By now I am sure we all want to shout, "Let the games begin!"(Yes, awful Hunger Games' reference.) As much as I appreciate Brady and Manning's countless plot lines, I feel like their next story will compare how both quarterbacks eat dinner to how they win on the field. This showdown is about more than those Hall of Famers: It is about two other, major factors at play.
First, the Patriots may be staring directly into the beady, devilish eyes of some supposed bad omens/superstitions. And second, some analysts and fans seem to forget the Patriots always pistol whip the defense of “Jacksonville Jaguar at Heart” Jack Del Rio.
So, let's first address the possible bad omens that we've all thought about. For some reason, I never like when football "experts" pick the Patriots to advance in a big game. Only a few rebels chose New England to topple Denver this Sunday-- 9 out of 13 ESPN “experts” to be exact—but still that's enough to make me cry out, "What is going on here?!"
I can almost hear Boston screaming, "Just let the Patriots be true underdogs! No one pick them to advance. Cue a Rodney Harrison speech."
Or, more specifically, I become hesitant when certain analysts and well-known Patriot haters bow down suddenly to the most successful team in the league. Take how former NFL receiver and current football analyst Chris Carter chose New England to win. His run-ins and arguments with Boston sport's radio hosts are legendary and you just sense he's either mocking the Boston faithful or trying to use some kind of reverse-psychology on the team in hopes they lose.
Of course, I won't try to support these claims with cold, hard statistics because they are only superstitions and they shouldn't make much sense anyway; however, when a Superbowl appearance rests, but a day away, most people believe everything makes sense.
So, let's continue:
- Denver signed former Patriots' corner back and special teams' player Marquis Cole. There is not much Cole can tell the Broncos about his former team that isn't already known; however, it's a nice little mind game to keep the rivalry brewing.
- The weather will soar into the high 50's and possibly low 60's and most of us believe Manning plays better in warmer, stable conditions. (Statistics don't completely back that statement up, but we like to think they do.)
- Finally, the Patriots have played average on the road this year (They amassed an impressive 3-4 record). They played their last road playoff game in 2006 and lost to Peyton Manning. He went on to win the Superbowl.
Yet, not all is lost. I sleep easier after I remember these superstitions are silly and realize the Patriots will play JACK DEL RIO's defense. Please give me a moment to breathe a sigh of relief. Brady owns a 7-0 record against Del Rio. He and Brady handed Del Rio laughable defeats in the 2005 and 2007 playoffs.
While those playoff games are now mere memories, Brady still played a nearly perfect game against Del Rio's Jaguars in 2007. He threw 26-28 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns. When he faced Del Rio's defense in week 12 this season, he held a passer rating of 107.4 and threw for 344 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also dug the Patriots out of their grave and back from a 24-0 half time deficit.
Let’s put it this way: Brady has the upper hand. He holds a 73 percent completion rating, has thrown for 1700 yards and 17 touchdowns and has not throw an interception against Del Rio's teams or defenses. Tommy boy is basically that kid who made kids like Del Rio sit on the floor of the school bus, even when seats were open.
Yes, this is not Del Rio's Jacksonville Jaguars. The Broncos are more formidable and Del Rio is not their head coach; however, it is still his schemes and calls on defense. Additionally, his secondary has more holes than a piece of Swiss Cheese. Their defense ranked 27th in the league in passing and will play without top cornerback and versatile secondary man Chris Harris.
So, at the end of the day here is my ridiculous premise: If I had to fear more the superstitions or Del Rio, I would choose the superstitions. And because the superstitions are nothing more than shallow fears with no basis (I didn't even back them up with cold, hard statistics), than I think the Patriots have a better chance of winning this game than many believe.