Sunday, February 4, 2018

Super Bowl 52: A new champion? Or the same old, same old?

As Bill Parcells' defensive coordinator with the Giants 31 years ago, Bill Belichick won his first Super Bowl ring. He'd win his second just four years later, then leave for his first head coaching job in Cleveland. Unfortunately, even Belichick, as brilliant as he is, couldn't take the original Browns to the promised land. Just when it looked like he'd succeed his former mentor, Parcells, with the Jets, Belichick opted to take a lifetime supply of free cheese and Miracle Whip from Robert Kraft, and, well, you know the story by now.

However, most of America suffers from Patriot Fatigue because they're tired of seeing New England dominate the AFC year after year. To them, it seems someone in the league office not named Roger Goodell thinks it's good business to have the Patriots in the playoffs every year, even if it's by hook or crook. Because of that, New England has gotten corporate slaps on the wrist for Spygate and Deflategate, and life goes on. As the saying goes, controversy creates cash, and the NFL and its media partners like nothing better than fattening their coffers, essentially telling Joe Fan, it doesn't matter what you think.

13 years ago, Tom Brady and the Patriots defeated a Philadelphia Eagles team that had Donovan McNabb at QB and a diva receiver in Terrell Owens, who was just named to the NFL Hall of Fame Class of 2018. Today, Brady's a diva himself, preferring to pad his own stats instead of doing the right thing and balancing the offense. He was just named NFL MVP, but didn't really deserve it or need it. America met this announcement with a collective yawn outside of New England. The sheep there don't understand that Brady isn't and never will be the greatest of all time. In this writer's view, he is way down the list behind the likes of Joe Montana, Roger Staubach, Terry Bradshaw, and even Jim Plunkett.

Tonight, the Eagles & Patriots meet again. This time, the us-against-the-world attitude belongs to the NFC champions, who find themselves as underdogs for the third straight game despite being the NFC's #1 seed. Three weeks ago, they spoiled plans for a possible rematch between New England and Atlanta by beating the Falcons, then carved up Minnesota in the NFC title game, preventing the Vikings from making history as the first team to not only host a Super Bowl, but play in it, too. New England & Philadelphia last met in a regular season game a couple of years ago, a game won by Philadelphia.

QB Nick Foles didn't play that day, as he wasn't an Eagle at the time, having been exiled. He returned this year as a backup to second year QB Carson Wentz, out for the year with a torn ACL. Foles will hand the ball off to LeGarrette Blount, who won a ring last year with New England, but was discarded after the season because that's what Belichick does. No rhyme or reason to personnel decisions. No loyalty to anyone other than the diva at QB or the future WWE wrestler at tight end (Rob Gronkowski), who, unsurprisingly, returns having cleared concussion protocols. Blount will get more touches this time than he did last year because it's not running back by committee in Philadelphia.

That committee in New England includes one of last year's heroes, James White, who, in Brady's own opinion, should've been game MVP instead of the diva, but the fix was in for MVP, and Brady knows it. Albany native Dion Lewis also returns kicks, and had his Eagles career cut short by injuries. He, too, spent a bit of time in forever cursed Cleveland, so he & Belichick have something in common. The number of Patriot fans in upstate NY has grown exponentially since Lewis signed with New England, and the Patriots would be fools to let him walk in order to keep that fan base here. Belichick signed Rex Burkhead away from Cincinnati as a free agent, and likewise lured Mike Gillislee away from Buffalo. Those two have been hurt most of the season. Still, Brady would rather throw the ball. Gronkowski pushes off on most plays and gets away with it because of his star status. At least he, unlike Brady, has commercial endorsements, and his party boy image makes him a Madison Avenue darling. Brady just has a supermodel wife whose attitude was also called into question after New England lost to the Giants six years ago.

Philadelphia's waited its entire league existence for a NFL championship. Unfortunately, that hunger is counter-balanced by a lack of offensive depth. Foles must play the game of his life----again---to have a reasonable chance. In order to keep the conspiracy theorists quiet, the referees have to call the game correctly. If you're going to let them play, let it be so, but don't hesitate to drop the flags on New England as well as Philadelphia when it's too obvious to ignore. Yeah, we're looking your way, Gronkowski. If the Patriots get out to a big lead, people will reach for their remotes rather than risk falling asleep from boredom. Just have the No-Doz handy just in case.

Then again, New England has never blown anyone out in a Super Bowl. If as some people wanted to suggest in the press at the end of the regular season that this is the last ride for Belichick & Brady, and in the latter's case it's just as well, because at 40 he's still a selfish player, they will go out on top. If it isn't, it may be because Brady won't retire until he can prove he's beaten a certain NFC East team that has been his Super Bowl Kryptonite.

My heart says go with Philadelphia, but my brain says otherwise. The pick: Patriots 34, Eagles 31.

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