by CHRIS LYNCH , American Digest Sports Editor
Let me say this right up front just so I don't bury the lede - the Patriots win this game by 18. Yup, you heard me - 18 points.
I'm tempted to end this post right here. What else is there to say after you just predicted a 18 point victory? I'm tempted but I figure I owe you an explanation of how I came to that 18 point figure.
The first and most basic question is "who wins the game?" As soon as we knew the match-up everyone said the Patriots would win. Now people are starting to talk themselves into the Eagles. People are talking about Andy Reid never losing a game which he had an extra week to prepare for and things like that. However, this is a situation where the first impression was the right one. The Patriots will win. And they'll win big!
The Eagles will continue to talk a good game but the truth is that they are happy just to be in the game. The Eagles gave their coach a Gatorade bath after their win last week because they had made their goal of getting to the Super Bowl. Bill Belichick didn't get a Gatorade bath after the win over the Steelers because the Patriots' players goal isn't to get to the Super Bowl. It's to win the Super Bowl. This isn't a minor difference.
Right now the line is Patriots by 7.5. The line started at 6.5 but the money has steadily come in on the Pats all week. Look for this line to come down to around 6 or 6.5 by game time as the Philly fans and the folks who talk themselves into believing this will be a close game and the people who see Terrell Owens practicing and who think he'll actually make an impact starting laying down their bets. Whatever the line ends up being it won't change the fact that the Patriots will win big.
This season both the Patriots and Eagles lost to the Steelers in Pittsburgh. The Patriots lost because they just had one of those days where everything went wrong and they were also missing key players like Corey Dillion. The Eagles got smoked 27-3 because Pittsburgh was just the better team. If the Steelers won last week, then they would be a 9 or 10 point favorite over the Eagles in the Super Bowl.
You might have guessed that I picked 18 points because that was the differential in the preseason game won by the Patriots over the Eagles - 24-6. You could guess that but you'd be wrong. Preseason games don't mean anything.
I picked 18 points specifically because this match-up reminds me so much of Super Bowl XI between the Oakland Raiders and Minnesota Vikings.
The Patriots remind me of the Raiders. The Pats receivers are like Fred Biletnikoff (minus the stick-um) - smart players who may not be the fastest or most physically gifted players on the field but who make sharp cuts and who never run the wrong route. The Patriots have a legendary player in the kicking game - Adam Vinatieri to Oakland's Ray Guy. The Patriots are balanced in all phases of the game - just like the Raiders. Then there's the head coaches. People forget how good a coach John Madden was but they do remember that he was overshadowed by Al Davis. People today realize how good a coach Bill Belichick is but even he is still overshadowed by his association with Bill Parcells. Both head coaches did nothing but win - almost every week.
On the other side of the ball, I see similarities between the Eagles and the Vikings from 1977. In Super Bowl XI, the Vikings put more All-Pro's on the field against the Raiders but they weren't the better "team". The Vikings featured a quarterback who could beat you with his arm or his legs but who was dogged by the idea that he couldn't in the big game. Fran Tarkenton meet Donovan McNabb. Then we have the head coaches - Andy Reid for the Eagles and Bud Grant for the Vikings. The first adjective you think of when either man comes to mind is "nice". There's no disputing that they are two nice guys but nice guys finish last.
The line on Super Bowl XI was 6.5 points but the favored Raiders ended up winning by 18 (32-14). Sunday's Super Bowl XXXIX has the Patriots favored by 7.5 right now but look for them to win by 18.