It's impossible to predict, for sure, but ballpark estimations figure to be around 1.3 million words written and spoken this week in anticipation of Sunday's Pats-Jets playoff tilt in Foxborough. And yet, all the hype and pomp that you're going to get drilled with this week can be summed up in three words understandable for those who have even the bare minimum of pigskin knowledge.
Everything else is simply repetitive. After all, those three aforementioned words carry quite a bit of weight, two teams and two head coaches with a genuine animosity for each other that has been well-documented all season long, with one final meeting on tap for the ultimate last laugh.
This will be the first time since 1998 that the Patriots will play in a first-round playoff game in the light of day. Ironically, that game too was against an AFC East divisional opponent, a 17-3 win over the Miami Dolphins. Last year's game against the Jaguars took place under the lights of Foxborough on a Saturday night. In the 2001, '03 and '04 seasons, the Pats were the beneficiaries of first-round byes, each ending in Super Bowl titles.
This season, those coveted byes go to the Ravens, Chargers, Bears, and Saints, giving each a leg up in the road to the Super Bowl. And, realistically, is there any other team playing this weekend besides the Patriots that you can possibly imagine playing in Miami in February? Maybe the Eagles. Maybe.
Let's take a look at the pretenders:
Colts vs. Chiefs, Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
Chiefs coach Herm Edwards went into a rant yesterday, insisting his 9-7 team didn't back into the playoffs.
"Let's not get this thing twisted and think we backed into this deal," Edwards said. "We didn't lose, we won. Every team that played this weekend played at home and had an opportunity to get into the playoffs just like us. We just happened to win. What's wrong with that? So, let's not get it twisted and say, 'Well, they're lucky.' We didn't get lucky. We won."
Uh huh. And the Broncos lost. So, let's not lose sight of that.
Still, the Colts can't be happy to see the Chiefs in lieu of the Jets if only because Larry Johnson promises to make their defense look plain silly on Saturday. It's a rematch of a 2003 second-round playoff game, a wildly entertaining Colts 38-31 win in a matchup that featured 842 total yards, nine touchdowns, and zero punts. Zero punts. A week later, the Colts lost to the Patriots, 24-14, in the AFC Championship Game.
And so it will be Larry Johnson against the league's worst run defense. Johnson finished second in the NFL in rushing with a franchise-record 1,789 yards, and scored 17 touchdowns. Miami's Ronnie Brown became the 10th running back to eclipse the 100-yard mark against Indy this season in Sunday's loss. Yikes.
Still, even with the major Achilles’ heel, the Colts are 12-4. And they'll get by on Sunday. Just don't expect them to go too much further after that.
Prediction: Colts 32, Chiefs 28
Cowboys vs. Seahawks, Saturday at 8 p.m.
Star-Telegram reporter Mac Engel asks Dallas cornerback Terrence Newman why the Cowboys can win the Super Bowl.
"That's a stumper," he said.
It's more than that. The most hyped team of a month ago has looked suddenly pedestrian, culminating in Sunday's season-ending loss to the Lions, a game in which Terrell Owens had yet another dropped ball. Tony Romo has regressed, and Dallas gave up the NFC East title to an extremely hot Eagles team -- despite the loss of Donovan McNabb -- that has aspirations on the Super Bowl, and just could pull off a Steelers run of a year ago to get there.
Still, the Cowboys are going against a banged up Seahawks team that hardly resembles the one that played Pittsburgh in last year's Super Bowl. Oh, Shaun Alexander and Matt Hasselbeck certainly looked good in last week's win over the Buccaneers, but Seattle may have to face Dallas without either of its starting cornerbacks. Seattle Times columnist Jerry Brewer seeks an answer:
"The Seahawks have too many receivers, even with Darrell Jackson's toe hurting. Couldn't [Bobby] Engram follow New England's Troy Brown and play on defense in certain situations? Or maybe Nate Burleson is a better option. His move to return specialist has given this team a boost, so how about continuing to test his versatility?"
This one's a tossup, Seattle getting the nod by virtue of being at home. Then let the offseason soap opera begin in Dallas.
Prediction: Seahawks 24, Cowboys 21
Giants at Eagles, Sunday at 4:30 p.m.
It's one of the hottest teams in the NFC vs. a team that backed into the playoffs playing a lazy brand of football.
"Ultimately, the 4-1 start and the 5-0 finish are more accurate reflections of this team than the 1-5 patch in the middle," writes the Philadelphia Inquirer's Phil Sheridan about the Eagles. "They are good enough to be where they are."
The New York Post's Paul Schwartz, meanwhile, opines that for the Giants to win they have to truly believe they are the underdogs.
Is there really any other way to look at these jokers?
Prediction: Eagles 17, Giants 3
As for the Pats and Jets, well, we need to save a few words at least for the coming days, right?