The two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl have given those who follow football and sports in general a deluge of articles and interviews filled with statistics and predictions. Examples are here, here, here, and here, and those were just the ones I could come up with in a five minute span. Sports talk radio and television has been filled with talking heads saying how the Indianapolis Colts will play one way and the Chicago Bears will employ such-and-such a strategy. The stations must be desperate for content, because this is a complete waste of time. History has shown us that such detailed predictions about the Super Bowl, aside from which team will emerge victorious, usually turn out to be completely wrong.
Consider the Patriots / Panthers Super Bowl in 2004. Both teams were known for their defensive prowess, and thus, TV talking heads and writers predicted a defensive struggle. For the first and third quarters, it was just that – no points were scored. However, in the other half of the game, it was an offensive shootout. The teams put up a combined 24 points in the second quarter and 37 points in the fourth. The defenses were so brutally physical in the odd-number quarters that they were worn down in the even-numbered ones.
The Super Bowl in 2003 had a similar feel to this year’s. Both teams were considered excellent. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the defensive powerhouse whose offense was spotty at best. The Oakland Raiders offensive attack was tops in the league. Many predicted a close game with Oakland coming out on top, however, Tampa Bay’s defense intercepted Oakland QB Rich Gannon five times in a 48-21 blowout.
I myself predicted that the Philadelphia Eagles would get blown out in 2005 by the New England Patriots. Aside from the fact that I was right about the Patriots’ victory, I was wrong on all other counts.
I subscribe to the old school theory that all teams expound but very little actually put into practice: that championships are won with defense, running, and special teams. While a good air attack makes for exciting football, it is mitigated by those other three elements. A good defense speaks for itself – it prevents yardage and points. A quality running game controls the clock, keeps passing-oriented offenses off the field, and keeps your defense well-rested. Good special teams play keeps passing offenses deep in their own territory, forcing them to go on long drives and increasing the possibility that they will make mistakes to a good defense.
So, instead of writing a long winded column on how Peyton Manning must utilize the play-action fake and go deep to his tight end down middle of the field to beat the Bears cover-2 defense, I will say this: whichever team plays the best on defense, runs for quality yards, and makes the important plays on special teams will win the game. Other than that I have absolutely no idea who is going to win. They’re both good teams who deserve to be there.
Make some good food, get together with some friends, partake of a few beverages of choice, and enjoy a modern American tradition, even if the only sources of entertainment are the commercials and the halftime show.