Law-less, With No T.O.- Roadblocks to Jacksonville
Bijan Bayne, Guest Columnist
Entering Sundays playoff matchups, two teams who were prohibitive mid-season favorites to win their respective conferences are each without a pivotal, inspirational player. The Eagles are missing Terrell Owens, and the Patriots Ty Law. Owens 14 touchdown receptions led a dynamic Philly offense that has since sputtered. Before this unscheduled t.o., the Birds were apparently en route to fly South for the winter and erase their NFC playoff curse.
As for cornerback Law, when he fights, the Pats win, especially against the receivers of Peytons Place. While New England has fared well without him, cornerback play was crucial to their 2004 AFC championship victory over Indy. Which team will be hurt most by the missing stars? In the two cradle cities of American liberty, whose fans will be held captive by the untimely absence of a talented playmaker who talks and backs it up?
Both tasks are daunting (no pun intended), outscoring the Vikes without your prime threat, and corralling the firm of Harrison, Stokely and Wayne without The Law on your side. New England has the better chance of overcoming their obstacle. I dont know that they will- but it stacks up better than what Philly faces. Why?
The Pats defense will be handicapped not only due to a shorthanded secondary, but because defensive tackle Richard Seymour is also injured. Theyll need to pressure Manning to allow their deep backs any opportunity to thwart the pass-happy Colts. But the Foxboro boys already have jewelry, theyre battle-tested. Copped their first rings in the wake of a Drew Bledsoe injury. Theyve triumphed in the closing seconds. This bunch has more fight than the 04 Red Sox. It will take a sterling effort on the parts of defenders such as Willie McGinest, who has to get up close and personal with Manning. Rodney Harrison cannot afford to blitz, as TE Dallas Clark is an additional threat with the three wideouts.
Just as important to the defending champs will be the performance of Corey Dillon, who could help keep the Colts off the field. The fact that the game will be played on grass balances things somewhat- were it inside the RCA Dome, Dungys troops would have much more of an edge. New England will have to score 31-35 points to beat the visitors, which is asking a lot of the Pats offense.
The burden is different in Philadelphia. Sure, D-Mc has proven Limbaugh wrong, but he has yet to silence the cant win the big one critics. A shoot-out against Daunte Culpepper is lopsided when the Viking QB has Randy Moss and Nate Burleson, and Philly is limited to Freddie Mitchell-Todd Pinkston types. Tougher to exploit the Vikings achilles heel- its secondary, without Owens on hand. His injury, unlike Laws, has dampened a teams entire spirit. Even should Philly pull this one out, they cannot win an NFC title during a Time Out.
Bijan Bayne's column appears here courtesy of MostValuableNetwork.com. Bijan is currently a columnist for 'Sports Central', 'DreamCoach', and 'Most Valuable Network', in July 2002, he won the Robert Peterson Research Award for his presentation The Struggle of the Latin American Ballplayer at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y. He is also a travel writer and publicist.
If you are reading this article via a news portal, you can find the original