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
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.
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
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.
Rex Grossman has thrown for over 425 yards in two postseason games this year.
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
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.
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!
Peyton Manning could be the fastest gun since Marino and the most accurate since Joe Montana.
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
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!