Welcome to the brave world of NFL playoff predictions, where a writer puts his reputation for good sense and objective reasoning on the line by making a way-too-specific prediction about things to come. I feel like a weatherman, but even they have the good sense to hedge their bet.
"There is a 50% chance of rain."
What kind of prediction is that? The guy just said there is as much chance it won't rain as there is that it will. The only time a weatherman gives a 100% prediction is when he can look outside and see that it is in fact raining. Then, he takes that bold step.
But enough about the weather. This is about Super Bowl XLIV, which is to be played in Miami, where the weather is always balmy, right? You know where it will be played. You know when it will be played. Now, I am here to tell you who will be playing in it.
A Cowboys-Chargers Super Bowl is a rather chic pick at the moment. Many NFL prognosticators are liking these two teams, and for good reason. The Dallas Cowboys are the hottest team in the NFC right now as they are riding a three-game win streak and have shut out their last two opponents. They are clicking on all cylinders.
The only playoff team hotter than the Cowboys is the San Diego Chargers. The red-hot Chargers are riding a dazzling eleven-game win streak—a streak that includes victories over three playoff teams: Philadelphia, Dallas, and Cincinnati—into the postseason.
The Dallas Cowboys and the San Diego Chargers will meet in Super Bowl XLIV in Miami in a rematch between week 14 opponents. And that is why I am pushing for Super Bowl XLIV to be called Jerry Bowl I. I know, it is a year early. Jerry Jones and his Cowboys Stadium aren't set to host the Super Bowl until next year, but that will be Jerry Bowl II.
Jerry Bowl I should be dubbed because it will feature the coach Jerry Jones hired, Wade Phillips, and the coach most fans thought he would and should have hired, Norv Turner. Jerry figured he had already put his offense into good hands when he got the cart way out ahead of the horse and hired Jason Garrett to be his offensive coordinator before he even hired his head coach. He figured he needed someone to shore up his defense. So he went Wade rather than Norv.
Come Feb. 7, Jones will get the ultimate view of the offense he eschewed against the defense he chose. He will see his "what might have been" coaching against his "what is."
And it ought to make for a classic.
The Cowboys Road To Miami
After the Cowboys complete a season sweep of the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday, they will begin preparing for the most difficult leg of their journey. Oh, I know Philly won't be a cakewalk—or shouldn't be. I know they will make adjustments. I also know this is week 18. They are what they are...and what they are isn't good enough. The Cowboys will beat them again, and do it in front of the loudest Cowboys crowd since the early '90s.
The most difficult leg of the journey will come in week two, when they go to Minnesota to play the very dangerous Vikings in that phone booth called the Metrodome with 60,000 screaming purple-painted, all-of-a-sudden Favre fans. Adrian Peterson and a stingy defense will test the Cowboys' mettle, however, the key to the 'Boys' win over the Vikings will be Brett Favre, Sr. being harassed, molested, assaulted, and harried into making costly mistakes while Brett Favre, Jr. (aka, Tony Romo) avoids said mistakes.
The Cowboys will be glad to get out of Minnesota with a victory and at least some of their hearing.
I like their chances in the NFC Championship game, whether it is at home hosting the Green Bay Packers or Arizona Cardinals, or on the road against the New Orleans Saints. The most trying scenario would definitely be going into the Superdome to face a potent—and pissed-off—Saints' offense, surrounded by the most rabid, oiled-up, mad-for-any-kind-of-hope fans in the known universe.
Still, whether in Minnesota, New Orleans, or home sweet ninth wonder of the world, I like the Cowboys chances because they have a havoc-wreaking, slow-to-give-up-points defense. Most every team in the playoffs will be led by a more-than-capable quarterback, or they wouldn't be there.
The difference this time of year usually starts with a "D," and the D is big in Dallas.
The Chargers' Path to Glory
For the San Diego Chargers, the object is clear. Win that first game at home, whether it is Cincy, Baltimore, or New England. Just hold serve at home. Their cause will be aided by the fact that some eastern time zone team is going to have to travel west, after having played in the wild card round while the Chargers were sun-bathing on the lovely San Diego beaches.
Round two for the Chargers is the last step to the Big Game. Either they will play it in Indy, or they will play whomever they play at home. You have to figure that going to Indianapolis would be the biggest challenge. Only, the Chargers seldom seem to mind playing the Colts in the playoffs, wherever the game is played. They have beaten Manning (which, let's face it, you are playing the Man, not the team; he IS the team) once at home and once in Indy in the past two postseasons.
The Chargers don't mind going to Indianapolis so much. The Chargers are a warm weather team, and the Colts have the decency to at least play indoors, which means 70 degrees, which is the exact temperature it always seems to be in sunny San Diego. Besides, the Colts picked up and left the east coast all those years ago and settled in the Midwest. That makes the commute much nicer and the jet lag nonexistent.
The Super Bowl Itself
I know what you want here. You want me to man up and predict who will win Jerry Bowl I.
OK. Fine. But I will have to make two predictions here: the one my heart tells me to make, and the one my head insists upon. Here goes:
The Heart says, Cowboys win 24 - 21.
The Head says, Chargers win, 24 - 21.
Wait a minute! That is like one of those 50-50 predictions.
Guess I am more like a weatherman than I thought.