The Electric Commentary

Friday, February 04, 2005

Super Bowl

The Patriots are heavy favorites in this game, and with good reason. They are powerful on both sides of the ball, they play good special teams, and they don't make mistakes. They led the league in the Outsider's overall efficiency DVOA stat (the Eagles were fourth) and they absolutely took apart #'s 2 and 3 on the list already. That being said, Philly is a completely different animal, and they may be able to capitalize on a few of the Patriot's weak spots.

In my opinion Carolina came up with a good blueprint on how to beat the Pats in last year's SuperBowl. They combined a strong running game (only 16 carries, but the long run by Deshaun Foster and a few other long plays resulted in the Panthers only running 49 total plays) with a few deep passes (Muhammad has 4 catches for 140 yards, or 35 yards a catch) and put up 29 points on an excellent defense. They also suffered only one turnover (a fumble by Delhomme). If John Kasay doesn't kick a ball out of bounds the Panthers are probably the defending champs right now.

If the Eagles can duplicate that game plan, they have a shot, and they have the personnel to do so. I don't think that Owens will be much of a factor, but even if he can occupy defenders he will greatly contribute to his teams cause. Deep passes will be a key for the Eagles, and their best deep threat is their #4 WR, Greg Lewis. Lewis has become a real deep threat in the past few weeks (2 catches for 65 yards in the NFC Championship game, 2 for 64 in the divisional round) and he will have to catch at least 2 long balls in the Super Bowl. Should Lewis be held in check, it is still possible that Freddie Mitchell and Todd Pinkston can pick up the slack. Even though he's an idiot with a FroHawk, and Rodney Harrison will probably severely injure him sometime in the first quarter, Freddie Mitchell is also a capable deep threat (as is Todd Pinkston if the Wizard grants him some courage before Sunday). But Lewis is the key in the passing game.

The running game is of primary importance. Staying out of obvious passing situations is an absolute must against the Pats, and Brian Westbrook has to have a big game on the ground. Andy Reid likes to use Westbrook as a WR out of the backfield, but the speed of the Patriot linebackers can make this difficult. Their best bet in the passing game is to get Westbrook lined up outside as a true WR, and to stay away from screens and dump-offs.

As for the Patriots, I expect Belichick to call a conservative game. The real risk for the Patriots is turning the ball over, and he knows it. In last year's Super Bowl, Antowain Smith and Kevin Faulk combined for 32 carries. With the addition of Corey Dillon, I fully expect the Pats to equal, if not exceed that amount. The Eagles defense is capable of causing turnovers if an offense gives it the opportunity to do so. Brian Dawkins, Michael Lewis, Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown are all capable of big plays, and the blitzing style of the Eagle defense (and Javon Kearse) provides them with plenty of opportunities. That said, I think the Pat's offensive game plan will be similar to the Eagle's plan. Run first, throw deep.

Prediction: The Patriots win, but it's close. I've heard that the spread is up to 8 or so. I think this will be a relatively mistake free game. If that is the case, it will be close. It's always possible that the Patriots will get a few turnovers and steamroll the Eagles, but I don't see it. McNabb is generally careful with the ball, and has the option to run rather than forcing it into coverage.

So:
The Pats will win.
The Eagles will cover.
The score: 27-21.

Specific predictions:
Corey Dillon will crack 125 yards on 27 carries or more. Greg Lewis will catch at least 2 throws of 25 yards or more. Jeff Thomason will catch a touchdown. Brian Westbrook will not have more than 75 yards rushing, nor will he have more than 50 yards receiving. Mike Vrabel will force a turnover. There will not be more than 2 turnovers in the game.

Smart bet MVP - Tom Brady
Money bet MVP - Mike Vrabel, Pats. Greg Lewis, Philly.

So there you have it. Enjoy the game, and read the Outsider's preview too, because they actually know what they're talking about.

L&N Line picks here.

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