The Patriots dismantled the Jets with a 2nd half offensive and defensive surge. Their reward was a trip across the country to take on the NFL's best team, the San Diego Chargers.
The Chargers earned a first round bye thanks to their league-leading 14-2 record. They have nine Pro Bowlers and the league's MVP in running back LaDanian Tomlinson, who set the NFL scoring record with 31 touchdowns this year.
There was a quiet confidence surrounding the Patriots this week, as they recapped last week's win over the Jets and looked ahead to the tough task of taking on San Diego. Meanwhile Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer had to hear time and again about his playoff futility.
Here are the top 10 quotes of the week, heading into Divisional Playoff weekend, Patriots-Chargers:
10. "Once I got it in my hands, I looked over to the sidelines and they were saying, 'Go, go, go.' And I was like, 'Okay.' That's when I started running, but I didn't know that it was a fumble. I knew it had a good chance of being one, so that's why I at least had it in my hands."
- Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork on his key fumble recovery against the Jets
Translation: "I'm a big guy. There was no way I was taking that one all the way to the house. I think Coach Belichick was beating me down the sideline. I almost tossed him the ball."
9. "I do feel bad about that. I really didn't mean to hit him up high there. I was trying to just push him out of the way and get to Eric. It certainly wasn't called for, so I wish that hadn't happened." [WEEI]
- Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, on shoving cameraman Jim Davis following last week's win over the Jets
Translation: "Nobody was gonna stop me from giving Eric a big 'ole bear hug. I love that big lug."
8. "They're an extremely well-coached football team. They play hard all the time. I am really a big admirer of what Bill and that staff have done up there with that football team. They do a terrific job preparing them to play."
- Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer
Translation: "Why couldn't I be coaching a team in the NFC? Why do I have to go up against guys like Bill Belichick? All I hear all week is how he's going to coach circles around me. It's just not fair."
7. "They're playing with a lot of confidence. They're 14-2. I'm sure they think they're going to be 15-2. I would too. They've won a lot of games. I'm sure they're confident."
- Patriots head coach Bill Belichick
Translation: "They think they're going to be 15-2. I know they're going to be 14-3. Did you know that Marty's only 5-12 in his playoff coaching career? I'm 12-2. 11-1 with Tom Brady. I bet nobody's mentioned that all week."
6. "I'll tell you what. I would suggest that anyone who thought that probably got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. This is going to be a hell of a football game."
- Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer, when asked if he expected his team to win 41-17, as they did last season against the Patriots
Translation: "This is going to be the kind of game where you pull up a chair and you sit back and you take it all in. Hey, I'm 5-12 in the playoffs, I'm not making any play calls in this one. I might just bring my recliner down to the sideline."
5. "You know what, I thought if the Jets were going to win, it was going to be close in the first half and it was, so I thought the Jets had a chance to win it. Little did I know that Brady has three Super Bowl rings and doesn't lose against the Jets."
- Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman, when asked if he regretted saying that he thought the Jets were going to win last week
Translation: "Brady won three Super Bowls? How did I miss that? Did that happen while I was on suspension or something?"
4. "You're not going to outrun him. He's 270 pounds. He runs like a deer. He's powerful. He's quick. He plays with a high motor."
- Patriots quarterback Tom Brady on Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman
Translation: "I guess that's what good chemicals will do for you."
3. "They know what they're doing and for a guy like myself, who had no skill -- I don't know if there's anybody up there who remembers when I was with the Patriots -- you really admire players that have an ability to understand what it is that they're being asked to do and go about it and do it like they do."
- Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer
Translation: "I was a linebacker with the Boston Patriots in 1969 and '70. Bet you didn't know that. I was a Shawne Merriman type. You know, big guy, lots of speed. It was a different game then, though."
2. "Either way, favorite or underdog, none of that matters. I don't care what people say, point spreads or anything like that. They're 14-2 and 8-0 at home, so we have to travel out there and see if we can put together our best football, because that is what it is going to take."
- Patriots quarterback Tom Brady
Translation: "I'd take us +4½ in a heartbeat. Maybe even get us in a two-team tease with the Ravens. I wouldn't bet on Peyton Manning in the playoffs. But that's just me."
1. "Bill is going to spend a considerable amount of time looking at what we do down in the red zone and he is going to have an answer for it. It's going to remain to be seen if we can get it done the way it needs to be done. It could in fact determine the outcome, frankly."
-Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer, on scoring touchdowns instead of field goals in the red zone
Translation: "Whoever kicks fewer field goals probably wins this game."
The Chargers had the #1 red zone offense in the league this season. The Patriots had the #1 red zone defense. Marty could be right. That's where this game might be won or lost: in the red zone. On the other side of the ball, having gone for it on 4th down 20 times (and made it a league-high 16), the Patriots offense won't want to settle for field goals either.
This could be an old fashioned shootout between these two teams. And it's shaping up to be the best game of the weekend. It's almost time to join Marty on the recliner and settle in for some playoff football.
Darren is a regular contributor to Patriots Insider. You can find him in the forums under the name: DestinationSuperBowl. You can also find archives of his columns on the Insiders by searching for "Darren Kelly"