The Patriots have their opponent for this week’s AFC Title Game at Gillette Stadium, and it will not be the Indianapolis Colts. Peyton Manning and company were stunned yesterday by the undermanned San Diego Chargers, who showed grit and guts many didn’t think they had.

With LaDainian Tomlinson and Phillip Rivers going down with knee injuries in the course of the game, it was up to Michael Turner and Billy Volek to take their places in the Chargers offense, and they acquitted themselves quite well. John Powers in the Globe reports from Indy on the upset. Jim McCabe has reaction from the Colts locker room following the loss, and Powers’ notebook has both Tomlinson and Rivers saying that they’ll be ready to go this week against the Patriots.

Michael Felger has his Patriots Report Card for the Jaguars game.

Christopher L. Gasper says that this Patriots team was built to beat the Colts…but now they won’t have to. Karen Guregian says that Patriots/Chargers will have no shortage of bad blood and sparks between the two clubs. Mark Farinella has Bill Belichick’s reaction on playing the Chargers this week instead of the Colts. Shalise Manza Young says that there will be no shortage of subplots for this week’s AFC Championship. Douglas Flynn looks at San Diego getting a second chance to do what no team has been able to do this season – beat the Patriots.

Tony Massarotti says that it is a major letdown for the Colts not to be coming here this week. He assumes all fans feel the same, that they were disappointed that San Diego upset the Colts. That’s the difference between media thinking and fan thinking. Massarotti, like his media brethren wants “the story” – whatever is going to make for the best story is what they want to happen. Fans want whatever is going to give their team a better shot to win. I’m not saying that the Chargers are going to be an easier game this week, but many – myself included – were wary of playing the Colts. Mazz is right about one thing: It would’ve been a hell of a game. But I think the Chargers will provide just as much competition, and plenty of storylines to keep everyone happy this week. At least he didn’t go to the point of the old baseball mindset “The championship doesn’t mean as much if you don’t beat the Yankees on the way there.” Substituting the Colts for the Yankees of course…

Bob Ryan says that the last two months have shown that each week’s opponent has brought their “A” game to play the Patriots, but the Patriots have managed to answer each time. He says this week should be no different. John Tomase says that the Patriots route to Arizona just got a whole lot easier. Tomase also gives us a thumbnail view of the Chargers. David Heuschkel has the road to the Super Bowl taking a slightly different route for the Patriots now that the Colts have been eliminated. Lenny Megliola has the Chargers changing the script at the 11th hour. Christopher Price has more from Belichick on facing the Chargers.

Farinella has Rodney Harrison feeling that the Patriots might’ve been a little too fired up to start their game with the Jaguars. He also notes that the Jags focus on Randy Moss opened the way for other receivers on Saturday night. Chris Kennedy has Bill Belichick saying that they will start from scratch in their preparations for the Chargers, as things are much different since that meeting back in September. Dan Lamothe over at Eye on Foxborough has the video of the Tom Brady trick play from Saturday night. Ian M. Clark has Tom Brady again raising his game to a new level on Saturday night. Rich Garven has the Patriots patience paying off in the end on Saturday. David Brown has Donte Stallworth catching heat from his teammates for not taking his reception the distance on Saturday night.

Guregian’s notebook has Stallworth bursting back onto the scene Saturday night after having become the forgotten man as of late. Gasper’s notebook has turnovers being the key to the win over the Jags. Garven’s notebook has the Chargers coming into the AFC championship as the winner of eight straight games.

Elsewhere

The other teams in Boston are certainly not forgotten this snowy morning in Boston. The Bruins are coming off of a 4-3 OT win over the Flyers on Saturday night, while the Celtics are in their first mini-slump of the season, having lost two out of three for the first time this season. Check the stories below:

CelticsLinks.com

BruinsLinks.com

RedSoxLinks.com

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