NFL Prediction: Packers win it
After the first nine games, the NFL regular season has been everything but predictable. The Rams sported an 0-5 record at the end of September, the Patriots endured a four-game skid, and Commissioner Paul Tagliabue has fought to make football an arm-tackling sport.
Considering the volatile and changing complexion of the NFL, some would consider a postseason prediction to be foolish. But, in the words of Theodore Roosevelt, "Far better is it to dare mighty things, even though chequered by failure, than to dwell in the perpetual twilight that knows not victory or defeat."
This 2003 NFL prediction is dedicated to Teddy. Thank you for the inspiration.
Because of my strong alliance to the Denver Broncos, we will begin in the AFC where no legitimate contender has yet to emerge. Instead a bunch of teams with a lot of promise will cruelly break the hearts of loyal fans. In other words, the NFC will reclaim the Vince Lombardi Trophy after successive AFC champions.
The top teams in the AFC-the Broncos, the Patriots, and the Raiders-all have fatal flaws that will ultimately lead to their downfall.
The post-Elway Broncos, for example, are 6-0 during day games, but 0-3 on nationally televised night games. More disturbingly, their two worst losses have come on Monday Night. If only coach Mike Shannahan could convince the NFL to provide regional day coverage of the Super Bowl, the Broncos might have a chance. Otherwise, they're toast.
The post-Bledsoe Patriots will challenge the Broncos for the AFC Championship, but will fail in their quest to win back-to-back Super Bowls-assuming they advance that far. While winning one championship is difficult, winning two is an even more taxing experience. Just ask perennial favorite St. Louis Rams.
The Patriots' four-game skid was not indicative of the talent on the field, but rather reflected the team's inability to match its opponents' intensity. As the defending champion, the Patriots are the team that every other team would love to beat. In short, they face an inspired football squad every weekend.
The third and final contender in the AFC is the Oakland Raiders. After coming out of the gates averaging 40 points-per-game, the Raiders quickly lost four in a row. The offense looked confused and anemic, while the defense could not cope with the loss of cornerback Charles Woodson.
However, Monday Night's 34-10 drubbing of the Denver Broncos proves that the men in black and silver are not done yet. Their lineup sports the most veteran talent in the NFL, including the wily offensive trio of Rich Gannon, Tim Brown, and Jerry Rice.
Although their combined 44 years of NFL experience gives the Raiders an unmatchable edge, the trio is too old to last deep into the NFL season. Currently at 5-4, Oakland will not be able to secure a first round bye in the playoffs. As a result, it must play eleven consecutive games in order to win the Super Bowl-a tall order for any team, especially one full of aging vets.
The Broncos, Patriots, or the Raiders will represent the AFC in the big game, but the NFC will own the show in 2003. The Green Bay Packers, sporting an 8-1 record, appear to be the prohibitive favorite to win it all. However, the second-place team in the Packs' NFC North is the 3-6 Detroit Lions.
In other words, the Packers have the luxury of playing in an easy division where they are not truly tested. Because of this advantage, they will secure a first round bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. A confident Brett Favre, the freezing Wisconsin weather, and a rowdy crowd at Lambeau Field will challenge any opponent.
Only one teams in the NFC have a realistic chance of pulling off an upset in Green Bay in January: the St. Louis Rams. That's right - the formerly 0-5 Rams will run the table, finishing 11-5. They are too good not to. Plus, they're playing mad after the September debacle.
After getting beat by a back-up quarterback in Super Bowl XXXVI, coach Mike Martz is tempted to ride the hot hand of Marc Bulger, especially after his four TD performance against the Chargers last week. Kurt Warner - a two-time NFL MVP - will suit up this Sunday against the Bears this Sunday, but he will only be an emergency quarterback.
Martz claims that he is sitting his franchise QB to make sure that he is completely healthy before returning to full-time duty. However, if Bulger has another 400-yard day, his decision will be substantially more difficult.
Whoever is leading the Rams into the postseason will direct the hottest and most dangerous team in the NFL. However, only a truly tough team could come beat the Packers on its hallowed home turf for the NFC Championship.
Meanwhile, the Rams enjoy the cozy confines of their climate-controlled dome. As such, they will be unable to adjust to the wrath of Mother Nature in Green Bay.
But you ask, what about the Eagles,? Sorry, but they have no receiving core and no offensive threat besides McNabb. The Saints? New Orleans is the site of Super Bowl games; they are not supposed to actually take part in the festivities.
Put your money down early-the Packers will defeat the AFC pretender in Super Bowl XXXVII. The Broncos will win it next year. Please?