Bumped from 3:30pm 02.03.05 to include the UPDATE.
ESPN's EJ Hradek is reporting the season will officially be cancelled.
This is the last minute remaining in the third period.
Super Bowl Notes, Part VI
PART I - PART II - PART III - PART IV - PART V
I just spent the last 45 minutes catching up on Bill Simmons' Ever Long Super Bowl Blog. Yes, of course Jacksonville sucks. I live only 3 hours away, could have had a free place to stay, and don't yet have any other plans for the big game but for the last four weeks I haven't once considered driving up there to see the spectacle. Back to Bill:
The Eagles line up for their team photo, which I'll be hanging over my fireplace -- along with photos of the 2002 Rams and the 2004 Panthers. Thanks for coming, guys. (Whoops, I sound like a Yankees fan again. Sorry.) By the way, the Eagles were extremely loose during Media Day. As Paul said, "They are the QUINTESSENTIAL happy-to-be-there team." Don't blame me, I'm just the messenger.
I've thought about this for a bit and I still can't figure what he means by this last statement. I'm assuming he thinks it's a good thing for him that the Eagles are loose since he's obviously rooting for New England. But if they weren't being 'happy to be there', wouldn't it be worse if they were nervous and uptight?
Almost two weeks ago, when Corey Dillon put the Pats up by two touchdowns with his 25 yard TD run halfway through the third quarter, New England had so much of the Super Bowl momentum going their way, oddsmakers debuted the line at 6.5 and quickly adjusted it to 7 after getting hammered from the Pats' side. It's always important to remember that lines are not based on how much their makers think one team will win by, but by how far they can push away from the favorite and still draw the big money from its supporters.
So after almost two weeks of Terrell Owens versus The Dynasty, people are finally starting to talk about the Eagles' chances.
Andy Reid is a top-tier NFL coach who has an undefeated record (10-0) when given an extra week to prepare for a game. Philly's offensive line is one of the more talented and cohesive groups in the league and their quarterback's nickname is 'Superman.' I don't think anyone doubts that the Patriots should be the favorite, but by 7 points?
These Eagles aren't a fancy team that only seems to blow people out at home (ah, Colts?). Philly has made it to four straight NFC Championship Games even though at times over those four seasons they've played some pretty ugly football. Their offense has been plagued by it's obvious perimeter weaknesses and their defense has been known to give up easy yards up the middle. But 11-5, 11-5, 12-4, 12-4, 13-3; that's their record since 2000. Dynasties aren't defined by teams who win just 2 or 3 Super Bowls, but by teams who contend for a decade. Andy Reid's Eagles are almost halfway there.
I've spent most of the last two weeks on this site looking at stats that have ended up favoring mostly the Patriots. What that research has shown me is New England beats everyone, equally. They aren't vulnerable to one kind of offensive philosphy and they don't dominate against any particular team or division. They just execute their responsibilities better than their opponents. The Patriots win because they are coached to force teams into mistakes, and not make any themselves. But with the record the Eagles have put up over the last 5 years, Philly is also a proven winner and they have shown that they can beat all kinds of teams, through all kinds of adversity. I think the Eagles will be able to keep the score close.
In close games, two stats can usually point you to the winner. Red Zone % and turnover ratio. On offense this year, the Eagles finished with a third best, 64% touchdown rate inside the 20 yard line. New England was not far behind in sixth place at 58%. Defensively, ESPN threw up a stat that said that NE and PHI are #1 and #2 in red zone defense. I've looked around online for a page to reference that but I can't seem to find one, so I'll just have to accept it as fact and hope that they were right. So with both teams in the top 6 of red zone offense and defense, it's again a statistical push. In terms of turnovers, during the 2004 regular season, NE was a +9 in turnover margin and the Eagles were +6. Again, push.
Finally, it's becoming very clear that I'm not going to find a statistical edge that will show that the Pats can be beaten if Philly does (blank), or vise versa. Remember back to last year's Super Bowl, when both teams spent the entire first and third quarters playing things safe in order to determine how to beat the other side. That paid off for both, because the second and fourth quarters were a blitzkrieg of points.
Let's recap some stats. The Eagles are 4-2 since 2002 against 3/4 defenses but have averaged only 17.7 points in those six games. The Pats are 9-4 since 2002 (but 7 out of their last 7) against teams with west coast offenses. They've given up an average of 17.7 points in those 13 games. I didn't make that up. 17.7.
Here's a new stat. The Eagles, despite their cozy NFC schedule, faced the #1 (Pitt), #5 (Wash, twice), and #6 (Balt) points allowed defenses this year. In those four games, they averaged 15.75 points scored. If you throw in to that equation the highly touted Atlanta defense (because the Falcons' PaPG was inflated by two blowout losses), the Eagles average points scored per game goes to..... 18. I'm disappointed it wasn't 17.7.
I really think this is a 24-17 game but I don't really have a strong opinion yet on who will win. If Freddie Mitchell would just shut up, I would lean towards the Eagles because that's where the value is. But how does one go against this New England team in a game that everyone is saying that will define their 'dynasty' ? So for now, I'm looking at splitting my bet in half; putting one part on the Pats -1 and under 54 (6.5 point tease) and the other part on the Eagles +14 and under 54 (another 6.5 point tease).
Officially, however, I'm waiting until at least Sunday morning. I obviously like under 54, but I can't pick a side just yet because too much can happen between now and then. A smart thing to do right now, though, is to take advantage of the value of the Eagles line. Take them +220 and wait until the game starts to see how TO is doing and how the Pats are doing. Chances are if this game starts like I think it's going to start, anyone who shops at a book that offers in-game lines should be able to get the Patriots around -3 by the 2nd quarter. More to come on Sunday.
Another reason to like the Patriots over the Eagles: AFC teams were 44-20 against the NFC this season, a .688 winning percentage that ranks as the best in interconference play since 1979.
The AFC's six playoff teams were 21-3 against NFC opponents this season. Teams from the NFC that made the playoffs were 11-13 against the AFC.
The Patriots were 4-0 against the NFC; Philadelphia was 2-2 against the AFC.
From TSN, this is where they stand:
Term: A six-year deal, not including the balance of this season (if there is to be one), with a provision that would allow the NHLPA to unilaterally terminate the CBA after four full seasons.Now, it should only be a matter of time until the actual proposal is made and then it's all a matter of time, something that is now going to be in short supply in terms of saving a season.
Salaries: The league is proposing cost certainty or a team-by-team salary cap, linked to 55 per cent of league revenues. The salary range would have a floor of $32 million and a cap of $42 million, although those figures are slightly misleading as the cost for player benefits (health care, insurance etc.) are also to be included in the salary range. Since the average costs per team for player benefits is in excess of $2 million per year, the actual range for player salaries would be between $30 million and $40 million. But if overall league spending on payroll and benefits exceeds 55 per cent of league revenues, the NHLPA would be obliged to pay back the league the overage from an escrow account. Likewise, if the league spent less than 55 per cent on player compensation, the league would be obliged to make a top-up payment to the NHLPA from the NHL's escrow account.
Luxury tax: The NHL is not proposing a luxury tax but said it would negotiate one if the players really wanted it, but there is apparently no implication that that the league would abandon cost certainty in favour of a tax proposal. Obviously, the players have no interest in a tax system if cost certainty remains in effect. That would change, of course, if the tax system replaced cost certainty, but there's no indication from the league that is about to happen.
Profit sharing: This is a new concept. The league apparently proposed that the NHL and NHLPA appoint a joint auditor to determine mutually agreeable league revenues and profits and that the owners and players would share all profits equally (50-50) in excess of $115 million. The NHL also proposed a heavy fine (using dollars and draft picks) system for teams found guilty of under-reporting revenues and profits.
Revenue sharing: The NHL did not outline a specific revenue sharing plan, but said it would commit whatever dollars are necessary to ensure that small-market teams are able to spend the required dollars to meet the $32 million floor of the payroll range. The expectation is that any NHL revenue sharing plan would be based on a redistribution of playoff monies, not regular season revenue to any great extent.
Salary arbitration: Not only would players be able to file for arbitration, teams would have the option of taking a player to arbitration. This two-way or mirror-image arbitration would have no limits on the size of the awards, but there would be a choice of having one or two or three year arbitration awards. Teams would have the right to walk away from one arbitration award in a specified period, which would make the player an unrestricted free agent. Players would have the right to walk away from one arbitration award in a specified time period, but the player would be obliged to take the team's qualifying offer of 75 per cent of last year's salary.
Qualifying offers: Teams would be obliged to offer 75 per cent of a player's salary from the previous season in order to keep that player's restricted free agent's rights. In the expired CBA, qualifying offers were either 100 or 110 per cent, depending on whether the player was making more or less than the league average annual salary.
Entry-level restrictions: The NHL proposed a four-year entry level system (up one year from the old ELS of three years) with a salary and signing bonus cap totaling no more than $850,000 per year. There is a provision for a maximum of $100,000 in A level bonuses and $250,000 in B level bonuses. Which is to suggest the absolute maximum any entry-level player could make would be $1.2 million per year.
Guaranteed contracts: Buyout provisions (at two thirds of remaining salary) would remain the same as the last CBA.
Unrestricted free agency: The age for unrestricted free agency would drop from 31 to 30.
Of the seven Super Bowls played under the one-week format, the average margin of victory is 11.6 points. The average victory margin in the 31 two-week Super Bowls is 16.8 points. Of the seven one-week Super Bowls, four (57 percent) were decided by 10 points or fewer and three (43 percent) were decided by seven points or fewer. The 27-point Tampa Bay rout of Oakland (48-21) two years ago was the largest margin in a one-week Super Bowl.Saunders also talked with a member of the 1985 New England team that rode a wild-card birth all the way to the big game, but had to wait the extra week:
...by the time the Patriots took the field to play the Super Bowl Shuffling Chicago Bears at the Superdome, the Patriots had little left to give. 'Da Bears, 15-1 during the regular season, blew away the Pats, 46-10.This '85 Pats story reminds me of last year's Super Bowl, when the Panthers gave New England all they could handle. After looking at the history of the one week versus two week debate, it's not too hard to come to the assumption that had the Pats had an extra week to, 1) prepare and, 2) slow Carolina's momentum, the outcome of the game would not have been as close as it was.
In the opinion of former Patriots fullback Craig James, the two-week gap between the Patriots' impressive 31-14 victory at Miami in the AFC title game and Super Bowl XX destroyed any chance the Patriots had of upsetting the mighty Bears.
"Our momentum changed," James said last week. "Both teams were equal coming out of the conference championship games - in terms of momentum. But that two-week gap seemed like an eternity."
Two of the big statistics you will hear ad nauseam over the next week are Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's 8-0 postseason record and Belichick's 9-1 mark in the playoffs, matching the postseason record of legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi.
A number in the Eagles' favor: Coach Andy Reid is 10-0 whenever he has had an extra week to prepare his team. The Eagles are 7-0 in the regular season after an off week and 3-0 after a bye week in the postseason.
Belichick is 9-7 after a week off, which includes a 4-0 record in the playoffs.
Instead a creating a new post for each day, picking basketball games will just fall under this cumulative thread until further notice. The most recent picks will be placed at the top.
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