Photo: Brady is congratulated by Patriots coach Bill Belichick after New England beat the Colts 44-13 in Brady's first career start on Sept. 30, 2001. Victoria Arocho, AP. From usatoday.com at this address.
Just a quick post about today's game, due to start in about 2 hours. Any given Sunday, of course, but:
--I'll pat myself on the back for a second: long before the Vegas oddsmakers made the Pats a 3-point favorite, I said weeks ago that the Pats would win a close one by 3.
--My overall score pick: Pats, 40-37 or 41-38. High scoring game, and by 3. That's been my stance since both teams won two weeks ago.
--Why? Overall, because the offenses may cancel each other out, but the Pats defense is better. It's that simple.
--The Falcons were bad against the run this year. The Patriots, surprisingly, were in the top-5 rushing. The Falcons' running game was average at best.
--The Falcons were a good, but average good, 11-5 this season. The Patriots were 11-5 a few years ago and didn't make the playoffs. So 11-5, while good, doesn't knock me outta my socks.
--Sure, the Patriots schedule this year may have been easier than that of the Falcons (or of anyone, really), but that doesn't mean it's not a great team. They had a hiccup of two games in there, one of which they lost with Brady, but overall it's possible they were a great team with an easier schedule.
--The schedule thing evens out, by the way. Next year could be brutal.
--The Patriots also have an edge with experience. An inexperienced team can win, of course--like the Patriots in 2001. But I'll take it when it's used mentally and productively, which Belichick and Brady seem to do. They visualize and channel well. Brady in particular could have a post-sports career on the self-help lecture circuit.
--Speaking of Belichick, he's an edge, too. His reputation precedes him and it can mess with you. Just ask Pete Carroll and Marshawn Lynch. Belichick is one of the few coaches whose name is as well known as his best players. Who's the Falcons coach? (Atlanta, don't answer that.)
--The Falcons have one truly great receiver. The Patriots have 3--and 4 if you count The Gronk, who--of course--isn't playing.
--Another edge the Patriots have is the very large chip on Brady's shoulder. It's actually about boulder size, and can be seen for miles with the naked eye. I mean this, by the way, as a compliment. The man is a HOFer, a millionaire perhaps literally hundreds of times over, is married to a gorgeous supermodel, has incredible homes and cars, is famous outside the sport--and he's as angry and petulant as a foot-stomping teenager. Except, he focuses better and is more driven, but still...Most guys in his position would've mailed it in a long time ago. Not him. He wants to be perfect, and believes he can be (and often is, on the field), which is why he may come across as arrogant and bossy. But he's earned the right to be that way on the field. His players like and respect him, which is all that really matters.
--Though I can do without his politics. Curt Schilling needs to step away from the political mike, too.
--By the way, Brady went on vacation for those 4 games, all over Europe, with his gorgeous supermodel wife and his undoubtedly perfect kids. If Roger Goodell thinks that's punishment, he doesn't understand the word or the concept. And, note to Goodell: The Patriots were 3-1 in those 4 games. And good job finding, finally, the right judge for you. How many millions of lawyers' fees did that cost you? Because Brady's were paid by Robert Kraft, who has more money than God--and much, much more than Roger Goodell.
MVP: Brady. Possibly Hogan, if he repeats his AFC game.
Still, it'll be a close one. Either team could, and maybe should, win. Having said that, Patriots by 3 in a high-scoring game, 41-38.
I've got a small pile of dirt from my backyard in a little cup, in case I need to eat some in about 5 hours.