AFC Title Game: Why New England Can't Lose

Scott OttersenCorrespondent IJanuary 17, 2008

It's inevitable at this point. 

For the fourth time in seven seasons, the New England Patriots WILL be playing in the Super Bowl.

Breaking down the teams, it is evident that San Diego doesn't stand a chance.

In case you don't believe me, here's the breakdown...

Offensive Lines vs. Defensive Lines

With New England having the NFL's best offensive line, it's going to be a tough task for the San Diego defense to get to Tom Brady.

In the season's first meeting, San Diego had two sacks on Brady, but neither of them came from the defensive lineman (they were both by Shawne Merriman).

The lineup of Olshansky, Williams, and Castillo are formidable when it comes to stopping the run, allowing just over 100 yards per game, but don't get much of a pass rush going.  Between the three of them, they had a total of six sacks this season.

That number is not going to rise on Sunday.

As for the New England defensive line, they aren't far from what the San Diego line is.  They don't get a lot of sacks, but they are good against the run, allowing less than 100 yards per game. They are basically there to hold up the offensive lineman, so the linebackers and defensive backs can get through to the quarterback.

But, considering the difference in offensive lines, the advantage in this category is easy to decide.

Advantage: New England


Running Backs vs. Run Defense

LaDainian Tomlinson or Laurence Maroney? 

Not a hard question.

But, how good will they do against the two defenses?

Both teams have excellent defenses. 

Both can stop the run.

Even during this "off" season for LDT, he still lead the league in rushing, averaging 92 yards per game.

In the seasons first matchup, the New England defense held him to 43 yards, on 18 carries.  That averages out to 2.4 yards per rush.

In that same game, Laurence Maroney rushed for 77 yards on only 15 carries.  That averages out to 5.1 yards per carry.

Along with Maroney, Sammy Morris rushed for 51 yards on just 10 carries.  That, also, averages out to 5.1 yards per carry.

Let's not forget that Tomlinson injured his knee in last week's matchup, and will be playing at less than 100 percent.

On top of the injury, he was struggling in the postseason,  going for just 42 yards on 21 carries against Tennessee, and only picking up 28 yards against Indy before his injury occurred.

With the way the San Diego defense is going to have to protect against the pass, there are going to be some openings for Maroney to break through for big gains.

The same can't be said for San Diego on offense.  They don't have the receiving corps to threaten the New England defense and take that extra man out of the box.

I believe, even with Tomlinson on the other bench, New England has the upper hand in this category.

Advantage: New England


Wide Receivers/Tight Ends vs. Defensive Backs

Let me make this one easy.

I will run down the wide receiving corps for each team.

For San Diego: Chris Chambers, Vincent Jackson, Craig Davis, Malcom Floyd, Kassim Osgood, Brandon Manumaleuna, Scott Chandler.

For New England: Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Donte Stallworth, Jabar Gaffney, Chad Jackson, Ben Watson, Kyle Brady. 

Which would you choose?

Now, the defensive backs situation is much the same argument.

The San Diego Chargers have two good cornerbacks in Quentin Jammer and Antonio Cromartie, but New England has already proved that neither of them can defend Randy Moss.

In the first meeting, Moss torched the defensive backs for eight catches, 105 yards, and two touchdowns.

Along with that, Welker also grabbed eight catches, for 91 yards.

In that game, Antonio Gates was San Diego's leading receiver, with seven catches for 77 yards.  And, he, himself, has said that it is unlikely that he will play on Sunday.

With Asante Samuel, Ellis Hobbs, Randall Gay, Rodney Harrison, and Eugene Wilson in the defensive backfield for New England, I like their chances of defending against the Chargers receivers more than I do the other way around.

Big Advantage: New England


Special Teams vs. Special Teams Coverage

This one is a toss up.

Both teams have good return men.

Sproles is electric for San Diego, having returned both a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown this season, albeit in the same game.

New England has Ellis Hobbs returning kicks, whose highlight of the year was his 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in Week One.  They also have had Willie Andrews return a kick for a touchdown. 

Wes Welker handles the punt return duties, and does a decent job.

But, let's face it, if you're name is not Devin Hester, any kick coverage team can stop you on any given day.

However, the New England kickoff coverage team did give up a touchdown this season, so I have to give a slight thumbs up to the Chargers.

Slight Advantage: San Diego



Does this even matter?

If it does to you, Gostkowski was 21-24 on the season, but had no attempts over 50 yards.

Nate Kaeding was 24-27 on the season, and was 1-2 from beyond 50 yards.

Advantage: Even


Quarterbacks vs. Defense

Does this even need to be argued?

Tom Brady is the best quarterback in the game right now, and has the best weapons out of any other quarterback.

The San Diego defense needs to put major pressure on Brady.  But, they need to get to him quick. Brady is so good at knowing when the blitz is coming—and where it's coming from—that he can hit Welker out of the slot before the rush gets to him. Welker will pick up positive yards, rather than Brady losing yards by taking the sack.

Rivers, on the other hand, is not in the league of Brady.  And he doesn't have the type of weapons that Brady has.  He's especially in trouble now that Gates isn't going to play—or even if he does, he won't be the typical weapon he usually is.

That's not to mention the fact that Rivers is not a sure bet to play in this game, either.  Granted, he probably will play, but he hasn't practiced at all this week.

And, if he can't go, and Billy Volek is starting for them, this argument ceases to even be debatable.

HUGE Advantage: New England


Coach vs. Coach

(that was the sound of me laughing)

This can almost be a shorter discussion than the quarterback argument.

Bill Belichick is the best coach in the NFL.

Yes, it's easy to be the best coach when you have the best players, but the way that Belichick has carouseled players in and out of the lineup each season, and still won, is something not many coaches can say they have the ability to do.

There were points in his career where he was playing a wide receiver at defensive back, for prominent minutes.  And still winning.

With all the records he's already broken, and still going to break, he might leave this game as the greatest coach of all time.  He might not get that distinction due to the Spygate ordeal, but he does deserve to be talked about in the class of Lombardi, Halas, Shula, Landry, and the likes.

Norv Turner, on the other hand, is Norv Turner.

Enough said.

Advantage: New England


This article was tough for me to write, because I'm not a Patriots fan, but I can show respect when it is deserved.

There is only one way that New England loses this game, and that is if I bet on it.  I have NEVER won a bet, in which I've put up more than $10, in my life. 

I'm not kidding.

In fact, I might dial up Vegas now.


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