By Tony McClean
Updated: February 3, 2005
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Finally, no more hype. No more inane questions (“How long have you been a black quarterback, Mr. McNabb??”). No more pained looks by Bill Belichick…..Oh well, maybe we’ll see a few more of them. But nevertheless, it’s finally time to shut up and play the damn game!!
Will the Patriots cement a dynasty claim with their third Lombardi Trophy in four seasons or will the Eagles be able to give Philly fans their first NFL crown since Norm Van Brocklin was under center?
As we’ve done every year here at BASN, lets take an honest, but fair look at the key matchups.
Despite cries by Peyton Manning apologists and Rush Limbaugh’s Ditto Heads, arguably the league’s two best QB’s are meeting on Super Bowl Sunday. Tom Brady already has what Donovan McNabb is seeking and No. 12 is working on his third ring. Both offer contrasts in arm strength and running ability, but the one constant between the two is leadership. While No. 5 has had another banner season, you have to give a slight edge to Brady because of his postseason heroics. It’s really hard to go against a guy that’s never lost a playoff game.
As we’ve stated several times this season, Corey Dillon has turned a good Patriot team into a great team. Not only has he taken pressure off Brady, he’s also made the New England offense tougher to defend. Brian Westbrook has also done the same for McNabb. In many ways, he’s Dillon’s equal because of his ability to do a potent reciever out of the backfield. Again, both teams are a bit equal in this aspect because of the lack of depth behind their feature backs. I’ll give New England a slight edge because Dillon had a banner season, despite not getting picked for the Pro Bowl.
Even if God truly has “healed” TO for Super Sunday, I really can’t see him being a major factor in the game. That being said, neither team really has a “we gotta stop this guy” type of reciever. If Freddie Mitchell’s mouth matched his talent, Philly wouldn’t have needed Owens in the first place. New England’s group of silent soldiers (Brown, Graham, Patten, Givens) can give a team fits at times. Just ask the Colts and Steelers. But I really feel that difference is big game experience. Without a healthy TO, another nod has to go the Pats.
Despite numerous injuries and some lineup changes, the one constant for the Eagles this season has been a relatively strong offensive line. With DE/DT Richard Seymour’s status listed as a game time decision, this could be an area of strength for the Birds. This is no discrespect to New England’s big uglies, but they really don’t dominate on a consistent basis. If Philly is going to have a chance to pull the upset, this is one matchup that they must win.
This area shows you just how evenly matched these teams really are. With Corey Simon and Jevon Kearse on one side, Ty Warren and the aforementioned Seymour on the other, both D-lines have the ability to dominate a game. Only the Falcons had more sacks that Philly this season and they really stepped up their game in the playoffs by neutralizing Daunte Culpepper and Michael Vick. Given the uncertainty of Seymour’s playing time, I’ll give a slight edge to Philly.
Take your pick: Do you like a tackling machine like Tedy Bruschi or a run stopper like Jeremiah Trotter? How about veterans like Willie McGinest and Roman Phifer or emerging stars like Dhani Jones and Nate Wayne? Not to mention overachievers like Bob Vrabel or Ike Reese. Out of all the key matchups, this may be the most evenly matched. Whoever wins this war will more than likely take home the gold.
Before the season began, this was an unknown factor for the Eagles. As 2004 progressed, it became one of Philly’s greatest strengths. The Patriots went through some growing pains as well in their secondary, but they’ve also emerged from that as well. Even with WR Troy Brown manning one side of the field. However, Sunday will be a bit of a test even if TO never plays a down. Someone should have warned Freddie Mitchell about awaking a sleeping Doberman. That’s Rodney Harrison you hear licking his chops in the backround. But will it be enough for New England?
Much like the most recent NBA Finals, the Pats and Eagles are more evenly matched than the media would like to believe. The Pats are clearly on a roll, but you get the feeling that Philly didn’t come all the way to Jacksonville just to be happy with an NFC Championship. Can they really pull off the upset? Yes. While my mind says New England should outlast them, I’m going with my heart and picking the Eagles.
Final: Philadelphia 31, New England 28 (OT).