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Patriots going back to their underdog roots in latest Super Bowl run

The New England Patriots are going for their sixth Super Bowl berth in 13 years on Jan. 19. However, the Patriots have been a dynasty for so long, it is hard to remember when they were underdogs and upstarts. Yet with the way the 2013 season has gone, the Patriots are as close to a Cinderella as they've ever been since Tom Brady's first Super Bowl title.

Patriots look for most unlikely AFC title in years
Patriots look for most unlikely AFC title in yearsPhoto by Al Bello/Getty Images

This New England team has been depleted by injuries all season, has been lucky to win many of its games, and has had to watch Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos break most of their NFL offensive records from 2007. Yet despite how the Patriots are lucky to be here, they are indeed in Denver on Jan. 19, ready to break Manning and the Broncos' hearts anew.

In fact, the Patriots looked more like their 2001-02 selves in winning their divisional playoff game on Jan. 11 over the Indianapolis Colts. Brady was basically a game manager, like he was in his early days, while the rushing attack led by LeGarrette Blount did most of the work and scored all the points. Presumably, Brady will need to outduel Manning by throwing a few touchdowns himself this time, which he did to lead a 24-0 comeback over the Broncos on Nov. 24.

If the Patriots knock off the Broncos, it will give Brady and Bill Belichick their sixth AFC crown, and most unlikely since their reign began over a decade ago. Of course, if New England wins, it won't be a double digit underdog to the NFC champions in the Super Bowl, like it was in 2002 against the St. Louis Rams. Still, the rough and tough San Francisco 49ers or Seattle Seahawks would likely be favored over the Patriots in two weeks.

Should the Patriots defy the odds to win their fourth Super Bowl, it may be a fitting way for this dynasty to come full circle. It would be especially shocking because of all their missed opportunities since their last title, including two Super Bowl losses to the New York Giants and two AFC title game defeats. But if this New England club succeeds where the last eight failed, it will be the first time no one saw it coming since 2002.

The Patriots will attempt their latest upset at 3 p.m. est on CBS.