Dr. J's Outlook for Super Bowl XXXVIII

<b>Last Week:</b> (1-1) <br> <b>Playoff Record:</b> (8-2) <br><br> This is the time of year NFL fans live for, the culmination of a season that finishes with the end-all game, the Super Bowl. While other teams are making out their draft boards, the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers will be playing. What's the prognosis?

The Carolina Panthers symbolize the hope of every fan of every team in the NFL. In just their ninth year of existence and just two years removed from a 1-15 season when they lost an NFL record 15 consecutive games, they stand center stage at the biggest sports showcase in the world.

Standing beside them in the spotlight are the New England Patriots: A team with few stars, few personalities, few controversies, and fewer weaknesses. They don't do anything with flash, bells, or whistles. They just win behind a stoic, defensive minded head coach with an uncanny ability to break down an offense and a young QB with movie star looks and the nerves of a cat burglar.

So here we are in the least hyped, least expected, but perhaps, best Super Bowl matchup that we've seen in a long time. It's going to be the Patriots' dink and dunk attack versus the speed of the Panthers' front seven. And it will be Carolina's power running game versus the complicated New England defense that can use any combination of linemen, linebackers, or defensive backs at any time. Bill Belichick, defensive genius versus John Fox, defensive genius. Tom Brady, low round QB versus Jake Delhomme, free agent. It's ying and ying. Water and ice.

I'd expect the Patriots to focus on stopping Stephen Davis and the Panther ground game and force Delhomme to throw the ball, which could be easier said than done. The Panthers have a big and physical offensive line that has proven that they can run on anyone. The Patriots on the other hand will have to mix it up on offense more, using either Antowain Smith or Kevin Faulk on the ground to tire out this active Panthers defense and then spreading them out with Brady's knack of making any throw necessary at just the right time.

I think the game will start off close, but as soon as the Patriots start forcing the Panthers to throw the ball, they will capitalize on turnovers and score quickly. I love what the Panthers have done this season and how they've turned their fortunes around, but I'm picking the New England Patriots to defeat the Carolina Panthers 27-17 and win their 2nd Super Bowl in three years.

Dr. J can be reached at doctorjmailbox@yahoo.com

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