2.01.2007

The Office Pool: Super Bowl Sunday

by Rick Rockwell

Here we are at the end of the National Football League (NFL) season and this column has performed about like the Baltimore Ravens: respectable regular season numbers, but subpar once the playoffs began. (Actually, the Ravens' winning percentage far exceeds this column. Maybe a comparison to the Seattle Seahawks would be more accurate.) Check the last column if you want to tally the scorecard. None of our favorites made the big dance. But call the dance we must.

Playoffs: .400
This Season: .586

This Super Bowl fills me with mixed emotions. First, I am happy we have the historic moment where two African-American coaches have led their teams to the championship. This will quiet some of the racism that can be found in some corners of sports bars. Of course, both of these men are great coaches. After this, maybe we can leave the questions of race behind and just talk about good coaches, good players and good teams.

Because neither of these teams was among my favorites, picking a winner is a bit harder. My heart wants the Bears to win. Having lived in Chicago a time or two, the city is due for another Super Bowl champ. Also, anyone living close to Baltimore who is willing to support the Colts doesn't remember what the Irsay family did when it pulled up stakes and moved to Indianapolis in the dead of night. From this year's playoffs, it is obvious those scars have not healed.

But my head says the Colts are going to win this game. All my football sense tells me this. Frankly, Coach Tony Dungy and quarterback Peyton Manning are tired of hearing they are the league's biggest choke artists. Their win against the Patriots two weeks ago (a team that had obviously left most of its best in San Diego, and decimated by the flu could only really play one great half of football) proved they don't have any quitting in them this season. The Colts' offense is formidable. They have learned to adjust even to the best defensive schemes -- something that was obvious in that game against the Patriots too. The offense is more than Manning. The line provides solid protection and has proved in the playoffs that it can open running lanes at the perfect times to swing a game. Also, the Colts' defense has played championship football throughout the playoffs, and seem like a different squad than the one that couldn't tackle during the regular season.

If this were the regular season, I would have said the Bears have the team designed to stop the Colts: staunch defense and a team that can run the football down your throat. During the conference championship against the Saints the Bears reverted to 1930s style football: all runs on one drive before stuffing it into the endzone. Nothing fancy. Back to the Monsters of the Midway as they punch their way to dominance.

However, the Colts decimated two teams in the playoffs that have similar foundations: the Chiefs and the Ravens. So the Colts have already beaten teams like the Bears playing at a high level in these playoffs.

And then there's Rex Grossman, the Bears' quarterback. Grossman is young and inconsistent. He is the weak link in the chain. If any quarterback folds under pressure in this game it will be Grossman. Just one mistake will be enough to hand the Colts the win.

Hard hitting middle linebacker Brian Urlacher and his mates on the Bears' defense will keep this one close, but despite what my heart tells me, the cold calculations that make the Colts an offensive machine add up to a win for Indianapolis.

Prediction: The Colts win by a touchdown. Enjoy the big game!






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