Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Juggernaut

Or how I learned to stop rationalizing and embrace the New England Patriots as the best team in a decade. They beat the undefeated, reigning Super Bowl champions on the road while wracking up a team record in penalties. Down by 10 in the 4th quarter, their all-pro QB engineered two TD drives relying heavily on his hall-of-fame, worldbreaker WR, one Randy G Moss. Great players make great plays, so it has ever been, so it will ever be. The Colts were missing their HOF wideout Marvin Harrison and that has to count for something. However, in the AFC championship, I don't think MH is going to be the difference at Foxboro. There's no reason to think that NE won't be hosting the AFC championship and that they aren't going to the Super Bowl. Having beaten their three toughest opponents buy a combined score of 124-55, I'm comfortable to submit to NE. Now onto a couple of rants and raves related to the "Flying Elvii" (credit: Gregg Easterbrook)

Rant - Don Shula: at ease General. Never has one man done so little with so much (Dan Marino, John Unitas). It's understandable that he would cling to the value of his one pantheon level achievement, the 1972 undefeated Dolphins. That team's holes have been beaten [like a rented mule] for 35 years. Their annual drinks of champagne as the last undefeated team falls becomes more small minded as time goes by. The fact that most NFL observers don't even believe they were the best team of the 70s is more than enough for me. Let it go, old warhorse. Your place n Valhalla is already set, and it's one of high distinction if not the highest. Whether the last three SBs are tainted (and they are) is besides the point. The 2007 Pats have crushed everybody. The only taint is the smoking carcasses of their victims, I mean opponents.

Rave - 1998 Broncos: John Elway in '98 was like Brett Favre today, not as good as in his prime but still possessing game breaking ability (Pro Bowler in his final year of '98 btw). Along with Elway in the backfield was Terrell Davis running for 2000+ yards (NFL Offensive MVP). They had 7 Pro Bowl participants and had the #2 offense and #9 defense. The only better team statistically was the 15-1 Minnesota Vikings (that had one Randy G Moss), a team whose failure to make the SB is still a shock. By the way the one game the Vikings lost in the regular season, they lost by 3 points. The Broncos cruised to 14-2 and comfortably ambled through the playoffs. They were the defending champions and perfunctorily handled the overmatched Atlanta Falcons 34-17. Elway had a great peformance and got his Super Bowl MVP. We tend to overrate great teams while they are playing, see this article as a perfect example:,/
The point here is that the Pats are a great, great team, but win something first and then we'll coronate you. Going undefeated doesn't necessarily mean your #1 (see '72 Dolphins) in the hearts and minds of fans and players. The other point is that really great teams get forgotten very quickly and we often lack perspective when handing out superlatives. The Cowboys' of the early 90s and the 97-98 Broncos were stacked with all-pros, and as glitzy as 16-0 is, there's little to indicate that the 90s Cowboys couldn't drop the hammer on the '07 Pats. This is, of course, an assertion that must remain unproven, which makes it endlessly debatable. Thank God.

Finally, the Pats have played their schedule and they've pummelled the little guys and convincingly beat their two quality opponents. They are, right now, the alpha and the omega and the prohibitive SB favorites. Bet against them at your peril (also because betting is illegal).

In a bit.

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