Saturday, April 14, 2007

I was right... sort of

The next article was the last of three articles I sent to the Freep in hopes of landing that weekly column. It didn't have the jokes of Mack Simms or the arguments of BU Hockey, but it certainly was clever. The ultimatum of my Super Bowl prediction was right. The score, not so much. The game would have been a lot better had it followed my plan. Check this out.

An Eerie Comparison

It was the scenario that all of us in New England thought was impossible.The Indianapolis Colts defeated the New England Patriots for the AFC title, and are headed to Super Bowl XLI.

I’ve been a Pats fan since the days of Bill Parcells, Drew Bledsoe, and Ben Coates. Not seeing my team make it to another Super Bowl made me mad, but maybe I’m just spoiled. I was looking forward to a Pats-Saints match-up that would make me happy either way it turned out.

If the Pats won, they’d have four Super Bowls in six years. If the Saints won, it’d be a great story the entire country would enjoy. How could you not root for a team that had been through so much? It was a win-win situation for any Pats fan that truly loves football. Unfortunately, neither the Pats nor the Saints won their game.

To tell the truth, I would have been happy to see either of the NFC teams in the Super Bowl. If the Chicago Bears beat the Saints (like they did), then it would be a rematch of Super Bowl XX. The Pats had beaten the Bears earlier this season, so another championship was a reasonable expectation. They could finally avenge their 36 point loss in January of 1986. As long as the Pats beat the Colts like they always did in the playoffs, I would be happy. The problem with that was the Pats didn’t beat the Colts.

The Patriots had beaten Manning countless times before in the regular season, and both times they faced him in the playoffs. This time was different. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady had a role reversal in Sunday’s game. Manning came through in the clutch, and Brady threw an interception late that ended the Patriots’ season.

The Bears’ defense will be a formidable opponent for Manning and the Colts in Super Bowl XLI. The Bears had the best opponents’ points per game average in the NFC. Middle linebacker and team leader Brian Urlacher had 142 tackles, which was 5th in the NFL, and fellow linebacker Lance Briggs wasn’t far behind with 134.

The AFC’s best offense will face the NFC’s best defense on February 4th, but don’t expect the result to be similar to Super Bowl XXXVII, when the NFC’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers routed the Oakland Raiders of the AFC, 48-21. This time around, the AFC team has a much better coach and the smartest quarterback in the game.

Super Bowl XLI won’t be like the Bucs’ blowout, but someone still has to win. I say that someone is the Indianapolis Colts. Quarterback Peyton Manning leaped a big hurdle in his playoff career, guiding his team back from an 18 point deficit to win. The Colts defense in the post season has been exponentially better than it was in the regular season. Manning can dissect defenses better than a neurologist can a brain, and coach Tony Dungy has given his players plenty of reasons to believe they’re a complete team. They also have the most clutch kicker of all time in Adam Vinatieri. The Colts have the momentum of beating their rivals where they had faltered before, and they will have the backing of countless fans in the country. Manning is the league’s most marketable player, and a world championship will only increase his value and ensure he doesn’t become the Alex Rodriguez of football.

The Bears may have a great defense, but it won’t be enough to stop the Colts. Chicago’s defense has been mediocre at best the last half of the regular season and throughout the playoffs. It gave up less than 300 yards per game the first 10 games of the season, but has given up 300 or more in the last eight. They beat the Saints, but quarterback Drew Brees still managed 354 yards passing.

The Colts are on a tear, and the Bears are doing just enough to get by. Barring a key injury for Indianapolis, the Colts have all the momentum. The Bears were underdogs last week against New Orleans, and they are currently cast in that same role for the championship. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a re-energized Bears team out there that proves it belongs in the NFL’s title game, but it won’t be enough to defeat a quarterback determined to change his big-game reputation. Now that Manning has slain Goliath, what is left but a celebration?

As a Pats fan, I’d hate to see it. Our enemy finally beating us, and winning a championship with our former kicker. It’s a nightmare. Unfortunately, it’s probably going to happen. I’ll still root for the Bears, but I wouldn’t put any money on ‘em. The “storybook” ending this season could be the quarterback winning the Super Bowl MVP after he led his team down the field. Vinatieri would hit a long field goal as time expired, and Bill Bel-- I mean Tony Dungy would run onto the field with delight. I guess the dream is right, but it’s got the wrong team.

Until next season, GO BEARS!

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