Look for Patriots to Emerge Super Again

Unlike many Bills fans I will be hoping for the Patriots to pull out a win in the Super Bowl. The reason for this is simple. I have nothing against the Patriots and their winning brings credibility to the AFC East not to mention to the AFC in general. In fact, I respect them and Bill Belichick immensely. Under any circumstances, fans hoping for the Panthers to pull out a win may be better served hoping that it's springtime in Buffalo by the time the teams take the field.

But wait a minute Weiler, this is the NFL and "on any given Sunday"… While the modern day NFL adage may ring true generally speaking, this is the big one and the pressure will be on. I suppose that if the Patriots lapse and implode there remains a chance that the Panthers can emerge with a victory. But everything here points to a clear New England victory without much difficulty I might add. This is the type of game that if played ten times the Patriots would emerge the winner in 9 of those contests, perhaps all ten.

First of all, there are the players. I do not know the exact counts of players on each team with Super Bowl experience, but the advantage there clearly goes to New England where Brady will be playing not in his first season as a starter. John Fox has turned into an excellent coach, in fact, one whom many Bills fans are ruing that he was not originally chosen to coach the Bills. Nevertheless, he will line up across from one of the best in the business and one who has been there and done this.

Statistically, the Panthers luck in playing teams with rushing defenses ranked 20th or worse has just ended. It is no secret that the strength of the Panthers' offense is their rushing game led by Stephen Davis and upstart DeShaun Foster. But the two teams that the Panthers have beaten to get to this point had the 20th (Rams) and 22nd (Eagles) ranked rushing defenses. The Patriots have the 4th ranked rushing defense and have allowed over 34 fewer rushing yards-per-game than the Rams and almost 40 fewer than the Eagles. Since their week one loss to the Bills the Pats have held opponents to an average of fewer than 14 points-per-game while holding them to 14 or fewer points in 10 contests.

The Patriots have also allowed over 100 yards of team rushing only once in their nine games since their bye week. The Jets rushed for 109 yards. Throw in the fact that they are balanced from D to O, that their offense has peaked at the appropriate time, that they have very good special teams, and that they are coached by the best in the business John Fox notwithstanding, this is not a good omen for the Panthers. If they can hold the Titans and Colts to 14 points each in playoff games, then certainly a shutout vs. the less explosive and less experienced Panthers is not outside the realm of possibility.

So do not look for that Panther rushing game that produced an average of 185 rushing yards per games against those two defenses. Rather, look for rushing production that more closely resembles their effort against a Parcell's led Dallas D resulting in only 107 yards on a 3.1 yard-per-carry average. Add into the mix the notion that the Patriots have an offense very much unlike that of the Cowboys that the Panther D was able to take advantage of and things just are not adding up favorably for Carolina.

While Jake Delhomme has been a nice success story this season and a QB that I would swap out with Bledsoe in a NY second, his lack of experience in this caliber of game combined with his facing the best scoring defense in the league by a long shot will not result in a successful outing for the first time starter Delhomme. Throw in the fact that the Patriots led the league in interceptions this season and were second in takeaways, the Panthers will struggle to put up points all game long without the assistance of their defense.

On the flip side, to New England's 29 interceptions and 41 total takeaways, the Panthers boast only 16 interceptions and only 26 total takeaways. On offense, the Panthers were tied for 20th in giveaways with 31 on the season. Look for the Patriots to capitalize there reducing the effectiveness of the Panther rushing game even further.

The Patriots are tied for 7th in the league with only 24 giveaways and play a much safer high percentage and less risky passing game than the Panthers do who rely heavily on big plays from singular big play threat Steve Smith. Smith may have a solid day but do not look for much from other receivers on the Panthers or even for Smith to find the endzone once if at all. The Patriots have allowed more than 20 points only four times this season, once being in week one during their "lapse" game to the Bills. The other three games were vs. teams that finished the season ranked 2nd, 5th, and 10th in scoring offense. The Panthers finished a very mediocre 15th in scoring offense.

The Panthers will be fortunate to score more than a single touchdown from their offense in this game. Look for the Patriots to come into this game fired up, confident, and fully intending to finish out their winning streak this season by putting this game away early and capping it in grand fashion with their 15th straight win. I am expecting this game to be over sometime in the 3rd quarter.

Summary:

The Panthers simply do not have what it will take offensively to beat one of the best if not the best scoring defense of the modern era rivaling that of last season's Bucs, again, perhaps better. The Panthers defense is good, but largely due to an easy schedule featuring few top ten ranked scoring offenses. In those games, once each vs. Indy, St. Louis, and Tennessee, the Panthers allowed 20 or more points in each contest and an average of nearly 27 points. Their road to get to the Super Bowl has also been easier than it has been for the Patriots other than the fact that they have had to play three games vice only two.

The Patriots will follow suit especially with plenty of help from their defense. The Panthers will play tough early on but the game will elude their grasp as it progresses due to New England's high percentage-low turnover approach to running their offense coupled with what will be suffocating defense. The key to this game will be the Patriots capitalizing off of Delhomme's inexperience as they force him into making key turnovers only forcing the Panthers to throw more.

New England is favored by 6 ½ and the game total is 38.

Expect the Patriots to cover easily with the total reaching 38 dependent upon the amount of points put up by the Pats. I will go with the under.

Patriots 27-10 being gracious to the Panthers.

Comments: mweiler.billsreport@cox.net


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