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Game Previews
Super Bowl
2/3/05

Super Bowl
Sunday, Feb. 6th 6:30 EST
NE vs PHI - 6:30 PM EST - AD

For The Season
(163-93) Straight Up - 63.6%
(145-106-5) Against The Spread - 57.7%

N.E. Patriots (-7) vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Weíve been hearing a lot about Freddie Mitchell this week, even though the real stories of this Super Bowl clearly involve Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Terrell Owens and Donovan McNabb.

Last week and the week before, I took a lot of heat from Philadelphia fans for two reasons. First, I took the underdogs in both games ó Minnesota and Atlanta ó and second, wasnít giving them much respect while doing so.

How about this, Eagles fans? Iíll give the entire organization all the respect it deserves when they accomplish two things. First, they have to win a Super Bowl. Thatís not an unreasonable request, is it? Letís count the teams that havenít won the big game. Iím talking about the Buffalo Bills, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Houston Texans, the Tennessee Titans (formerly the Houston Oilers), the Baltimore Ravens (formerly the Cleveland Browns), the Cleveland Browns (expansion), the Cincinnati Bengals, the San Diego Chargers, the Detroit Lions, the Minnesota Vikings, the Atlanta Falcons, the Carolina Panthers, the New Orleans Saints, the Arizona Cardinals, the Seattle Seahawks, and the Philadelphia Eagles. Not a really short list. In fact, itís half the league. Of the 16 teams that havenít won the Super Bowl, seven have not even appeared in one. Of the remaining nine, six have appeared in only one, and then thereís the Bengals, Vikings and Bills, who have lost multiple times.

Right now, Iíll give the Eagles ó as an organization ó the same amount of respect I give the non-expansion teams in the same boat, which includes the Chargers, the Falcons, the Ravens and the Titans. And thatís not still not a lot, by NFL standards.

The second thing the Eagles must do ó for everyoneís sanity ó is get rid of Freddie Mitchell. I know everybodyís sick of him, so Iíll make my comments about this narcissistic megalomaniac brief. He was a 1st-rounder in 2001, and since then has 90 catches in 63 games over four seasons. With five career touchdowns, heís not necessarily the go-to guy, but if you ask him, heís the bright shining star in the NFL. He even refers to himself in the third person.

Mitchell is exactly whatís wrong with the NFL. Owens, I can tolerate, since his numbers show heís ready for Canton whenever he retires. Mitchell still talks like heís big man on the UCLA campus, and still plays like an overly-touted college receiver. Mitchell flaunted his disrespect when he poked fun at the anonymity of Patriots secondary and remarked that he had something for New England safety Rodney Harrison. Mitchell may have seen the highs and lows of NFC championships, but Harrison has seen the highs and lows of the biggest game of all.

In January 1995, when the San Francisco 49ers cruised to an easy 49-26 victory in Super Bowl XXIX, Harrison was a rookie safety with the San Diego Chargers, a team that was outgunned and frighteningly overmatched. 49ers QB Steve Young threw six touchdown passes ó including four in the first half ó picking apart the Chargers secondary with ease. Harrison was just an NFL neophyte stuck in special teams and dime packages, but he began to turn heads as he smacked opposing helmets and rang up fines.

During the better part of the next decade with the Chargers, a team that unceremoniously released him after nine seasons, Harrison never made it back to the Super Bowl. He never even sniffed the slightest aroma of postseason glory. That was before Harrison was picked up by the Patriots in the 2003 offseason, and before a capable cast started receiving the obvious messages he was sending with his huge hits, fiery attitude and solid leadership skills. He led that defense last year, and along with LB Tedy Bruschi, he leads this defense now. So letís forget Freddie Mitchell and his silly comments. He probably wonít play much of a factor in the game Sunday, although Owens and McNabb might. When T.O. takes the field, Eagles fans will heave a collective sigh of relief, although they should probably wait until he gets hit a few times. Remember, playing in the Super Bowl is not the ultimate experience. Winning it is.

And Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have won a couple. The third title will be the one that clinches their place in NFL history. Brady will assume his position among the top five Super Bowl quarterbacks of all-time, along with Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, John Elway and Troy Aikman. Montana and Bradshaw were 4-0, Elway was 2-3, Aikman was 3-0 and Brady is currently 2-0. Right now, Bradyís on par with Jim Plunkett, who won with the 1980 and 1983 Raiders teams. Everybody always says defense wins championships, but what wins or loses Super Bowls? Historically, itís turnovers.

Montana won four Super Bowls, throwing 11 touchdown passes, and zero interceptions. Bradshaw, Plunkett, and Aikman were 9-0 combined in their appearances, with 18 TD passes and only 5 INTs. Thatís 13 Lombardi trophies in 13 appearances, and 5 interceptions between the four winning quarterbacks. Those are some pretty overwhelming statistics, and they come from even more overwhelming performances. Elway is the exception to the turnover rule, having thrown 8 INTs and just three TD passes during his Super Bowl career (1 TD, 2 INT in wins and 2 TD, 6 INT in losses). But he scored four times in those five games on TD runs, including one apiece in each of the wins.

Brady is right on track to join the exclusive crew, with 4 TD passes and just one INT in his two appearances. He is poised in the big game, a trait which should lead to another win for New England. But itís not just Brady. Montana, Bradshaw, Plunkett and Aikman all had great coaches to help them through the fire. Bill Walsh, Chuck Noll, Tom Flores and Jimmy Johnson were all brilliant commanders and motivators, and their QBs proved their merits. Belichick and Brady are most like Walsh and Montana, although they rely more on defense and opportunities created by turnovers.

The Eaglesí Donovan McNabb has all the tools to be a part of the elite list of QBs mentioned above. Heís smart, effective, makes the most of opportunities from turnovers and is every bit as mobile and dangerous as Elway, Plunkett and Montana.

The true test will be if McNabb can find the end zone more than he finds any of the Patriots defensive backs. If the Eagles can prevent turnovers, they have an honest chance at beating the Patriots, who have made the most of their opportunities in both the Super Bowls they won.

I think this game will feature lots of big hits, a few keys turnovers and two key plays on special teams. But what else is new in the world of post-2000 Super Bowls?

Final Score: Patriots 30, Eagles 24