The best NFL analysts don’t just tell you what they think or saw, but talk insightfully about how they came to their conclusions.
Tedy Bruschi is one of the few that takes it to an even higher level than that.
He actually shows his work.
When Bruschi, who spent 13 seasons as a popular Patriots linebacker and has now been at ESPN for 10, was asked how he sees the defending champions faring this year, he didn’t just predict that they would at least return to the Super Bowl. He talked through the steps of how they would make it happen.
“If you go through the equation and all the steps, which I do sometimes, you ask yourself, ‘OK, do you see them winning the AFC East?’,’’ he said. “Well, I really don’t have any doubt with that in my mind. The Jets could be a little more competitive, but still, they win the AFC East.
“The next question is, are they going to be competitive for the bye? I say yes, they’ll be in the running for the top two seeds. Let’s assume they get the bye.
“Then, is there anyone that can come in and beat them in the divisional round? By that time, they’ll be playing their best football, like they usually are at that time of year, and they’ll be at home. I still think they make the AFC Championship Game.
“So if they’re in the AFC Championship Game, who could give them a tough time? There are a couple of teams that could give them a tough time. Everyone is talking about Kansas City and how good they are, and there are a couple of the other usual suspects in the AFC.
“But if they’re at home against Kansas City, or even on the road like last year in the AFC Championship game, do I think Kansas City could make a big mistake, like some Andy Reid teams I’ve always watched? Or if it’s Pittburgh, or the Los Angeles Chargers? I still pick New England to win that game.
“And I’m really trying to look at this as objectively as I possibly can, but I do see them in the Super Bowl at least.’’
While Bruschi, 46, expects to be watching a typically excellent season from the Patriots, he’ll be doing so in a slightly different role at ESPN.
In March, it was announced that he would join “Sunday NFL Countdown,’’ the network’s signature NFL program, replacing Charles Woodson. It’s a promotion for Bruschi from his longtime role on “NFL Live.’’
“Moving to Sunday has been talked about before in my conversations with some people there but it never really was OK for me to give up my weekends with my kids at a certain times,’’ said Bruschi, who has three teenaged sons with his wife, Heidi. “Things sort of are changing, and my kids get older and we felt like it was it was the best move for both sides.
I’m excited for it I’ve never got Sundays before. I’m a place in my life where Sundays is something I can do.’’
Bruschi joins a “Sunday NFL Countdown’’ cast that includes host Sam Ponder, former teammate Randy Moss, Massachusetts native Matt Hasselbeck, and Jets and Bills ex-coach Rex Ryan.
He’s known all of them for years, and said it’s already “so fun’’ working with Moss, his teammate on the Patriot in 2007 and ’08. But just to make that they formed a cohesive unit when the season began, ESPN sent the “Sunday NFL Countdown’’ squad on a team-building exercise far away from the Bristol, Conn. campus.
“They sent us out to North Carolina and we had some meetings out there and a few bonding sessions and throwing axes and white water rafting and stuff.’’ He laughs. “We never did this for NFL Live.’’
Bruschi suffered a stroke on July 4, his second. (His first occurred during his playing days in 2005.) The signs were recognized quickly, which likely minimized the effect of what was diagnosed as a transient icschemic attack, or a mini-stroke. He said he’s doing well and back to running and doing everything he did before.
“I’m feeling great, and I’m looking forward to the new season and role,’’ he said. “I think it’s going to be really good. Our personalities are different. We’ve got the quarterback and we’ve got the Hall of Fame wide receiver, we’ve got the outspoken head coach. I guess I’m fulfilling the Patriot role. I don’t know how to characterize myself as a personality. But I’ll be doing what I’ve been doing for 10 years, being myself.’’