Thursday, January 31, 2008

Thoughts on the Super Bowl

With the Super Bowl coming up ESPN is in a constant state of media circusry, placing the rantings of Tom Brady, Eli, Randy Moss and Plaxico Burress at the forefront of the sporting world. I almost get burnt out on football from the overwhelming two weeks of hype that is attached to the Super Bowl, it gets old really fast. Some of the issues on top of the heap:

1. Plaxico Burress made a brilliant decision by ripping off Broadway Joe and guaranteed a victory over the Patriots and one upped him by guessing the score: 23-17 Giants. Apparently Tom Coughlin didn't get the memo about coaching your players to not give the Patriots bulletin board material through the media. The media wasted no time blowing this snippet of egotism way out of proportion. I can't blame them, if the Patriots win it makes for a great storyline with the failed Anthony Smith guarantee made earlier in the year. If the Giants win we've got an upset comparable to the one Joe Namath guaranteed quite some time ago. I don't concur with Plaxico's prediction. The Patriots haven't scored less than 20 points this season and racked up 38 against the Giants defense in week 17. I'd give the Patriots a bit more credit than 17 points.

2. Randy Moss. Randy Moss is just a constant point of discussion. The recent allegations made against him has been the only real distraction he's created off the field all season and he seems to have successfully diffused this matter too for the time being. People have also begun to question Randy about his plans for next year as his contract is only a one year deal. If it's true that Randy is about the W's and not the $'s then he'll probably accept the slightly below market value offer the Patriots will likely make when the season is over. I said at the beginning of the year that Randy Moss could turn things around with a no-nonsense strong leadership locker room and a franchise where winning is paramount. Put Randy on a team like the Bengals and he'll be right back to underperforming and putting out the wrong kind of headlines. Randy said he would like to finish his career as a Patriot, if he's willing to leave some money on the table he probably can.

3. Brady's ankle has been one of the most heavily discussed non-injuries in recent memory. Brady was wearing a medical boot shortly after the AFC Championship game causing most of New England to panic. Brady missed some early practices, but has since returned to practice and is reportedly moving well on the ankle. The Injury Report did not list any ankle problems and instead featured the typical probable listing for Tom Brady referring to an unspecified shoulder problem. The probable status indicates the Patriots disdain for the injury report more so than any actual injury to Tom.

General Thoughts:
There's one key difference between the mind sets of the Patriots and the Giants that Junior Seau touched on after the AFC Championship game when asked about the difference between this conference victory and the one he had years ago with the Chargers in his prime:

" Well, we don't have yellow flags flying all over the place. We don't have the Super Bowl Shuffle being taped prior to the game. Going in there and really not finishing what we set out to do, which is to win the AFC Championship is definitely special but in terms of difference, it was basically we are now looking forward to the next opponent. As you can see, we are not having a parade. We don't have the confetti in the locker room. We are not jumping around. Everyone's gone. Everyone went home."

The celebration he describes sounds more like the Giants post-game celebration after beating the Packers in overtime. What makes the Patriots different from the other teams in the NFL is that winning is expected. A trip to the Super Bowl was almost a foregone conclusion for the Patriots and they know it means nothing without one more win. The Giants have already surpassed everybody's expectations of them and at this point they're just happy to be in the big game.

Patriots jump out to an early lead in the first half. Patriots fall asleep and the Giants rally midway through the second half, but it's too little too late and the Patriots wrap things up. 35-21 Patriots. Tom Brady 4 TD's 1 INT, Eli Manning 2 TD's 2 INT's.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Conference Championships: Week 2 - Take 2

The conference championship games are set, and coincidentally both matchups occurred in week 2 of the season. Although the teams and the locations are the same, there is reason to believe things may not go as smoothly for these teams as they did in week 2.

Both of the underdogs have grown up alot since week 2. The Giants pulled off the big upset against the Cowboys in Dallas and Eli has come a long way. The Giants also gave the Patriots all they could handle in a meaningless game in week 17.

That said, this could be Brett Farve's last chance to grab a Super Bowl ring for the road and betting against a motivated Brett Farve playing at Lambeau field is not something I'd like to do, and I won't, I expect the Packers to go to the Super Bowl.

The Chargers were thrown into a tail spin when they came to Gillette earlier this season. They would lose games to the Packers and the lowly chiefs in the following two weeks. Eventually the Chargers found their groove and are currently on an 8 game winning streak.

In week 2, the Patriots were just coming off of the spygate scandal and were hungry to prove that some taped defensive signals don't account for. Some of that fervor has worn off and there's certainly the possibility that the Patriots are losing a step with the victories being less convincing as the season progressed.

But again, the favorites are the favorites for a reason. Tom Brady can go into the AFC championship game with no fear of seeing the Reche Caldwell face.

Tom Brady's game against Jacksonville was a great performance that stands out in a season full of great performances. His completion percentage was record worthy and devastating. Jacksonville's gameplan was to grind out long scoring drives and control the clock, which they succeeded at, but the Patriots scored on nearly every offensive drive to bury the Jaguars. The Patriots defense showed some weakness against the Jaguars, but managed to contain their running game with some success and forced David Gerrard to pass for big yards. Eventually Gerrard slipped up throwing a rare interception to end the game.

Part of me is sad that the Colts lost. They are a better team than the Chargers, but the Chargers match up well against the Colts for whatever reason and the Colts seemed to have a sub par day, which just doesn't cut it in the playoffs. Bill Simmons is always talking about how the Lakers dodged a bullet in the rivalry with the Celtics in the 1985-1986 season by not making it to the finals for the rematch that year, instead losing in the Western Conference championship. I feel like I've been robbed of the opportunity for true revenge with the Colts avoiding playing the new and improved Patriots in their house in a huge playoff game. Welcome back to being painted a choke artist Peyton.

My picks?
28-21 Packers

35-21 Patriots