Thursday, January 11, 2007

Story Lines Galore

I can't get the Carly Simon song "Anticipation" out of my head. The Patriots - the dominant NFL franchise of this decade - play the Chargers - the best team in the NFL in 2006 - on Sunday, and it cannot come soon enough.

The story lines are abundant, going back to last year when SD coach Marty Schottenheimer openly wondered whether the Pats had sustained too many boo-boos to remain at the top after his team had whipped them. As you may recall, Tom Brady got a little agitated at ol' Marty.

This year, you have the best, most overhyped story in football (Chargers and LT) going against the story that's always under-reported (Pats' consistent success). As proof, the Chargers will send nine guys to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl, while the Pats will send one. Not saying it's not warranted, but that's always how these things work. As a subplot, Chargers QB Philip Rivers is on the AFC team, while Tom Brady - who should be there considering the patch job he's had to work with this year - won't be wearing a flowered shirt and lei.

In terms of X's and O's, you've got one of the league's best rush defenses (NE) against what may be the best running back our eyes will ever see (LT). The Pats counter with their best RB tandem in recent memory in Dillon and Maroney. You've got the smartest, most cunning QB in Brady going against a tremendous front line and outstanding linebackers. You've got three productive tight ends for the Pats (Graham, Watson, Thomas) going against the best in the game in Antonio Gates. And one that I wish could have come true - we could have seen former Chargers Junior Seau and Rodney Harrison knocking heads with their old franchise. Rodney was unceremoniously cut from SD a few years back and tell me he wouldn't have played with an even bigger chip on his shoulder than usual. Unfortunately, he's already been ruled out. (Damn you, Bobby Wade. Your penance will come.)

Anyway, it should be one hell of a game. Predictions and analysis to come.

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