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 Everyone assumed the Indianapolis Colts would be the last obstacle to New England reaching the Super Bowl.
Sorry NFL. Sorry CBS.
It's the San Diego Chargers who go to Foxborough, albeit with their quarterback and two best offensive players banged up.
Antonio Gates played last week with his dislocated toe, so assume he will play. LaDainian Tomlinson says he will. But QB Philip Rivers may be a game-time decision - sprained knee ligaments can be very limiting.
Naturally, the spread is 14 points; it's almost never in single digits with the Patriots. But it's down from an opening 15, meaning some people have plunked down money on San Diego to at least cover.
That might be wise.
San Diego is not without talent. The Chargers have won eight straight, including two playoff games. No, that's not 17, the number the Pats have won without a loss, but it's pretty impressive after 1-3 and 5-5 starts.
Remember that the Chargers were 14-2 last season, the top-seeded team in the AFC. They lost 24-21 at home to New England, but the Patriots needed a lot of breaks, notably a fumbled fourth-down interception by Marlon McCree in the fourth quarter that gave them new life.
The forecast for Foxborough on Sunday is for a high of 22 degrees and a low of 9 with a lot of wind. Yes, the Chargers are a warm-weather team, but even Tom Brady is likely to have trouble in conditions like that. The wind makes the gap between Brady and Rivers (or Billy Volek) a lot smaller.
None of this says San Diego will win. But Jacksonville kept it close for three quarters last Saturday night. The Chargers can do the same.
PATRIOTS, 24-17

New York Giants (plus 7) at Green Bay
If it's windy in Foxborough, it will be just plain cold in Green Bay, especially with this game starting at 5:30 p.m. local time. Single digits at least, with wind chills below zero.
But for Brett Favre and Eli Manning, that may be preferable to wind.
The Giants don't want folks jumping on the bandwagon after their wins as underdogs in Tampa and Dallas. With linebacker Antonio Pierce, their lead talker, in the forefront, they continue to play the ``us against the world'' card as they prepare for the title game.
They also don't want people to believe they are the same team that lost to the Packers 35-13 in the Meadowlands in Week 2, before their defense grasped new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's schemes.
Like the Chargers, the Giants are no fluke - bad teams don't win nine straight road games, two in the playoffs.
But they do have injuries in a secondary that's nothing special to start with. Tony Romo and the Cowboys weren't able to exploit it. Favre should be able to do enough to get the Packers to the Super Bowl.
PACKERS, 20-17
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LAST WEEK: 1-3 (spread), 2-2 (straight up)
PLAYOFFS: 3-4-1 (spread) 5-3 (straight up)

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