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"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles CEO, The Sports Network

ALLTEL Stadium
Super Bowl XXXIX kicks off Sunday at ALLTEL Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida with New England declared a 7-point favorite.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -- The big game lays ahead, Super Bowl XXXIX, 6:30 p.m. kick-off, February 6th, Sunday, at ALLTEL Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida with New England declared a 7-point favorite by Las Vegas odds-makers whose sole purpose in life is to confuse the public, wagering and non-wagering alike. For a sport that disdains gambling isn?t it a bit of an oxymoron to have the point spread part and parcel of every article, talk show and TV broadcast about the game?

The total projected number of points that will be scored by both teams, the over/under in the parlance of Nevada, is 47 ?, 48 in some betting establishments.

The Eagles were the inevitable participant, as indicated by this writer many times in recent months, although I did believe that Atlanta would have made their battle with the green-clad team from the City of Brotherly Love a lot closer than the final result indicated. Up north, the Patriots were not to be denied and there, again, I thought it would go down to the wire against Peyton Manning, snow or no snow, so my choice was the underdog once more. The favorites prevailed in both games without much difficulty. So much for analyzing the game, points, statistics, weather, and the like. At least New England was able to score and score and score creating a positive situation where the over/under was abundantly, and easily, over the total against Pittsburgh...with, of course, the snow dictating the game at Foxboro against Indianapolis. Not much of a decision to make at that time.

When you start your analysis bear in mind that Philadelphia, while good (not great), is the best of a sorry lot of teams representing professional football in the NFC. Great timing on their part. But, let?s start with a 3-4 defense and the Steelers. It was a "how soon can we forget that game" afternoon at Heinz Field. Just the week before that, Baltimore did the same thing and Philadelphia rang up a whopping 15 points. Guess which team has mastered the 3-4 defense? The other guys in Jacksonville.

The Eagles are seeking their first NFL title since 1960 and the odds, no pun intended, are not good. Will it help if Terrell Owens, who has apparently not seen Friday Night Lights, suits up and can actually run, cut and take a shot to the legs? Absolutely. Change the outcome? No. Is he more in tune with himself and his ego than the needs of the team? Do you have to ask? The Eagles? receiver suffered a fractured fibula and severely sprained ankle in a December 19th win over Dallas (one that they might have lost just as easily). Should he try to play and, if he does, will it help or hurt the Eagles?

Terrell Owens
Terrell Owens fields questions from the media in Jacksonville. Claiming a spiritual recovery, T.O. intends to play in Super Bowl XXXIX.
"Spiritually, I have been healed and I believe I will be out on that field on Sunday, regardless of what anybody says," explained Owens. Physically healed would be a much better position and situation for T.O and the Eagles. He has said, repeatedly, that "the Man Upstairs is watching over me and I will be ready play." I guess that means that God is taking the 7 and one has to wonder who books that action. It also implies that a Supreme Being will be one of the tens of millions of fans watching the game on, of course, a giant screen unlike any you have seen, and He is not going to be rooting for New England. He will play favorites and, for a bit, forget about the rest of the world, from the Tsunami disaster to Iraq, Afghanistan to people starving in Africa.

Say what you want about fans in Philadelphia, and all of it is likely true, they are a crazed lot when it comes to their teams and Donovan McNabb and friends in the Super Bowl have given rise to an outpouring of hair dyed green, everyone wearing Eagles attire of one sort or another, churches casting green lights on statutes of holy figures, fingernails being redone in green, every sort of paraphernalia leaping off the shelves of stores faster than they can put them there. If the energy of the fans could carry the team, make it no contest for the "Iggles."

That, however, is not how the game will be played. There will be people who do not live in Philadelphia who will root for the Eagles. We are a country that heralds and glorifies the underdog. We love it. Ask the Chicago Cubs and their fans.

The wagering public will take the Eagles and the points. The "wise guys" will lay the 7 and wager on a low scoring game, mostly by Philadelphia.

Writers in Philadelphia have derided the Patriots and called them a myth. Interesting. The myth has two of the last three Super Bowl rings adorning its fingers. Are the Patriots truly a dynasty? Not yet, but close. New England has a chance to win its third Super Bowl in four years, and only one other team, Dallas (1992-95) has accomplished that feat. Easy it is not. On the sidelines, Bill Belichick joins Vince Lombardi with the best postseason record of all-time, 9-1.

The Eagles claim that they are loose, the underdogs, devil may care, "we are there to have fun," and "Donovan says we are going to win so what more do we need?" Minnesota and Atlanta were not exactly difficult stepping stones of competition on the way to Florida and beating them up was more than a bit deceiving.

Bill Belichick
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick joins Vince Lombardi with the best postseason record of all-time, 9-1.
McNabb is good, very good. Great, to be mentioned with Dan Marino, John Unitas, Joe Montana, John Elway? No. Is Tom Brady one of the best quarterbacks of all-time? Not yet, maybe not ever but he has a chance to win his third Super Bowl MVP, which would tie Joe Montana, and is 56-14 all-time as a starting QB (8-0 in the postseason). At the age of 27, can he be put up there with the best? If not now, maybe pretty soon. He just needs a better publicist and the ability to become more of a conversationalist for the media. On the other hand, his results speak volumes.

Worth noting is the fact, for the superstitious among you, that the winning quarterback jersey with the number 12 has the most wins (12-10) , Tom Brady?s number, and number 5, on the back of Donovan McNabb, is 0-1.

The Eagles are not satisfied with winning the NFC title. How can they be? Taking lollipops out of the mouths of babes in strollers outside of the stadium would have been more difficult. It is not a matter of being hungry or finally having the opportunity to take home the trophy and head to Disney. The fact of the matter is that, once the game begins and at any point they fall behind, and they will, to a man they will become tighter than a string on a Stradivarius and not be able to shed their jitters against the veteran Patriots who arrived in town with one of the most complete packages of personnel that ever took the field for a Super Bowl.

Bear in mind that, for stats folks, the AFC has won five of the last seven Super Bowls and is 6-4 in the big one in the state of Florida although the NFC has won the coin toss in the last seven for those of you entering the "exotic" or proposition wagering listings at the sportsbooks of Nevada.

What about the boys from New England, the guys who play second fiddle to the Red Sox all year and who have won both Super Bowls played in February (you knew that, right)? Emotionally, it becomes a matter of where do they go from here, following a win? They are not winning for the Gipper but they are determined to win for their offensive coordinator, Charlie Weis, who is headed to Notre Dame as head coach, and defensive coordinator, Romeo Crennel, reportedly booked to relocate to the Cleveland Browns as head coach following the game. The gift boxes containing one more ring for each of them are only lacking the decorative ribbons and some champagne stains. It is also time to forget the boys from Fenway for awhile.

Under the heading of anything is possible on a given day, how would the city of Philadelphia handle its first major sports title since 1983? Bar the door and get the children into the storm cellar. Clear the streets and make sure your car is well protected in a very secure garage. Get ready for a parade that will last into early August. Raise the prices of champion-proclaimed attire, get all that you can and start thinking retirement from the revenue.

Can Jim Johnson, the apparent defensive genius for the Birds, muster up some magic to stop the Patriots, will his blitzkrieg tactics work in this one, how will he stop the very accurate and quick thinking Brady, did he check the stats to find out that the unheralded receivers for New England had as many catches as his guys against much better competition?

Andy Reid
Eagles head coach Andy Reid is 10-0 whenever he has had an extra week to prepare his team.
Back to stats for a moment -- Andy Reid is 10-0 whenever he has had an extra week to prepare his team (but remember the competition), the Eagles are 7-0 in the regular season after an off week (remember the competition) and 3-0 after a bye week in the post season (but remember the competition). Belichick is 9-7 after a week off but 4-0 in the playoffs.

Anything within 30-40 yards of the uprights and David Akers and Adam Vinatieri will be coming onto the field. However, 47 ? points is still too high but the game has gone "over" in the last two and this one will not twist and turn on the foot of either of these gentlemen. The final tally will not come down to the last play of the game with the clock ticking away the final few seconds, nor will the contest go into overtime.

Add this to your analysis - the team that has been favored to win the Super Bowl has won 27 of 38 and has covered the point spread in 21 of those games. But, take note that the underdog has covered, as they say, three straight. Hmmmmmm.

The teams predicted to be in Jacksonville are there. That, for all intents and purposes, was never in doubt -- questioned occasionally regarding the AFC but never really in doubt. Now, we are just days away from a game, a football game, ballooned into a larger than life happening, more festivities surrounding it than you would have found at a Roman bacchanalian festival, a sporting event that attracts more media attention than would a war of the worlds. A war on the gridiron depicted as a life and death struggle...evil versus good...dynasty in the making against those seeking to unseat them -- the underdogs...one team proclaiming that the light from above is shining on them alone -- the other figuring that they are wrong about that. This is it, the epic encounter, the "I was there and you should have seen it" event to portray to your grandchildren in the years ahead. Boston and Philadelphia, hated city rivals, rising from the ashes, like the mythical phoenix, in the same season of sports. Hollywood could not have scripted it better.

Have you analyzed it from every angle, put your personal prejudices aside (nah, you can?t really do that) and tried to be objective? Not likely. Let the hometown spirits rise, supporting voices cry out, E A G L E S...Eagles!! and the evening be savored for a very long time, win or lose.

Bottom line...New England by more than 7 and total points under 47? but close, very close (and worth ignoring relative to an investment regarding same).

For the farm? You gotta be kidding!