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AFC Championship Game: Welcome to the Wes Welker Bowl

by Jenni Carlson Published: January 18, 2014

The New England Patriots have parted ways with an impressive lot of players during the Belichick Era.

Lawyer Milloy. Adam Vinatieri. Willie McGinest. Mike Vrabel. Richard Seymour. Randy Moss. Ty Law.

None of those guys ever made the Pats regret letting them go.

Wes Welker could.

Sunday afternoon, Welker's new team faces Welker's old team with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. He might not have as big a role with Denver as he did with New England — the Broncos receiver corps is ridiculously deep — but the Oklahoma native has made more money catches this season than ever before.

He had a career-high 10 touchdown catches during the regular season and added another in the playoffs last week.

Welker could be the difference Sunday.

After the Patriots said they didn't need Welker and Welker said he could find success elsewhere, it turned out both sides were right. New England just keeps rolling along, and Welker has caught a bunch of balls from Peyton Manning in Denver.

But Sunday's AFC Championship Game could provide the ultimate referendum on those offseason decisions.

Welcome to the Welker Bowl.

Oh, I'm sure plenty of folks will be more hung up on Brady vs. Manning, the Evil Empire vs. the Fighting Elways. But the Welker subplot is extremely juicy.

Not that you'd know as much by hearing what either side has had to say about the other.

“At this point, we're both pretty focused on what we need to do,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said on a Boston radio show earlier this week. “We'll save all the pleasantries for after the football season.”


Your turn, Wes.

“It's the AFC Championship Game; there's going to be plenty of juice,” Welker told media gathered in Denver earlier this week when asked about going against his former employer. “It doesn't get any bigger than that.”

Welker sounds like he still plays for New England. Stoic. Boring. Just like Bill Belichick likes it.

But behind that Pats' persona, Welker is raring to go. You know he is. He's a competitor, a grinder, a fighter, and you know that it ate at him like those massive lizards in his Old Spice commercial when the Patriots didn't re-sign him.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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