this one with the Chiefs.  I get it.  But get this – the Pats have been favored in 67 straight games with TB12 at QB before this one. 


  • Not for nuthin’, but this is the first time since Sept. 20, 2015 that New England enters a game as an underdog, with Brady as a (healthy) starter.  That’s incredible, really.


  • Tweet of the Week I, from @ryanhannable: “The Patriots defense held the Chargers to just 19 yards rushing, the lowest postseason mark since the 1963 Patriots held Buffalo to 7 yards.”


  • That’s precisely where the beatdown of the Chargers began.  After the first LA drive for a score, the Chargers became one-dimensional and the defense seemed to know what was coming.  They were ready for it.


  • And, the pressure applied by the offense on the Charger defense was relentless.  Expect more of the same this week, or at least the attempt to do as much.  Two backs, one tight end, two receivers.  Ground and pound.


  • Tweet of the Week II, from @WillBrinson: “Philip Rivers has exactly the amount of protection you would expect from someone with nine children.”  LOL’d when this one hit my Twitter feed during the game.


  • The Chiefs are good, no question.  They’re better defensively (thanks to healthier personnel) than they were in October’s Gillette shootout.  But this AFC title game will be about control – and who can control whom?


  • Think about this – TB12 last left KC in 2014 as a beaten, three-time Super Bowl champ who hadn't won the big one in nine years and who was expected to be replaced sooner rather than later, with Jimmy G. waiting in the wings.


  • Now, a little more than four years later at age 41, Brady is back at Arrowhead as a five-time Super Bowl champ who has chased off his potential successor and is trying to navigate a path toward his 9th Super Bowl game.


  • If this were a movie script, Disney would have a hard time with credibility following that story line.


  • Last game for Gronk?  Perhaps.  I get the feeling however, he’d like to go out with a win – and with his health.  It may be tough to do both.


  • It was a vastly underrated performance from Sony Michel against the Chargers.  He’s improving between the tackles, but this is a running back who knows where the holes are.  If he gets stuffed, it’s because someone else screwed up – not him.


  • I’ve tried expressing an appreciating for the consistency of the Patriots organization recently.  I think it’s fallen on deaf ears, for the most part.  Fans’ expectations are what they are, and they’re mostly spoiled. 


  • But what New England has accomplished over the past 18 years won’t be done again in our lifetime(s). 


  • It’s the greatest dynasty – period – in pro sports history.  Considering the current financial landscape, of course.  Sorry Yankee fans, but it’s true.  You can’t outspend anyone in the NFL. 


  • The league is all about parity, where every team has an opportunity to build and rebuild quickly, and the Patriots have all but ripped-off parity’s head and spit down its’ neck.


  • And the Patriots are a seven-second fluke away from hosting this AFC title game.  Again.  Sheesh.  When does the NFL cry “uncle?”


  • Tweet of the Week III, from @DonBanks: “Behold the continued power of the bye. NFL's 4 top seeds won, meaning for 6th year in a row we will have a Super Bowl pairing of clubs that didn't have to mess with the first round. In last 10 years, bye teams are 30-10 in divisional round.”


  • Note for next year – the goal is to get the bye.  Again.


  • All is right with the world – the Patriots advance to the NFL’s Final Four, and Jon Bon Jovi leads the Gillette Stadium crowd in “Living on a Prayer.”  My football season is complete.


  • Is there anyone more foolish in the media these days than the so-called “analysts and experts” who keep preaching Tom Brady’s fall off the cliff?  Looking straight at you, Max Kellerman.  And Rob Parker.


  • What (or who) is dumber than throwing tripe up on a wall and hoping it sticks?  People who watch and listen to those who spew the garbage.  Repeatedly.


  • Pete Gillen once told me that even broken clocks are right twice a day.  True, but I don’t spend all day looking at them, waiting to get the time right, either.  Just sayin’.


  • Kudos to last week’s Down Judge in the Pats-Chargers game, Sarah Thomas, for her first NFL postseason assignment.  What?  You didn’t notice?  That’s the point.  Small steps continue to be taken. 


  • Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray just went up on the Patriots’ draft board.  I don’t know about you, but baseball seems like it might be more conducive to good health down the line.  Amiright?


  • The Adam Gase stare-down in New York after being introduced as the new J-E-T-S coach this week was funny.  And a bit creepy, too.  Dude, stop looking at me.


  • Other than Babe Ruth and probably Joe DiMaggio, one of the first Yankee players I ever really knew anything about was Mel Stottlemyre.  He passed away this week at age 77, after a distinguished career as a one-time NY ace and pitching coach. 


  • Why did I know about him?  His autograph was in the palm of my first baseball glove.  Still have it somewhere, too.


  • Suddenly, Massachusetts wants in on the legal sports betting craze?  Governor Charlie Baker says he’ll file his own legislation this year to make it happen – probably thanks in part to all those commercials you hear on the radio from Twin River in Rhode Island.


  • Hey, why can’t we get some of that action?  Hello, McFly?  By the end of 2019, 17 states are expected to be in the legal sports betting business.  Climb aboard the train before it leaves the station.


  • My buddy “Big E” sez he was on a flight back home this week, when the guy next to him asked the flight attendant if she could put his box of frozen stone crabs he was bringing home into the plane’s refrigerator unit.  They were expensive, he told her, and he wanted to make certain she had some room for them in a cooler so they wouldn’t spoil – even following her up the aisle to make sure they stayed cold. 


  • When the plane landed, the flight attendant made an announcement, apparently slightly annoyed: “Would the gentleman who gave me the crabs in Miami please raise your hand?”


  • Not a single person raised their hand.  Big E thinks she enjoyed those crabs.


  • That sudden breeze Tuesday night outside the Dunkin Donuts Center?  It was the collective sigh of relief from Friartown for finally breaking through into the Big East win column.


  • It’s hard to preach patience when expectations get out of whack, with little regard for reality.  And, when you forget the road recently traveled.  Something to consider when the Friars **** you off next time.


  • David Duke’s performance was notable, not just for his 18 points but for his defense on Seton Hall stud Myles Powell.  Having confidence is key for Duke’s continued improvement.


  • The late game strategy in regulation at Georgetown was a misfire, no question.  But Ed Cooley says the instruction was to foul, up three with 3.8 seconds to play.  The player(s) simply didn’t execute.  In the first OT, there was too much time left to foul, and James Akinjo’s prayer was answered.


  • These games are competitive, you say?  After 25 of 90 Big East games, 13 have been decided by six points or less. 


  • It hasn’t been a secret that Emmitt Holt isn’t all the way back from abdominal surgery more than a year ago.  The very real possibility of applying for a medical-hardship and sixth year of eligibility popped up last month, and it is being pursued by the team – with Emmitt’s family on board. 


  • But for this season, he’s done.  Without the hardship waiver, his college career could be over.  Better news – A.J. Reeves has also begun practicing, with hopes of returning to the floor sometime next week.  Yes, they need his presence…along with that outside shot.


  • TWITBE, Episode Two – features Xavier head coach Travis Steele, FS1’s Tarik Turner and former Friar coach, Bryant athletic director and current NCAA VP for Basketball Dan Gavitt on the NET ranking system. 


  • 103.7 FM has the show Saturday mornings – Sirius/XM also has it on Sirius 134, XM 210 and Online 968 at 11:00 am ET.  Download the podcast from iTunes, Stitcher or Google Play.  Or catch This Week in the Big East online at and


  • Second straight week for 6-3 forward Mary Baskerville to take home Big East Freshman of the Week on the women’s side.  Baskerville averaged a team-best 13.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and two blocks in a 1-1 week for the Friars, who are 10-8 overall heading into the weekend.


  • Brown basketball is rolling along at an unprecedented pace.  The Bears are 12-4 going into Ivy play this weekend, winners of six straight and eight-in-a-row at home.  And that’s where the Ivies tip off, at the Pizzitola Sports Center Saturday afternoon against Yale.


  • Rhody hit a speed bump against George Mason but bounced back against St. Bonnie Wednesday.  As we’ve said here previously – give one, take one for the Rams this season appears to be the rule.  They’ll try to take another Saturday at the Ryan Center against LaSalle.


  • The key for URI is to spread the wealth. In the past two, they’ve had at least four players score in double figures.  Before last week, that had only happened twice this season.


  • Think Danny Hurley is under any pressure?  UConn athletics this week reported revenue generated from last year at $40.4 million, and expenses at $80.9 million.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the way that checkbook balances.


  • The 10th-ranked Providence Hockey Friars held onto the Mayor’s Cup this week with a 5-1 win over Brown at Meehan Auditorium.  Four goals in the opening nine minutes was enough of a blitzkrieg to keep the Cup on Smith Hill.


  • Saturday, it’s back on the road at Boston College – looking for some payback for a 4-2 loss a week ago.


  • Another national honor for ESPN’s and PC’s own Doris Burke, honored this past week by the National Sports Media Association as their National Sportscaster of the Year.  Qualifies as a ‘wow,’ don’t ya’ think?  Doris is the first woman to win a NSMA National award.


  • Rhode Island state NSMA winners – for a second straight year, WLNE-TV’s Nick Coit wins the sportscaster honor.  South County Independent Sports Editor Will Geoghegan takes the sportswriter honor this year.  Congrats to both – who do great work.


  • In Massachusetts, the NSMA winners for this year are Celtics’ TV voice and RI Radio Hall of Famer Mike Gorman, along with the Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy.  Kind of a love-hate thing going on there, huh?


  • Nothing but love and prayers go out to my one-time radio partner-in-crime, Steve Hyder.  The Journal’s Kevin McNamara detailed Steve’s issues this past week as he battles kidney disease and needs a transplant.  Steve has been fighting health issues since he left the Pawsox radio broadcast booth a few seasons ago. 


  • Hard to believe our time together as co-hosts on The Score in Providence ended more than 13 years ago.  We had more fun together than anyone in this business has a right to have.  Steve is a multiple winner of the RI Sportscaster of the Year honor, a Newport native, a graduate of Rogers High School and a UMass alum.  Reach out if you’d like to help.


  • Former Dean College soccer star Geo Alves was selected in the 3rd round of this week’s MLS SuperDraft by DC United.  After scoring 99 points in 37 games at Dean, Alves starred for two seasons at Vermont where he was a two-time all-conference forward.


  • It probably shouldn’t have been a part of their diet, but I fail to see the problem with the President hosting the national champs from Clemson with fast food.  I mean, you remember when you were 20, right?  My diet was a steady dose of Whoppers, onion rings and chocolate shakes.  Oh, and pizza. 


  • If someone laid out a spread of that stuff in front of me, I would have gone into a food coma.  But what a way to go.


  • And when the Red Sox visit the White House next month as planned, shouldn’t hot dogs, beer, peanuts and Cracker Jack be on the menu?  I’d be all-in on that.


  • @ProblemSolvedJ tweeted at me this week, on an appreciation for what the Patriots have accomplished: “I call (this) season a success. Living outside of New England has given me real perspective on what to be grateful for.”


  • Justen – agreed. Maybe living outside of this area, and with exposure to other teams, other fans and other media can allow true appreciation to come into play.  Good for you.  But I’m certain that should New England lose in Kansas City, much of the aftermath will be about “the dynasty” ending.  For me, the dynasty won’t end until the Patriots miss out on the postseason for a year or two.  At least.


  • There is no reason, right now, to think anything is over.  But the QB will be older, and we’ve already said this upcoming off-season will be interesting.  And volatile.  Some change is coming. 


  • Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (and yes, that includes the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? Send ‘em to me! It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions, comments and local stories to We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and on Facebook, ...


Don’t forget to tune into Providence’s 103.7 FM, every Saturday from 7:00-9:00 am for Southern New England Sports Saturday!  Call in at 401-737-1287 or text at 37937.