THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Dan Shaughnessy

Picking winner in this one is a hated chore

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / January 24, 2010

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INDIANAPOLIS - It’s always about us, and therefore this AFC Championship game must be viewed through the prism of Patriot Place.

Colts-Jets.

Ugh.

Any way both of these teams can lose today?

Let’s start with the ugly dateline. The AFC Championship game is being played at Lucas Oil (Can Boyd) Stadium in the heart of downtown Indianapolis, the heart of the heartland. That’s a big bowl of wrong. We all know this game should be played annually at the Razor off Route 1 in Foxborough.

Bet you thought the Patriots would be playing host to the AFC championship when you sat through two-a-days last summer. Remember those high hopes? Tom Brady was coming back and the Kraft AC would resume the unfinished business from that nightmare in the desert in February 2008.

That was back when we still thought the Patriots were the class of the AFC. That was before New England’s season unraveled on a fourth-and-2 attempt right here at Lucas Oil. That was before the Jets emerged as the true beasts of the AFC East.

So here we are with the Colts, whom we hate, playing the Jets, whom we hate, in a city and a stadium where bad things have happened to the Patriots.

New England is 6-1 lifetime in Lamar Hunt Trophy games, but Indy happens to be the site of the Patriots’ only defeat. And it was a doozy. Three years ago this weekend, the Patriots were ahead, 21-3, late in the first half of the AFC title game. They gave up 32 points in the second half and lost, 38-34. It was the game that motivated New England’s take-no-prisoners, run-up-the-score ride to 18-0 in 2007.

So we hate the Colts. We hate Indianapolis general manager Bill Polian and the dirty tricks of turning up the heat and cranking up the sound. We think the Colts are soft front-runners, unable to get going when the going gets tough. We hate the trendy thought that Peyton Manning is better than Tom Brady. As long as Tom has three rings to Peyton’s one, we still can make a case for our guy.

We hate that these Colts dissed the notion of a perfect season when they had a chance. When coach Jim Caldwell pulled his starters in the third quarter of Week 16 against the Jets, it was a smarmy message to the Patriots. It was the Colts saying, “We’re not going to waste our energy on something that backfired on the Patriots. We’re going to do this the smart way and win the Super Bowl instead of going for some cheesy perfection.’’

This makes us hope the Colts lose. We want to see their plan blow up like an exploding cigar in the face of Polian.

We’re still mad about 38-34 in 2007 and we’re still mad about fourth-and-2, so we hope the Colts choke today. We want the Colts to get smoked.

. . . but that would mean the Jets win and go to the Super Bowl.

Ouch.

What’s worse than the Jets in the Super Bowl, unless it’s the Yankees winning the World Series?

The Jets in the Super Bowl is validation for Eric “Fredo’’ Mangini (this is still largely Mangini’s team), Woody Johnson, Fireman Ed, Arlen Specter, Bill Parcells, and everything else the Patriots loathe.

The Jets in the Super Bowl means that Rex Ryan, HC of the NYJ, was right when he said he didn’t come to New York to kiss Bill Belichick’s rings. It means Darrelle Revis is right when he calls Randy Moss a slouch. It means the Jets are doing things right and the Patriots are doing things wrong. It means Damien Woody is going to say he likes these Jets more than the 2003 Patriots. It means Belichick and the Krafts have allowed their archenemies to vault ahead of them. It means the Patriots have to stop trying to win on the cheap, stressing “value’’ in the same smug manner that Theo Epstein emphasizes Ultimate Zone Ratings.

It was former Jets president Steve Gutman who suggested Belichick was mentally unstable when Hoodie resigned as HC of the NYJ.

And it was the Jets who ratted out Belichick’s cheating ways in the Spygate scandal of 2007. How can any Patriot fan ever root for the Jets?

Ryan already has drawn up the Jets’ Super Bowl itinerary through Feb. 9, and that includes a victory parade in the Canyon of Heroes in Manhattan.

Any way you look at it, this is a painful game for the Patriots and their legion. No matter which team wins, it’s a loss for New England.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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