As we sat on the patio of the Camelback Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, last week, watching the Jets-Steelers game in the warmth of the Sonoran Desert, Casey was nervous. "I don't think we can have a Super Bowl party if the Steelers lose," she said. "I'll be too upset." She has never said anything close to this regarding sports in the three-and-a-half years we've been together.
That's how much the Steelers mean to Pittsburgh. Having no tight NFL allegiances myself, I've dropped the 49ers cold turkey (after they hired that imbecile Dennis Erickson two years ago) and gravitated more towards the Jets, who are in my backyard, and the Steelers, partly because of Casey and partly because of Jerome Bettis. Last week, I pulled more for Pittsburgh than the Jets, with the feeling that this could be Bettis' last best chance, while Chad Pennington, Curtis Martin and Co. should still be on their way up. Besides, the Steelers have a much better shot to win it all this year than the Jets do anyway.
Last week I went 3-1 picking the winners (putting me at 5-3 for the postseason) and 2-2 against the spread (5-3 in two weeks). Two weeks from now, I'll post one final football blurb, and then it's all baseball until November.
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I agree with just about everyone when it comes to the Eagles on Sunday. They're going to come out tight. They're going to be feeling the pressure of three straight NFC Championship Game losses, the weight of last year's measly three points against the Panthers. If they fall behind early, if they can't stop Michael Vick, if they can't hold the Falcons to three-and-out, that pressure will increase exponentially. But it might not happen. Philly can win this one. I just think Atlanta had it too easy last week, plus they're the odd team out of the remaining four: an indoor, Southern turf team that has to deal with freezing temperatures and, if their neighbors at the Weather Channel are correct, snow. So I say Eagles (-5), 26-17.
The Patriots scare me. They are clearly the deepest, most well-coached team in the NFL. (As a Notre Dame grad, I'm thrilled their offensive mastermind will become our head coach in a matter of weeks, if not days.) New England gets as much from its highest-paid player as it does the last guy brought in from the scout team. Pittsburgh can win (perhaps easily) if they run the ball. Run, run, run. Pound it with Bettis. Get a little more speed and quickness with Duce Staley. Play-action to Hines Ward across the middle, or to Plaxico Burress for a jump ball. Or Antwaan Randle-El deep. But running is the key. Something tells me the Steelers will get away from that too early in the game. And that plays right into Bill Belichick's hands. While my heart will be in Pittsburgh, while I'll be rooting for the Stillers, while I think they can win, whether it's 21-17, 27-24, 14-10, I'm going with the dream I had the other night, which was quite vivid. It's the Patriots (-3), 20-17, on an Adam Vinatieri field goal in overtime, in the snow.
I'm just hoping I'm wrong.
Labels: football, NFL, predictions