AFC Championship Game tickets available Thursday

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AFC Championship Game tickets available Thursday

By defeating the Houston Texans on Sunday, the New England Patriots punched their ticket to a second consecutive AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots will host the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, January 20 at 6:30 p.m. ET.
The team announced on Tuesday that a limited number of tickets will go on sale to the public on Thursday, January 17 at 10 am exclusively through Ticketmaster.
You can secure your tickets online at www.ticketmaster.com or by calling the Ticketmaster Phone Center at 800-745-3000. There will be a four-ticket limit per person.

Report: Patriots DT Branch wins appeal of four-game suspension

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Report: Patriots DT Branch wins appeal of four-game suspension

FOXBORO -- Alan Branch knew he had a good case, otherwise he wouldn't have appealed. It was just a question of when that appeal might be heard. 

As of Wednesday, the Patriots defensive tackle hadnt heard anything as it related to the appeal of his four-game suspension. But by Saturday morning, according to Field Yates of ESPN, Branch had won the appeal and been cleared of the league's ban. 

Word of Branch's punishment stemming from a positive marijuana test became public when reported by ESPN on Nov. 21. Per the league's substance abuse policy, appeal hearings are typically scheduled for the fourth Tuesday after a player has been informed of his penalty. The policy notes that it is possible for appeals to be heard on another date should the two sides be able to work out different schedule, but Branch was not optimistic that would be the case earlier this week. 

Good news came quickly, apparently. 

Had Branch been forced to miss any time, it would have docked the Patriots arguably their top interior defensive lineman. Branch has started every game, and he leads all Patriots defensive tackles with 457 snaps played. 

The Patriots recently waived running back DJ Foster and signed defensive tackle Darius Kilgo, seemingly as a way to build some depth on the roster behind Branch if Branch had been suspended. 

By having his four-game suspension wiped away not only are the Patriots saved from having to deal without one of their top players in the trenches, but Branch saved himself a relatively hefty financial penalty.

A four-game ban would have cost him nearly $300,000 in base salary as well as four game-day bonuses adding to $100,000. And he stood to lose as much as $750,000 in season-long playing-time incentives. In all, had the suspension stood, it could have cost him about $1.1 million. Patriots salary-cap expert Miguel Benzan goes into more detail about the potential financial impact of Branch's suspension here

Thankfully for Branch, he doesn't have to worry about that any longer. With this situation in the rear view, he can focus on helping the Patriots win games during the stretch run of the regular season and into the playoffs.