Don’t go overboard on Patriots

Jan 25, 2005 3:31 AM

The Steelers wanted to go to the Super Bowl. "Not this year."

The AFC title game was on their home turf. "Not in our house, buddy." Corey Dillon glided over the Heinz Field turf like it was his own personal ketchup bottle.

Pittsburgh had won 15 straight games with its rookie of the year, Big Ben Roethlisberger. He was looking for No. 16 last Sunday. "Not that day."

Never was a commercial so prophetic. Dillon wouldn’t allow the Steelers into the big dance. "Not today, not tomorrow, not this year." Truth be told Dillon only ran for 73 yards. But it was his third quarter, 25-yard scamper that put the hammer down on Big Ben’s clock!

The Patriots will go to their third Super Bowl in four years. The Eagles will go to their first Super Bowl in 24 years!

Denny The Dog won’t make his official selection this week. But there are several factors, which will contribute to the line being over-inflated on the Patriots side of the board.

The genius of Bill Belichick will be featured in storylines over the next two weeks. One more victory and Bright Billy will have won more playoff games than Vince Lombardi. It will be explained over again how the Pats roster is filled with high draft picks and over-the-hill free agents.

Slight hints of the truth may emerge on how New England has the best pocket-passing QB in the NFL (even though he was a sixth round draft pick and thought by many scouts to be under-sized and to have stunk it up pretty bad at Michigan). But for the most part, accounts will go on about how Belichick and his coaching staff take has-beens and tweak the game plan to adjust to any type team they happen to meet.

As this information by the public is soaked up, the Patriots betting line as the favorite goes right up with it.

I like to ignore much of the hype and take a more common sense approach to the betting line on this year’s big game. The Pats were a three point favorite over the Steelers in Pittsburgh. So that tells me if the game had been played at New England, the Steelers would have been a six or seven point underdog.

Now we move on to the neutral site of Jacksonville. The game will not, as far as I know right now, be played in Foxboro. Looking at the game from this angle, the most I would make the Pats would be a four or five point favorite.

However, as usual, that’s not the same approach taken by the powers-to-be linesmakers. The first number I saw on this game Sunday night following the NFC/AFC Championships was New England minus 6½.

The two main storylines I see on this game are in the streaks. One of the streaks fits right in with all the Pats hype. Tom Brady has been the QB in eight straight playoff wins. Brady is the best pure pocket passer, bar none. You won’t hear an argument on that statement from yours truly. That streak alone will be a difficult fact to bet against.

You can also throw in the habit (it may not be a streak but it’s close) of the Pats appearing in Super Bowls, like three of the last four! And they may be able to claim victory in all three!

The other streak worth talking about is the one just broken. The Eagles had lost three straight NFC title games. Andy Reid’s charges couldn’t get over the hump to the Super Bowl. Now he has the monkey off his back. And the Eagles did it without Terrell Owens, the player many considered most valuable.

No T.O. and the Eagles still go! Now that was an accomplishment. When Owens went down, Reid made the wise decision to rest several of his star players, who he knew the Eagles couldn’t afford to lose for the money games.

If you throw out the last two regular season tune-ups, they’re really on an eight-game winning streak. They have momentum in heading to Jacksonville.

If the line goes the way of hype, I’ll use a favorite tactic — betting against the favorites! Before you bet, remember that dogs covered the last three Super Bowls!