It's amazing what you'll do to keep your mind occupied, isn't it?
Yesterday provided us with the first awful, awful reminder of what Sundays without football feels like. 1 PM came around and neither Fox, CBS, nor NBC had their usual crews of blithering idiots fawning over Tim Tebow as they tried to call games. There were no halftime shows, no postgame wrap-ups, and no highlights on SportsCenter last night. I know that I'll eventually get used to it again, and once the weather gets nicer it will be an odd relief to be able to spend a Sunday afternoon outdoors away from the stress of watching the Patriots play, but that first football free Sunday always hits me like a ton of bricks covered in dog crap and deep fried in vomit.
Yes, I know that the Pro Bowl was on yesterday. But anyone who watched more than three downs of that game will agree that the Pro Bowl is not football.
So with no football to watch and the January weather just cold enough to make me want to avoid going outside at all costs, I resigned myself to seeing what people who aren't obsessed with football watch on Sundays. And let me be the first to say - I was extremely disappointed. I always thought that the official time for re-airing the worst movies ever made was Saturday afternoon; at least it was when I was a kid. But there must have been a schedule shift somewhere along the line, because yesterday I flipped through channel after channel of what can only be described as absolute schlock for a solid hour before my thumb simply got too tired to do any more work. I ended up settling for Armageddon on FX, a movie I saw and disliked years ago. And trust me when I say it isn't any better the second time around. By the time I peeled myself off the couch and stumbled off to bed, I had logged a solid 14 hours of crappy TV as I achieved the laziest of lazy Sundays.
Now for some, this may sound like an absolute dream come true. And honestly, zoning out in front of the television isn't a terrible way to spend a cold winter Sunday. The only problem was that I just couldn't relax at all. Every time I got up to go to the bathroom, went to get more food, or turned away from Ben Affleck's bumbling ineptitude for long enough to glance at the clock, all I could think to myself was where I will be and what I'll be doing this time next week as the Super Bowl draws closer. And the more I thought about it, the more restless I became. By the time the movie was reaching its end, I almost wanted to trade places with Bruce Willis so I could just blow myself up and end all this madness.
So, I thought I would try and maintain my sanity by writing my "Silencing Hank" article this morning. I know I usually post this these on Thursday or Friday, but if any of you are even half as anxious as I am right now, it might be helpful to have these points on the table to help keep us all sane over the next few days. Plus, I'm sure Hank will be so kind as to bring even more reasons to be terrified to my attention, so I figured I'd give myself a little window of time should I need to write a Silencing Hank Redux. This week is going to go by even more slowly than last week did, and odds are I'm going to spend almost every minute of it in a jittery, nervous state of embarrassingly overzealous anticipation. Plus, if this past week of media analysis is any indicator, we're going to hear more than our fair share about the Giants pass rush and how well Hakeem Nicks is playing right now.
Hank and the media seem to be saying the exact same things this week. Coincidence? I think not.
But Alec, the Giants beat the Patriots in 2007! They have the edge over us!
Shut up, Hank. I have a shocking piece of news for you that has somehow gone unnoticed this past week. Believe it or not, this is NOT the year 2007. These are two completely different teams, and these are going to be two completely different Super Bowls. It's a rematch, and rematches are sexy, I know. But replaying that stupid helmet catch over and over and talking about Super Bowl 42 nonstop isn't going to make a lick of difference as to the outcome of this game. It's easy to get sucked in and think that Tommy B is going to spend 60 minutes on his back on Sunday the way he did four years ago- but he won't. This offense is simply a faster offense than the one that was on the field in ‘07. One of the reasons why New York was able to get to Brady so many times in that Superbowl was because of the time he needed for plays to develop. Receivers were actually fairly open during that game, but completions came at a premium because Brady simply didn't have enough time in the pocket. The 2011 Patriots are not reliant on the intermediate passes to set up the deep ball; this team is much more proficient at getting a quick release and moving the chains via short and mid-range passes. What that means is that, regardless of outcome, this is a completely different Super Bowl and we can't lose sight of that.
But Alec, how are the Patriots going to handle the Giants' pass rush? New York can create all kinds of pressure by only rushing four! That leaves seven in the secondary to disrupt routes and throw off timing!
Shut up, Hank. I don't like the prospects of what the Giants' pass rush can do to disrupt this offense any more than the next guy. But you know who else had a pretty good pass rush? The Denver Broncos and the Baltimore Ravens. I'd say this offensive line handled them OK, seeing as Brady has only taken one sack so far all postseason. New England's offensive line is playing as good as they have all year, and I can see Sebastian Vollmer FINALLY getting back out there on Sunday. Patriots' receivers are fast and knowledgeable enough to find the holes in New York's suspect secondary, even if they are able to consistently drop seven back into coverage. If Brady has time, he will take this defense apart, and there is enough beef on the front line to give him the time he needs. It's more important than ever that the line gives Tommy B time to settle and find his groove - the Pats absolutely have the personnel to expose this secondary. Don't pay attention to what the media has to say.
But Alec, Rob Gronkowski is injured! Stupid Bernard Pollard did it AGAIN! What are we going to do?
Shut up, Hank. Gronk is injured, we know. But anyone who thinks Gronk won't be out on that field and won't make a serious impact likely spent a lot of time hanging out with Aaron Hernandez in college. Gronk is going to be fine. He was walking without any kind of a limp yesterday when the team landed in Indianapolis, and players have played through much worse. Remember Terrell Owens in SB XXXIX? He played on a broken ankle with two screws in it, and he had a pretty damn good game. Players can play on an ankle sprain, and they can be effective. Plus, even hobbled, Gronkowski is a player the Giants have to account for at all times, and just his presence on the field will open things up for the other receivers. Yes, it would be nice if he was 100%, but Gronk is a talented and dedicated enough player that he will be the difference maker he has been all season.
But Alec, the Giants are red hot right now! They have all kinds of momentum coming into this game!
Shut up, Hank. Are they really that hot? The New York Giants have played very well and 100% deserve to be representing the NFC on Sunday, but they didn't exactly do it on their own merit. The Green Bay Packers did themselves no favors with an 8 drop, 3 fumble offensive performance in the divisional round, and the NFC Championship Game was one of the only times in the history of professional sports where I can accurately say that one player completely cost his team the game. Yes, the Giants have played well, but they haven't exactly done it entirely on their own. Contrary to what most media outlets are saying, the Giants didn't obliterate everyone in their path and have looked very ordinary for parts of this 2011 postseason campaign. One bounce or fumble goes differently in the last game they played, and the Giants are watching this game from home. These Giants are very, very beatable - we can't lose sight of that.
But Alec, the Giants beat the Patriots in Week 9, and they did it without Ahmad Bradshaw and Hakeem Nicks! How is this secondary going to handle Nicks, Victor Cruz, and Mario Manningham?
Shut up, Hank. Week 9 was a long time ago, and I for one am glad that that game happened. Bill Belichick isn't going to lose to the same team three times in a row. Plus, let's keep the way the Giants won those last two meetings in mind; New England had a lead late in both games, and the Giants were only able to pull out the win off some ridiculous catches and/or extremely costly penalties. New York already used up their ridiculous Hail Mary helmet catch for the postseason against Green Bay, and now that Sergio Brown is out at safety and Tracy White is out at linebacker, we don't need to worry about 45 yard PI calls that set up a playaction throw on an obvious passing situation. What I'm trying to say here is that the Giants needed a lot of magic to beat New England during their last two meetings, and based on how they've won their last two playoff games, you have to wonder how many crazy plays can possibly go their way before their luck runs out. It's hard to argue that the Giants receivers don't have the edge against this Patriots secondary, but New England's defensive unit is playing as well as they've played all year, and are truly playing as a cohesive unit. And I'll take 11 guys playing together than any one stud linebacker or shutdown corner any day of the week. Look for Julian Edelman to make his first career interception on Sunday - you heard it here first.
But Alec, what if the Patriots lose? How is that going to affect Tom Brady and Bill Belichick's legacy? And how am I going to be able to survive?
Shut up, Hank. I know how nerve-wracking this is. I know how much a Super Bowl loss hurts - we all do. But we can't focus on what a Patriots loss will mean in regards to the big picture. Tom Brady's legacy is already cemented, no matter how much the haters love to argue otherwise. This current era of professional football is completely different than the eras in which the quarterbacks Brady is most often compared to played in, and yet Brady has still been unbelievably successful. Tommy B has been in the NFL for 12 years. He didn't play at all his rookie season, and he was lost to injury in 2008. That gives him 10 active seasons as the Patriots starting quarterback. In those 10 seasons, he has led this team to 6 AFC Championship Games and 5 Super Bowls. He has done all of this in the salary cap era where he spent the bulk of his career throwing to David Patten, David Givens, Deion Branch, and Reche Caldwell. That's absolutely insane, and an achievement not likely to be repeated ever again. And even if the Patriots do lose this game, even if they get blown out and Brady gets completely dominated by the Giants pass rush and all we hear for the next 50 years is how Eli Manning is a better quarterback than Tommy B and the G-Men simply have the Pats' number and all that nonsense, it is absolutely impossible to not appreciate all of the continued success we as Patriots fans have enjoyed for the past decade. There are fans of about 30 NFL teams that would give pretty much anything just to watch their team play in one Super Bowl, let alone five in 12 years. I don't want to take this remarkable run for granted by worrying about what people I honestly don't give a damn about think a Patriots loss will mean for Brady and Belichick's legacy. I'm just trying to enjoy it for what it is and not worry about anything other than blocking out all of these New York kuckleheads stomping around the streets of this city in brand new jerseys and hats that still have the price tags on them while they try to claim that they have been Giants fans since day one.
I'm going to try as hard as I possibly can to stay positive over the next week and remain grateful that there were no Patriots playing in the Pro Bowl yesterday. Life is too short, and Super Bowls are too few and far between, to spend one second of it doing anything but enjoying myself. So let's not get nervous and let's all just enjoy ourselves!
And if any of you actually figure out how to do that, please let me know. I'm on the brink over here.
Armageddon may be coming. But I know we're going to be ready.
See what I did there? The way I tied the movie I referenced at the beginning of this article back into the ending in order to compare it to the Super Bowl? That's pretty damn clever.