I got three of four games correct – the lone exception being the Oakland-New England game. I am not taking the blame, nor should I on this incorrect pick. Tom Brady’s “Phantom Fumble” not only cost me a perfect weekend, it also unfairly ended the Raiders season. The unfortunate ending to that game proves several things about the NFL:
a) They have the worst officials in all of sports.
b) Football is not played best on a surface fit for snowmobiling
c) The NFL should change its overtime rules to the NCAA’s system. The best team should win, not the winner of a coin toss.
My prediction for the AFC final was Oakland over Pittsburgh, which might have happened. But we will never know. Instead, the New England Patriots upset Pittsburgh, thanks to an exceptional special teams performance. Every season, without fail, a team pulls out an important playoff game with special teams. Remember the Music City Miracle? (As a Buffalonian, might I add that it was a forward pass?) So after the “Phantom Fumble” and token special-teams-magic, the Patriots are now in the Super Bowl for the third time in their franchise history. In 1982 the Pats lost 46-10 to the Chicago Bears, and in 1996 they lost 35-21 to the Green Bay Packers. Strangely, each Patriots appearance in the big game has been in New Orleans.
Brady has been outstanding leading the Pats to a first place finish and the Super Bowl. He has started the last 16 games for the Pats, and the team has gone 13-3 after starting 0-2 behind Drew Bledsoe. No surprise that Bledsoe was there to swoop in and steal Brady’s thunder this past Sunday after Brady was hit by Pittsburgh safety Lee Flowers with 1:40 left in the second quarter. Brady was taken to the locker room and diagnosed with a high sprained ankle but limped back on the field to see the rest of the game. His status for the Super Bowl is as yet unknown.
I hope Brady is ready to go this weekend so Bledsoe, who had not played since he injured himself in the second game of the season against the Jets, can watch from the pine as he has done all year.
I was correct on my NFC prediction that St. Louis would beat Philadelphia. Although this match-up of Campbell’s Chunky Soup quarterbacks was much closer than most expected, it ended just as everyone thought it would – with a Rams triumph and a second trip to the Super Bowl in three years.
So about 40 million Americans will gather to watch the New England Patriots (13-5) against the St. Louis Rams (16-2). I will end any uncertainty right now and tell you that the Rams will win 37-13. One needs to look no farther than these two teams’ defensive ranks throughout the regular season. The Rams defense ranked second best, while New England ranked the worst of any playoff team. It isn’t much prettier on the offensive side with the Rams ranking first and the Pats 19th.
Want to know how it should play out? Think back to Super Bowl XXXIV when the Rams beat the Titans, another team who used the aforementioned special teams “miracle” as a step to a Super Bowl berth. While that game was close, the Rams have matured. Their offense has had two years to grow together, allowing them to utilize strict timing in their offense – a big advantage.
It took two flukes for New England to get this far, and now they are way out of their league. Even two outstanding plays by Troy Brown won’t be enough to win the big one. So the final riddle is this: What do you call an NFL team whose offense is No. 1, its defense No. 2 and has the last three NFL MVPs on its roster? The 2002 Super Bowl Champion.