When the Patriots have the ball, the OLine will have to protect for Tom Brady. Mike Trgovac's DLine is a great one, and they'll get a few hits in. It'll be up to Troy Brown, David Givens, and Larry Centers to get open and hang on to the ball (and Bethel Johnson. He's such a nice receiver.). On the ground, things can get tricky. If the Patriots prove early that they can't establish the run, Carolina can sit back and look pass. I have a feeling, though, that the Pats will be just effective enough with the run to get the job done.
On to special teams. Edge in the field position game goes to the Panthers, as a good Carolina punt team faces an average Pats retun team, and a decent Panthers return team faces a mediocre punter in New England's Ken Walter (considered by some to be the team's biggest weakness). The kick return units cancel each other out, as New England's fine return team faces a Panthers team that is very stingy in yards given up on runbacks. When the Pats are kicking to the Panthers, both units fall into the "good but not great" category. The man to watch here, of course, is Rod Smart. Both placekickers are good ones (the uberclutch Adam Vinatieri and the playoff's leading FG kicker John "Cousin Sal" Kasay. Both will play a big part in this game.
Look for a big game from: both kickers, Givens, He Hate Me, the Panthers DLine, and the Pats Secondary
Patriots 23 (TDs by Givens and Antowain Smith and three FGs by Vinatieri. And yes, this did say 22 before. I forgot to take into account the fact I suck at math.)
Panthers 16 (a Smith TD and 3 Kasay FGs. Yes, this did say 4 FGs before. Wow have I been out of school for a long time.)
MVP: Givens. Why? Because this is my site and I went to school with him.
Transaction Wire Part DeuxYankees sign Tyler Houston. Wow, you know the market is hurting when this is the best guy the Yankees can get to play third. Or maybe everyone has finally wised up and realize that the Yankees are evil. Or, (here we go, this is it) maybe Brian Cashman is trying to get fired so he doesn't have to see the Brian Cashman face on Sportscenter every night.
Tigers make an offer to Pudge Rodriguez. Last year when he signed with the Marlins, no one thought it was a good idea, since Rodriguez was terrible with handling young pitchers. He did OK, but if the Tigers don't win this year (and they won't - Rondell White, Fernando Vina, and Pudge aren't the answer), Rodriguez won't be happy, and that means he'll be out the door by the trade deadline. He did OK hitting in a pitchers/doubles park last year, so he'll theoretically do alright again this year. He won't be great offensively in the AL, however, but he will do better than Mendoza line sitters Brandon Inge and Mike DiFelice.
NL West preview and Era of Ara coming up. Enjoy the weekend, Julius and the All Star Challenge, the commercials, and the game.