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Preview of things to come

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff November 24, 2009 09:07 AM

Normally, I hate it when someone uses the phrase, "Super Bowl preview," if only because it eliminates the nuances, factors, and physical impacts that can -- and usually will -- affect the teams in question at some point down the line. It's simply a hackneyed way to set up a story line, using hype as the pivotal analysis in lieu of a knowledgeable breakdown.

That being said, Mocha Joe, Monday is a Super Bowl preview.

That's a hunch of course, for if I could predict the future I'd have more important issues to discuss than the NFL elite (like what happens on "Lost," of course). But Monday's Patriots-Saints game isn't without parallel. New England fans should understand that. Anyone think watching that Patriots-Giants game in late December two years ago that all hell would break loose just a little more than a month later?

Now the Patriots have another chance to derail the history denied them in the desert of Arizona by David Tyree and Co. It is, of course, their second shot in a fortnight to do such a thing. The first time, let's just say it didn't work out so well.

To be honest, this one might not either. After all, until the Patriots prove they can win a road game on American soil, it's kind of difficult to boast they're going to head into New Orleans and put a dent into the Saints' current perfection.

But they will meet again.

It's the first time the Patriots will play in the Superdome since Adam Vinatieri split the uprights to beat St. Louis. Earlier that season, you might recall, the Patriots lost a closely-contested battle against the Rams that proved they could indeed hang with the offensive juggernauts. The last time the Patriots lost to an opponent in the regular season, then lost to them again in the playoffs, it was versus the Colts three seasons ago. It's not happening again this time around.

If last week's loss proved anything, it's that the Patriots should have been able to beat the Colts in their own building. Even if there is a second meeting in the AFC title game (and understanding the Colts' propensity to choke in the playoffs, that's no guarantee), I have no doubt it's the Patriots' game for the taking.

Since blowing out the Rams, 42-6 on Oct. 25, the Colts have won their last four games combined by a grand total of 10 points. The back-scratching media will probably point to that tidbit and explain that it's because patron saint Peyton Manning refuses to run up the score the way those malevolent Patriots chose to do two seasons ago. Reality argues that it means the Colts have merely been getting by recently.

So, would it be a total shock to see, oh, say San Diego, march into Lucas Oil Stadium and handle Indianapolis come January? Heck, shouldn't we expect it at this point?

That could put the AFC title game in Foxborough, depending on how things play out over the course of the regular season in San Diego and Cincinnati.

Over in the NFC, while we all fear the repercussions of what Brett Favre in the Super Bowl might mean for the ESPN family of networks, we're almost upon December, which means its prime opportunity for the Vikings and their quarterback -- both with histories of choking in key moments -- to do their thing. I still like Green Bay to make a run, and end up in the NFC title game, where they will lose to the Saints.

Could you imagine the story lines heading into the Super Bowl should it be the New England Patriots taking on the 18-0 New Orleans Saints?

Of course, that would mean the Patriots wind up losing Monday night in a game that should have significant impact on AFC playoff seeding and a first-round bye. For a team that has yet to win outside of Norfolk or London counties, that could prove an enormous issue.

But what do I know? I just put together 600 words of hype with little-to-no useful analysis. Which, I guess, ultimately proves my point.

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