Jan 13, 2004 4:17 AM

Brett would have gone vanilla with the ice-cream on the sweater.

We know he would have double bagged the groceries and checked for the water main. Hey Brett, I would have thrown the ball away in favor of heaving up a Hail Mary floater! What a shame. Packers should still be in the hunt for the Vince Lombardi trophy. Difficult to point fingers too long at Favre as Packers wouldn’t have gone as far as they did without him.

Many people have been pointing fingers at the home teams for awhile now, including myself. Home teams in December, in the cold, in front of their screaming fans win. Home teams in the playoffs since the NFL expanded from 10 to 12 teams in 1990 are 43-9 straight-up and 32-18-2 versus the spread.

Dog backers beware. Right?

Wrong. If you followed the trend that was touted across the country last week you lost. Stat freaks took an uppercut to the chin and went down for the count.

All four underdogs covered the spread! Two dawgs won straight-up and the other two had legitimate shots to win the game in the final seconds. All four games were decided by seven points or less.

I raise my glass and toast to everyone who believed in the road dawgs. For those of you who didn’t believe, thanks for keeping the high numbers on the board all week. The bonus points were sweet!

There’s much more respect for the road dogs this week and the bonus points have vanished. But the dogs still look to be lively. Both games will be do-overs. On Week 13, Pats traveled to Indy and Philly played at Carolina. Travel plans are reversed this weekend but the matchups are the same.

AFC Championship

Colts (+ 3½) at Patriots: New England led 24-10 at half in first meeting at Indy. Pats hung on to win 38-34 as Colts outscored them in the second half, 24-14. Indy gained nearly 100 more net yards, moving the ball better than Pats on the ground and via the air. Colts also turned it over one less time. They did everything but win nearly two months ago. Now it’s title day and the game is in New England.

The Pats have a 14 game winning streak on the line and are 9-0 at The Razor this season.

No cell-phones, no Sharpies, and no superstars. There’s a true team effort going on in New England. Closest thing to a superstar might be Tom Brady, who ranks 10th among NFL QBs. But he still boasts special stats. Brady’s 35-12 mark is the best record among active QBs. He’s 7-0 in OT. But wait, there’s more! Brady is 25-4 after Nov. 1 when the real money games begin and 5-0 in the playoffs!

Pats have nothing special at running back. The "running backs by committee" are led by Antowain Smith, who only had 642 yards at the end of Week 17. The defense held opponents to a league low 14.9 points per game, scored six times and allowed just 22 points in the last six home games.

But just like man cannot live by breaks alone, I can’t live by just stats. The Colts haven’t punted in the playoffs yet! That’s more than enough to get my attention. Peyton Manning is on fire and I just can’t bet against this man right now. Only QB left in the tournament who has passed for over 4000 yards this season.

Peyton had a monkey on his back two weeks ago, maybe more like a 900 pound gorilla.

In two playoff games the Colts have had 17 possessions. The results have been 10 TDs, 3 field goals, 79 points, 913 total yards and 50 first downs! Edgerrin James has run for 203 yards on 43 carries.

No more talk of any monkey business. Say no more if you’re No. 3 receiver is Brandon Stokely. Colts are 8-1 on the road this season. Manning will keep Indy within 3. COLTS.

NFC Championship

Panthers (+4½) at Eagles: Philadelphia beat the Panthers in Carolina, 25-16, but the game was tougher than the score indicated. Carolina had two more first downs, over 50 more total yards, more net rushing yards, and one less turnover. Big deal, right? The point is, Carolina can hang with this Philly team.

Panthers were 1-15 two seasons ago. John Fox has done a masterful job. Panthers dominated Dallas 29-10 at home, then went on the road and manhandled the Rams until late in the final quarter. Mike Rucker and Julius Peppers might be too much for Philly’s offensive line.

Panthers’ defensive linemen had 32½ sacks, second only to Miami’s front four. Peppers has only five of those sacks but this guy is flat out disruptive. Jake Delhomme is just starting to receive the attention he deserves.

Jake has been nothing short of remarkable so far, spreading the ball around with an emphasis on Smith and Muhammad.

Foster filled in quite nicely for Stephen Davis so don’t be afraid to take the points on the road. PANTHERS