January 14, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 57  

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Crunch time in NFL playoffs

What the Shuk?
Mark Polishuk

Opinions Editor

We’re only two weeks away from the Super Bowl, so let’s get the last picks in before the pre-game show starts.

The unstoppable force (the Colts’ offense) meets the immovable object (the Patriots’ defense). The Patriots got a fairly easy win over the Colts two months ago, but this is a different Indy team. They’ve scored 79 points in their two playoff games, and quarterback Peyton Manning is 44 for 56 in passing, with 681 yards and eight touchdowns. To quote Jim Ross, “mah gawd.”

The Patriots, however, will not be intimidated. New England has won 11 of their last 13 games against their old divisional rivals, showing that coach Bill Belichick knows a thing or two about keeping Manning and company off the scoreboard.
Another factor to consider will be the bone-chillingly cold in Foxboro. The dome-based Colts weren’t affected last week outdoors in Kansas City, but 51F degrees Fahrenheit is a lot warmer than the sub-zero New England winter. Look for the Pats (unbeaten since September) to cool off the Colts offense and make their second Super Bowl in three years.

Call me a biased and bitter Green Bay fan, but the Eagles didn’t win that playoff game last week; the Packers lost it by blowing numerous chances to put Philly away.

If anything, last week’s game revealed Philly as a tentative team that looks more afraid to lose than they are eager to win. Losses in the last two NFC Championship games has made this a win-or-else situation for the Eagles, lest they face a massive roster overhaul.

Compare this to the attitude of the Carolina Panthers, who are just two years removed from a 1-15 season and, while they’re certainly a hard-nosed team, they still have that aura of “happy to be here.” This lack of pressure has helped the Panthers thrive, as shown by their upset of St. Louis last week.

Speaking of pressure, the Carolina defense will no doubt be looking to duplicate Green Bay’s eight-sack performance against the weak Philly offensive line. The Eagles’ greatest strength and weakness is their quarterback, Donovan McNabb, who despite his running ability, has a Bledsoe-esque bad habit of staying in the pocket too long trying to make a pass instead of just taking off.

This week, McNabb will have nowhere to go. It’ll be the Cats and the Pats going to the Super Bowl.



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