The Patriots are going to win. That's prediction No. 1, and you know about it already. I'm a member of the American Not Picking Against the Patriots Until Somebody Beats Them in the Playoffs Society (ANPAPUSBTPS, pronounced "ANpap-us-BUTTipus").
New England goes for its third Super Bowl title in four years Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. The game is scheduled to kick off in Jacksonville at 6:18 and 23.4 seconds EST. The other piece of information the various media figures assembled in Jacksonville want you to know is that they think Jacksonville is a crummy town.
Here are XVI other predictions about Super Bowl 39, all of them pretty much guaranteed to be wrong. As always, I beg you not to use my prognostications as a basis for wagering. Especially the first one.
We've discussed the way Philly is being written off, given no chance to win -- kind of like how the Pats were written off three years ago before they beat the Rams. The Eagles are clear underdogs but, folks, this is a really good team.
Don't discount them just because they played in the weak NFC. Counting the playoffs, the Eagles have gone 15-1 in games they tried to win. They gave away two games at the end of the regular season after they'd clinched the top seed in the postseason. I don't care what conference you're playing in, 15-1 is tough.
And more than the Pats' first two playoff opponents, the offense-minded Colts and the 16-1 defensive powerhouse Steelers, the Eagles have the kind of balanced attack the Patriots have been so successful with. The Eagles were eighth in the league in scoring and tied for second in scoring defense. But that's counting those last two mailed-in games. If they'd played in those two the way they played in the first 14, they'd have finished fifth in offense and first in defense.
Owens' injured ankle won't let him burst off the line and escape into his pattern, and the Eagles will have to be content with putting him in motion and otherwise trying to hide him, then hitting him on shorter routes and hoping he can make a play.
The Patriots are better than solid defensively, but they can be hurt downfield because of their injury-riddled, patchwork secondary. That's the theory anyway. Nobody's really been able to do it. It's easier said than done to throw downfield against the Patriots because they throw so many different looks at a quarterback that even the best of them start to look confused and ordinary.
But McNabb, who can buy time with his legs and still make great throws, is a good candidate to get it done. The downside is that, other than Owens, his receivers are ordinary, to put it kindly. Freddie Mitchell had a nice game against the Falcons and anointed himself a personality in the Owens mold, but he's nothing special. And Philly will miss tight end Chad Lewis, injured in the Atlanta game.
But I think Mitchell and the even more ordinary Todd Pinkston will step up and make some catches while multi-threat running back Brian Westbrook will carry the bulk of the offensive load, mostly as a receiver. And there's always the chance, when throwing downfield, that the yellow flags will fly. It won't be enough, but Philadelphia will have some success through the air.
The focus of these tales will be the way that the two, particularly Seymour, have handled their losses with admirable grace, and also how the Patriots as a team have rallied around their grieving comrades. A story that fits so well into the established template -- Patriots as a team-first bunch -- cannot be resisted. The implication, of course, is that the bums on all those other teams wouldn't rally around their teammates.
Listen, the next time you think you've gotten to know someone through the media, think of Corey Dillon. I don't know if the real Corey Dillon is the nasty character who played for the Bengals or the all-American lad who toils for the Pats or, as I suspect, something in between.
But maybe, just maybe, the problem wasn't Dillon all those years in Cincy. Maybe it was the Bengals, one of the poorest performing and flat-out dumbest franchises in football history during his time with them. Maybe the media that acted as a filter between Dillon and you for seven years merely reported Dillon's unpleasant behavior without getting across the nuanced idea that the guy had a point, that he was just reacting -- badly, no doubt -- to things that would drive most rational employees around the bend.
I've been labeled a malcontent myself, and you know what? I didn't always handle it as well as I should have, but I've worked for some damn fools. The site you are now reading was founded and staffed in the beginning by a bunch of malcontents from a newspaper who, upon leaving, suddenly became solid citizens and team players.
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