Saturday, February 05, 2005

Super Bowl Predictions
By Zach

Today, you'll get Super Bowl thoughts, analysis, and predictions from the entire Sportszilla crew. I'll take the first crack at it.

If you've been paying attention to what I've written so far this playoff season, you can rpobably guess who I think will win this game. The New England Patriots are the best football team I've ever seen. Better than the mid-90s Cowboys, better than the 1997-1998 Broncos, better even than the 1992 Seattle Seahawks (2-14). Not only do they have a tremendous amount of talent, that talent plays within the schemes and game plans of their coaches better than I've ever seen.

The Philadelphia Eagles are a good team. A nice squad. They've got a very good quarterback, a dynamic running back, a solid O-line, and a good secondary. Their receivers, with TO hurt, suck. Their front seven is mediocre at best. Their coaching staff is good, but relatively untested.

All of those factors lead me to believe that the New England Patriots are going to win Super Bowl XXXIX, and win it big.

There are many reasons for this (Sports Illustrated's Don Banks explains some of them here). First, I think the Pats are better, a lot better. The Eagles were the best team in the NFC, which is a bit like saying that the Boston Celtics are the best team in the Atlantic Division: once you look at who's in the league, it's not quite so impressive a feat. In their only tough game of the season, the Eagles got destroyed by Pittsburgh 27-3. Other than that game, Philly has played the Baltimore Ravens, the Minnesota Vikings (twice), the Green Bay Packers, and the Atlanta Falcons. All of those games were at home, and all of those teams are vastly inferior to the Patriots. I'm not sure that the Eagles were any more than the fifth best team in football this year. My rankings:

1. Patriots
2. Steelers
3. Colts
4. Jets
5. Eagles
6. Chargers
7. Falcons
8. Broncos
9. Bills
10. Jaguars

Notice how there are only two NFC teams on that list? That's because the NFC sucked this year. I watched plenty of Seahawk football, and the fact that they won a division should tip you off as to how bad the conference was. The Eagles were clearly the best team in the conference, but that means little to me.

Plus, there's the history factor. The Super Bowl has a tendancy to amplify differences between teams. If you look back at some of the scores, you tend to see a lot of blowouts. The Patriots have played two of the greatest Super Bowls of all time. It seems a bit much to expect yet another close game. This is the best team of the three that have gone to the Super Bowl, and they're playing the worst team they've faced.

Why are the 13-3 Eagles the worst team?

Simple. The 2001 Rams were one of the most explosive teams in NFL history. They were playing on turf, their prefered surface. They had just won a Super Bowl two years earlier. Kurt Warner had been the MVP of the league. They had no significant injuries on either side of the ball. Yes, they had Mike Martz at coach, but that was back when he wasn't a complete lunatic.

The 2003 Carolina Panthers had a vastly underrated team. They had the best defense in the NFL. Their front four was young and talented, and they had solid linebackers and secondary. Their offense was slept on, as Delhomme had two good receievers to throw to in Muhammad and Smith, and a pair of talented running backs in Stephen Davis and DeShaun Foster.

The Eagles, as I outline above, have a lesser offense than both teams, especially without Owens, and a defense which is better than the Rams but worse than the Panthers. And they're facing a more talented and dynamic team, especially offensively, than either the Rams or the Panthers faced.

On defense, I think the Eagles will have difficulties stopping New England, both on the ground and through the air, especially if Philly D Coordinator Jim Johnson gets too bliz-happy. No one is better at handling the blitz than Tom Brady, he picks it apart every time.

And on offense, I can't see how the Eagles will score touchdowns. They're not going to get good field position, because the Patriots don't allow big plays on special teams and rarely turn the ball over. Without Owens, the Eagles have a limited ability to make big plays on offense. That means they're going to have to sustain drives and then punch the ball in, two things which they haven't been great at this year and two things that New England excells at preventing. And if the Eagles aren't scoring touchdowns, they won't be able to keep up with the Patriots.

All that means that my prediction for Super Bowl XXXIX is: Patriots 31, Eagles 13.


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