Saturday, February 05, 2005

WARNING: 2005 Super Bowl Pick. Explicit football content to follow.

I could probably drag this out in an attempt to writhe some suspense out of those of you who are actually reading this and haven’t just skipped my BS and scrolled to the bottom to see my pick, but I’m not. If you know me at all, and know what I’ve felt throughout these NFL playoffs, then you know I’m taking the Pats.

Here’s why (with arguments against myself):

Point One: AFC Domination of the NFC

I think the only thing I have to put here is that the Eagles were taken to overtime by the Browns, but I’ll go further. The other three games Philly played against the AFC were the wooping the Steelers put on them, a close victory over the Ravens and a blowout loss to Cincy that carries little value since Philly rested it’s starters. Meanwhile, the Patriots won on the turf in St. Louis and in the Arizona desert, and took of care of business at home against the Seahawks and 49ers. With the exception of the Eagles, the AFC dominated the entire season.

Counterpoint One: I just said it: the Eagles were the exception. New England’s NFC victims weren’t exactly the cream of the crop, so it’s hard to compare them with Philly. And since I’m a big fan of history, you can just look back at last year when it took Mike Vrabel catching a touchdown, Janet Jackson’s shurken-ed breast, John Kasay shanking a kick-off and a streaker after halftime for the Pats to hold off the heavily-underdogged Panthers.

Bottomline: The one top-notch, quality opponent Philly played (and I’m not counting the Vikings and Packers) was Pittsburgh, and they were destroyed by the Black & Gold. New England outgunned the Chiefs, outphysicaled the Ravens, stopped Manning twice and put 41 points up against the Steel Curtain, Vers. 04-05.

Point Two: Personnel/Match-ups:

Ask Bill Cowher what happens when you forget about Tom Brady and decide you’re just going to load up against Corey Dillon. Jim Nantz was almost crying when he described the gamplan the Steelers had implemented to face the Pats. Jeremiah Trotter has helped out the usually embattled Philly run defense, but the Falcons still found holes with 9 men defending in the box. I know that the Shepard-Dawkins-Lewis-Brown secondary is probably the best in the game, but unless you’re knocking Brady around in the pocket – which hasn’t happened the last two postseasons – then you’ll get picked apart rushing seven constantly, even with Jim Johnson’s stylized, adapted blitzing schemes.

For the Eagles on offense, my main concern would be to see how much pressure the Patriots get on McNabb early on. If they discover they can get to McNabb without blitzing, then they’ll comfortably drop back, take away TO and Fred Ex while taking their chances with Todd Pinkston going over the middle against Rodney Harrison (even Eagles fans will enjoy that). Of course, the Patriots will have to make the extra effort to scheme against Michael “Reggie Bush” Westbrook and McNabb’s scrambling, but after eight consecutive playoff wins, I’m trusting that Belichick and Crennel will pull something together.

From what I figure, the Patriots will establish Dillon early, the play-action a charging Eagles secondary into high heaven. Jevon Kearse and the Eagles don’t get to Brady and he keeps his cool while managing another perfect game. The Homeland Defense forces the Philly passing game to win it, and despite McNabb’s best efforts, his receivers can’t get open against the patchwork secondary that kept the Indy 500 offense out of the endzone and shut down Plaxico Burress.

Counterpoint: During their playoff success have faced a large amount of pocket quarterbacks – Gannon, Warner, Manning, Dehlomme – and only one quarterback that truly resembles the guy running Philly’s show, and that’s Steve McNair. His Airness, with a shot-up ankle and playing in negative-10 degree weather at Foxboro, came within a Drew Bennett drop from either sending the game to overtime or winning it outright. In the AFC Championship game, Big Ben found lanes to run, despite the fact you know the Patriots will be much more concerned with McNabb finding room to take off as opposed to in the Steeler game.

On the other side of the ball, if the Eagles get u pearly, then you have an attempted comeback against Jim Johnson’s blitzes and Brian Dawkins’ secondary: Not good times.

Bottomline: If you’re pressing me, I’m taking the gameplans that took away Manning’s arm and the Steelers’ legs over the one that took out the heartless Viking sand the relatively one-dimensional Dirty Birds.

Point Three: Intangibles

This is where I wish the blog was a TV show, because I’d just roll clips of the two Vinatieri field goals, the gorgeous two-point conversion draw to Kevin Faulk, Vrabel stripping Dehlomme and Kurt Warner spraying bullets into throwing lanes now occupied by Patriot arms. Want more? The Tuck Rule game, Troy Brown’s punt return and field goal block lateral against the Steelers, Ty Law stretching out like Mr. Fantastic to pull in Evil Lord Manning’s passes and Tedy Bruschi ripping the ball away from Dominic Rhodes simply because he wanted it more.

Counterpoint: McNabb is taking this game on as him against the world, just like John Elway had to do back in the 80’s when he was facing a dominant NFC…

Bottomline:…and that didn’t work out well when the Broncos had to play dynasty-type teams like Parcells’ Giants, Walsh’s 49ers and Gibbs’ Redskins.

Final Pick: The Eagles are a really, really good team that deserve to be here. The Patriots are a great team that knows they deserve to be here. This doesn’t feel like last year, when people said they thought the Panthers had a chance, they were being serious, and not just going against the grain. It seems like people picking the Eagles now are doing it out of pity or because they just want to seem cool. That’s never, ever a good sign. Plus, every other year is a blowout, and sadly for the Eagles, the Panthers got to play in the “Close, Competitive Game” year.

Patriots 31, Eagles 17

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