It's time to pick. The players are now off-limits to the media, which means the you-know-what has stopped and that means it's time to stop hiding behind the bluster and come out in the open. Where do you stand on this Sunday's Super Bowl?
Here's where I stand. I'm pickin' the Eagles.
That makes me, of course, one of the few who doesn't think the Patriots will win in a walk, but that doesn't mean the Patriots won't. I have no inside information on this game. I'm going on my gut feeling; that's all.
My pick is based on two considerations. Number one, I think the Eagles have a better defense. Number two, I think the Patriots are an overrated team with an underrated quarterback, and the Eagles defense is going to target that quarterback.
I'll begin my analysis by apologizing to Patriots fans. Please believe me when I say I couldn't respect a team more than I do yours. The Patriots have the best coach in the game; by far the best quarterback in the game. Hey, Tom Brady could end up being the best of all-time. I don't want you to be angry at me but I just happen to believe the rest of your team is very ordinary.
It is your offensive line and defensive backfield I believe the Eagles will expose.
We're talking about one of those genius "West Coast offense" coaches, Andy Reid, who lives for secondaries he can out-scheme. How do the Patriots continue to win with their two top cornerbacks, Ty Law and Tyrone Poole, out of the lineup? How do you beat Donovan McNabb with a secondary whose best man-to-man coverage guy is a wide receiver? I don't think you do.
It's up front, however, where I think the Eagles will strike the decisive blows. The Patriots' blow-out win over the Colts disguised a mismatch on Brady's blind side. Pats left tackle Matt Light was embarrassed by the Colts' star pass-rusher, Dwight Freeney.
I'm expecting Eagles defensive end Derrick Burgess to have a good day against Light, and I'm expecting Eagles star pass-rusher Jevon Kearse to have the game of his life against right tackle Brandon Gorin. How do the Pats do it? How do they continue to win with tackles that ordinary?
Eagles middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter is playing the best brand of linebacker the playoffs have seen since Ray Lewis dominated the 2000 postseason. I expect Trotter to have another big game in an ultra-aggressive defensive scheme designed by defensive coordinator Jim Johnson.
Johnson has never met a blitz he didn't like and I believe Johnson is going to be all-out to sack Brady. That's how you beat the Patriots; you beat Brady. In the Steelers' win over the Patriots at midseason, Brady was sacked four times and intercepted twice. One of those interceptions was returned for a touchdown. That's how you do it; that's how you beat the Patriots. I expect the Eagles defense to put that kind of pressure on Brady.
Corey Dillon is a nice running back but Dillon doesn't make the Patriots go. It's Brady; always Brady. Trotter, Corey Simon and the middle of the Eagles defense will hold their own against Dillon. Meanwhile, young corners Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown are playing at a very high level and will match-up well against a Patriots receiving corps that, again, is very ordinary. Watch for Eagles safety Brian Dawkins to have a big game in his hometown.
McNabb is just as much a key to the Eagles' success as Brady is to the Patriots', but I believe McNabb has a better offensive line in front of him. Terrell Owens is the wild card in all of this. Should Owens play and play well, the Eagles might even hang one on the Patriots, although that's a reach. If Owens isn't a factor in the game, Brian Westbrook will have to pick up the load and that's where I would see an advantage for the Patriots. Bill Belichick is at his best when he can scheme to take one player out of his opponents' attack.
I'm sticking with my pick. I'm picking the Eagles.