I've got a TON to say so
let's get at it
Sunday will provide a study
in head games and emotion.
New England Patriots vs.
The Patriots don't play head games. They don't
need to. By this point, the mere sight of New England
Coach Bill Belichick on the sideline -- especially
if he's wearing a hood and his face is wreathed
in steam -- is enough to make the opposition break
out in a cold sweat.
The fact that Belichick's defensive mind is matched
against a rookie quarterback -- well, it's hard
to pick against the Patriots. That New England lost
to the Steelers earlier this season -- when Pittsburgh
was playing better and the Patriots were without
running back Corey Dillon -- might only make the
Patriots more formidable. Who wants to give Belichick
a second chance?
The Steelers have other mental hurdles to overcome.
The team has lost three AFC championship games --
all at home -- in Bill Cowher's tenure (they also
won one nine seasons ago, on the road). The last
loss was to the Patriots in 2001, back when Belichick's
team was considered a product of parity, not a modern
The Steelers' best hope is to get an early lead,
as they did on Oct. 31 when they snapped the Patriots'
record 21-game winning streak. Then rookie Ben Roethlisberger
can hand the ball off to Jerome Bettis and Duce
Staley. If Roethlisberger is forced to throw against
Belichick's confusing defense, it could get ugly.
At this point, I'm not only interested to see the
Patriots play Roethlisberger's Steelers, but I'd
also like to see them play Terry Bradshaw's Steelers,
Joe Montana's 49ers, Troy Aikman's Cowboys and the
1972 Dolphins. They deserve to be mentioned with
the all-time greats, because I predict they're headed
to their third Super Bowl in four seasons.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Philadelphia
The Eagles' mental obstacle has nothing to do with
the opponent. When they look in the mirror on Sunday
morning, they'll see their toughest opponent.
The Eagles have lost three consecutive NFC championship
games, the past two at home. They thought they had
acquired the tools to get over that hump this year,
but their game-changer, former 49ers receiver Terrell
Owens, will be watching from a luxury box.
The Eagles, like the Steelers, need to grab an
early lead. If they fall behind, the doubts will
creep in. We've seen that happen in sports so many
times before -- from the Indianapolis Colts' frozen
frustration last weekend, to Stanford's second-half
tightness in the second-round game of the NCAA tournament
Atlanta and Philadelphia dominated their opponents
last week. Then again, their opponents were the
only teams with 8-8 records that made the playoffs.
Philadelphia has a better defense. But Atlanta
-- led by dynamic quarterback Michael Vick -- is
brimming with confidence. The Eagles have the pressure
of self-doubt. They also have the joy of knowing
that their beloved home crowd will turn on them
if they play poorly Sunday. My prediction: The Eagles
will be four-time championship losers.
Both games have the makings of classics. The teams
whose hearts can overcome their heads will be the
winners. Try to come up with a statistical analysis
More Notes - He said what?
knows the Indianapolis Colts need to make some personnel
changes, especially on defense. His approach to
coaching, however, will remain the same.
``I don't know any different ways to do it,'' Dungy
said. ``We've got a very good offensive system in
place, a very good defensive system and a good special
teams system. We've got good players and good coaches,
and we've just got to continue to grow on that.''
The Colts lost 20-3 on Sunday at New England --
Indianapolis' perennial nemesis -- and it dropped
the AFC South champions to 13-5. It was a disappointing
finish for a team that many thought had a good shot
at getting to the Super Bowl.
``When you don't win the ballgame, there's a little
bit of an empty feeling,'' Dungy said. ``We'll be
able to, in another week or so, look at the season
in total and realize that we did have a fine year.''
Steelers head coach Bill Cowher on whether his
team had a mental edge over the Patriots after beating
them back in Week Eight: "I don’t know
that you have an edge over New England when you
get into the playoffs. They have proven the last
few times that they have been there, they have not
lost a playoff game. Tom Brady is 7-0 in playoff
games. So I don’t know what kind of an edge
that would give you.
Cowher on rookie QB Ben Roethlisberger,
whose play is a hot-button topic in Pittsburgh:
"He has made a lot of plays. We wouldn’t
be sitting here today if it weren’t for him
doing some of the things that he has done all year
and let’s not lose sight of that. You want
to just sit there and look at his last game and
analyze and over-analyze, I’m not going to
over-analyze it. Certainly, there are some choices
that he made (vs. the Jets on Saturday) that I’m
sure he would like to have back, for all of us.
It was what it was, we overcame it, and we are moving
on to the week."
New Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Fassel,
quoted in the Baltimore Sun about whether he's worried
that Baltimore's struggling offense could potentially
hurt his career: "First of all, I don't look
at any challenge in my life as how does it hurt
me. All I look at is what's the opportunity and
what am I going to make of it. I live my life about
what we can do and how good we can be. That's the
Fassel, quoted in the Sun about how quickly he
can turn around the NFL's 31st-ranked offense: "I
don't think this is going to be a real slow process;
it'd better not be. I expect us to make dramatic
strides. I think it has to come a lot through the
pass game and make some big plays. That's how you
put points up on the board."
Colts PK Mike Vanderjagt, a potential
salary-cap cut in the offseason, quoted in The Indianapolis
Star about his future: "At times I think, 'What
have I possibly done in the last seven years to
make them say they are better off without me?' Clearly
they wouldn't be. (TE) Marcus Pollard is probably
in the same situation. There are guys that probably
should never get released; they should finish their
careers as a Colt, and I'm probably one of them.
But, honestly, I have no idea what to expect."
Enjoy This weeks matchups
Folks – Now Get Back To Work……….
Weekend Stud - NEW England's Defense
I'll say this for New England's Defense:
1 word - AMAZING
On Football Writer Ray Monohan is an NFL analyst with
10+ years of experience covering the NFL. He provides
a great perspective on the NFL with player and team insight
unmatched in the NFL football betting industry.
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