Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Super Bowl XXXIX Preview

Eagles Rush Offense vs. Patriots Rush Defense

The Eagles ran for 1639 yards this year, 4 more than Corey Dillon had in less than 16 games. This isn't a pound it out team. Brian Westbrook (812 yards, 3 TD) will get the brunt of the carries, but Dorsey Levens (410 yards, 4 TD) will get his fair share. But Levens really isn't a role player - the "big back" or short yardage guy - he's used whenever. Aside from Westbrook and Levens, Donovan McNabb has strategically rushed for 220 yards this year. With 3 rushing touchdowns, he's always a threat in the red zone.
The Patriots gave up 1572 yards on the year, which comes to less than 100 yards per game. They chiefly employ a 3-4. The 3-4 isn't used by many teams, but those who do use it use it very well (the Steelers are another example of this - have you ever seen a team with a bad defense run the 3-4?). If necessary, though, the Pats aren't afraid to put 9 guys in the box, or even 2 guys in the box.

Patriots Rush Offense vs. Eagles Rush Defense

Dillon was the workhorse for New England this year. In addition to his 1635 yards, he also had 12 touchdowns. Kevin Faulk had 255 yards in a spot role. Everyone's a player in this offense, too - fullback Patrick Pass had 39 carries this year, abnormally high for a "no-name" fullback these days.
The Eagles, meanwhile, are not known for their run defense. Somehow, though, only Mike Martz and Butch Davis of all people were able to figure that out this year. Philadelphia gave up 1903 yards on the ground this year. Weis knows how to play on an opponent's weaknesses, so look for a steady dose of Dillon in this one.

Eagles Pass Offense vs. Patriots Pass Defense

Will Terrell Owens play or won't he? Doesn't God have better things to do than talk to spoiled loudmouths? I'm sure Bill Belichick and Romeo Crennel realize that even if he plays, TO won't be much more than a decoy. Who's the guy to stop then? Brian Westbrook. Westbrook is a Marshall Faulk-in-his-prime style threat out of the backfield. Do the Patriots have a linebacker athletic enough to cover him? Will Crennel just settle into a zone? Or will we see Kevin Faulk's debut as a DB spying Westbrook? Besides Owens and Westbrook, McNabb has distributed most of the remainder of his 3875 yards and 31 TDs between Todd Pinkston (676 yards, 1 TD), Freddie Mitchell (377 yards, 2 TD), LJ Smith (377 yards, 5 TD), and Chad Lewis (267 yards, 3 TD). Chad Lewis, of course, is out as well, moving Jeff Thomason to backup TE.
Facing the team that no longer has any receivers is the team that no longer has any DBs. The pass defense, and really the defense as a whole, revolves around the linebackers. New England had 45 sacks this year, led by Willie McGinest with 9.5 and Mike Vrabel with 5.5, Patrolling the middle of the field will be leading tackler and safety Rodney Harrison. The Patriots as a team gave up 3400 yards in the air this season.

Patriots Pass Offense vs. Eagles Pass Defense

Will Charlie Weis go to the air when former ND assistant Jim Johnson tries to crowd the box? If he does, he has a 3692 yard, 28 TD season from Tom Brady to work with. David "I thought I was his favorite receiver" Givens led the team with 56 catches for 874 yards. Right behind him is Cleveland castoff David Patten with 800 yards and 7 TDs. Deion Branch is #3 with 454 yards and 4 TDs. Daniel Graham is the red zone threat with 7 TDs, and Faulk and Pass are the threats out of the backfield.
Well, the Eagles had to do something right on defense to make it to the Super Bowl. That something right is their pass defense. Philadelphia has held their opponents to 3212 yards in the air and has recorded 47 sacks. The team sack leader, of course, is Jevon Kearse with 7.5. (Only TO could make Kearse's addition underrated.)

Special Teams

If you like kickers (ahem, Ellen), you'll love this game. Adam Vinatieri and David Akers are two of the best. Vinatieri was 31/33 with a long of 48, and Akers was 27/32 with a long of 51.
The punters are close as well, and it's hard to give an edge to either one. Josh Miller of New England had an average of 42 yards, a net of 33.7 (hoo hoo), 5 touchbacks, 19/56 inside the 20, and a long of 69. Dirk Johnson of Philadelphia had an average of 42.1, a net of 37.4, 6 touchbacks, 20/72 inside the 20, and a long of 62.
The Eagles gave up an average of 6.5 yards per punt return, and only 34 of Johnson's 72 punts were returnable. Philadelphia's kick coverage teams, however, gave up an average of 23.2 yards per kick, with a long of 75 yards. New England's punt covereage team gave up 11.8 yards per game and 1 TD. Their kick coverage gave up an average of 23.3 yards and 1 TD.
Punt return duties for Philadelphia were shared between Dexter Wynn and Reno Mahe. Mahe was the better of the two, with an average of 10.8 yards and a long of 40. The main kick returner for the Eagles was JR Reed with an average of 23.1 and a long of 66 yards. Kevin Faulk actually got the majority of the punt returns for New England this year, not Troy Brown. Faulk averaged 6.7 yards with a long of 16, while Brown had an average of 6.9 yards and a long of 23. The Patriots' top kick returner was the speedy Bethel Johnson (Bethel's such a nice returner). Johnson had an average of 24.8 yards, with a 93 yard TD return.

Look for a big game from
Brady, Dillon, Givens, Bethel Johnson, Troy Brown, Harrison, Vinatieri Westbrook, Pinkston, Dhani Jones, Akers.

Patriots 33, Eagles 27

Transaction Wire

  • Marlins sign Carlos Delgado. I probably should have guessed this when I didn't see Delgado on Dave's fantasy team. And Dave - no "I hate you" cheap shot on the message board - you already got Beltran and Pedro. You'll have to live with...

  • Mets trade a prospect to the Red Sox for Doug Mientkiewicz. Mientkiewicz has shown that he can put a solid hitting season together - he should at least be good enough to fit in an NL lineup.

  • Pirates sign Ben Grieve. Andy, all I can say is this: hey, at least your football team is doing well. And the NHL lockout can't last forever.

  • Cubs trade Sammy Sosa to the Orioles for Jerry Hairston, Jr. and two prospects. The general feeling was that the Sosa-Chicago marriage was over. Hairston and Brian Roberts were both playing well in Baltimore, but you can't put two guys at second base at the same time. (Not even in the T-ball league I played in, where everyone on the 15-20 kid team played defense the whole game - one kid at each regular infield position, and everyone else lining the outfield. If you can have 4 center fielders, I argued, why can't you have two second basemen. Eventually, I did get "promoted" to the right fielder specifically in charge of backing up throws to first base. Whoops, I'm caught in a tangent, aren't I? Moving on.) The only problem for Hairston now is another log jam, as Dusty Baker will likely find a random 35 year old second baseman to start 140 games. Sosa, meanwhile, makes the Oriole lineup look very good - I couldn't find a weak hitter at any position. Of course, quite a few of those guys, including Sosa, are nearing the end of their primes - if they aren't there already.

  • Mets sign Scott Stewart. Sorry, I ran out of "Hey, I played little league with a guy named Scott Stewart" jokes last season.

  • Cubs sign Jeromy Burnitz. He's no Mags Ordonez, but he can be a decent NL hitter when the wind's blowing out to right.

  • That's all I got, other than the Indians trading away a third base bust for a guy that Baseball Think Factory compares to Mark Lewis. I don't even want to think about that.

Bonus Ramblings

  • Remember when I mentioned that my dad knew a guy who's daughter was dating Drew Carey. Well, the guy is from Pittsburgh, and apparently he knows Dave Wannstedt well enough that "Wanny" is the godfather of the guy's other daughter. My dad has already started bugging this guy about tickets.

  • Congrats to Allen Rossum, who was named the NFC's Pro Bowl return man as an injury replacement.

  • Finally, a new entry in the "best website ever" competition - Snoop Dogg will be bringing his youth football team from California to Jacksonville to play a local all-star youth team. And, a direct quote from the site: "NFL representatives will be on hand for the official announcement of the Snoop Youth Football League (SYFL) which will begin play in the fall of 2005." I don't know what's better, the fact that there will be a Snoop Youth Football League, or the fact that the announcement needs NFL representatives on hand.