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Any team on any given day, yadda, yadda, yadda. Not!

by Mickey Charles

That is what one usually hears, particularly when it comes to the NFL, thanks to what the media laughingly refers to as ?parity? among the teams. It means balance and uniformity but it also translates, in many cases, into monotony and mediocrity. The level of play, therefore, becomes inferior and commonplace. To some, they love it ? it is so bad and unpredictable that any team can, indeed, best any other on a given Sunday.

But, with a bit of hindsight from the recent NFL season, there is little doubt by anyone that is a student of the game, that the AFC was, in every respect, better than the NFC. The recent tilt between the Colts and Patriots was, in more ways than one, the Super Bowl. 'Da Bears will not buy into this nor will anyone strolling down wintry Michigan Avenue right now. Rest assured that Lovie Smith is not in agreement with that and believes that his team would have beaten New Orleans regardless of the weather and the miscues that turned the game around. Take a dome team out of the friendly confines of playing indoors, with the consistency of 70 degrees and an unblemished surface beneath them, and drop them on the worn, slippery, wet, snow-laden grass turf of Soldier Field in temperatures that are one step removed from your freezer, and you have a fairly predictable outcome. Not an excuse for the Saints, just a fact.

Rex Grossman
Rex Grossman has thrown for over 425 yards in two postseason games this year.
The Super Bowl has long since been moved from being a championship game for the NFL title and the Vince Lombardi Trophy, to an inter-galactic contest being watched throughout the universe. It is everywhere!!! Preparations are two weeks long. Heralded major movie and theatrical openings do not have the fanfare of this game. The Academy Awards, coming up soon, pale in comparison as it relates to interest and viewership. Petitions are already circulating on the internet to make the Monday after the game a national holiday. Be serious.

Give the NFL its due. They have created a monster. They have taken a game that is usually just that, a game, and turned it into a happening that has people rushing to the supermarkets to prepare, as if a snowstorm were coming that evening. Parties are being planned to equal wedding and bar-mitzvah receptions and even surpass them. More toilets will be flushed during time outs, half-time and commercial breaks, than are used at any other time of the year. Budweiser, Miller, Coors, Coca-Cola and Pepsi are gearing up and starting to ship now. Potato chips and pretzels will become the accompanying necessity of the day, and Las Vegas is expecting $100 million in wagers on every aspect of the game from the coin toss to who will score the final field goal and/or touchdown.

Rex Grossman and the Bears are happy to be in Miami. Peyton Manning and the Colts purchased open-ended tickets to this game long ago and have finally cashed them in with a destination that was secure. Chicago is the underdog, and rightly so. The game is being used as a barometer for Manning?s greatness. Ridiculous. Dan Marino got there once, his second year in the league, but failed to win. However, he is surely among the greatest quarterbacks that ever played the game?as is Manning. Getting there is the sentence that proclaims that, winning it all is the exclamation mark that emphasizes it.

Soon, the analysis begins and intervenes, with all the statistical experts lending their unending listings of facts and figures, comparative accomplishments by teams and players. There will also be the expected outcry, from others in the media that take umbrage with this position: that equally bad is tolerable, often welcome...it adds an unexpected air and mystery to the game, the unknown about the eventual outcome. Not debatable, just a difference of opinion regarding the level of play presented weekly.

A closer look at the stats, which we have more of than you can imagine, says that both teams scored 427 points during the regular season. Your determination and interpretation of that has to take into account the quality of teams against whom the tallies were made. The Bears were 9th in total offense in the NFC and 1st in total defense, while the Colts were 1st in total offense in the AFC and 12th in total defense - a defense, one might argue, that has improved greatly in the last month or so.

Grossman is not Tom Brady and has thrown almost as many INTs (20) as TDs (23). He has Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson to carry the mail for him; Muhsin Muhammad, Bernard Berrian and Rashied Davis on the receiving end of the passes, with Desmond Clark his safety valve most of the time. Can he stand up to the anxiety of the media crush, the incredible amount of stress and tension involved leading up to the game? Then on gameday, the pressure will multiply ten-fold, bringing the whole two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl to a climax. Lovie Smiths?s encouraging words might not be enough and some early miscues by the quarterback could easily set the tone for Chicago.

Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning could be the fastest gun since Marino and the most accurate since Joe Montana.
Being the underdog, something the Bears were accustomed to just twice during the regular season, they are not expected to win, according to those allegedly in the ?know.? So, let it all hang out!

The Colts have the man, Peyton, and he is, without a doubt, the best quarterback in the NFL today. He could be the fastest gun since Marino and the most accurate since Joe Montana. What's worse for Chicago, he is smart and has been waiting for this day for a long time. If he takes an early lead and expands it, catching him will be near impossible. If he falls behind, he has the resources to play catch-up and make up the distance with just a few possessions.

Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes will run often and well enough to have the Bears questioning their defense and that is when Manning will counter with his aerial show of Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark.

Maybe, just maybe, any team on any given Sunday in the NFL can beat another team, especially with the ordinary, so pedestrian and stale every weekend. But, this is not that day. Peyton Manning will shed the media title and label of ?greatest quarterback never to win the Super Bowl? on February 4th.

Is that a mortal lock? You gotta be kidding!