The gridiron awaits you, gentlemen.
The Baltimore Ravens and the New York Giants of the National Football League have fought their way through 20 weeks of football purgatory for a chance to play in Super Bowl XXXV. The Super Bowl festivities have enveloped this country faster than Raven defensive tackle Tony Siragusa smothering a porterhouse steak.
One more game, and one team will be left standing at the gates of football immortality. The other team will be sniffling for a ‘next year’ and grabbing their blankies faster than Linus in a pit of dingos.
This Super Bowl will be summed up in one word: defense.
The team that is destined to win will be the Ravens, without serious question. The Giants can’t win the game: they’ll soon be stitching a tent covering the city with all the banners and pennants the city has accumulated. My friend Dana from New York is a Jets fan, and I don’t think either of us can handle watching Lawrence Taylor buttering up television sets for at least the next 10 years.
The Giants stir as much emotion as reciting the “win one for the Gipper” speech. For a team with emotional players who have played flawed, if not valiant, football recently, they are devoid of character.
The Ravens remind me a lot of the Chicago Bears, only the Bears tore off Patriots’ quarterback Tony Eason’s head in the slaughter. “The Monsters of the Midway” were the greatest, most colorful Super Bowl champions of all time. But the Ravens have had their moments in the 2000-2001 season, and will have their parade in downtown Maryland if they are able to capture that moment.
No one can compete with the ‘Mouth From the South’, tight end Shannon Sharpe, who will be donning his third ring in less than a week. No player has the physical ability to slice his way to the end zone quite like Sharpe. Wide receiver Qadry Ismail is the perfect complement to the versatile Sharpe, and he is the Ravens’ strongest threat, along with wideout Pat Johnson. Johnson, a natural receiver, can pick New York apart. The Oregon star needs to put his head into the game while using his speed to help Baltimore stretch the field for the pounding Jamal Lewis
Middle linebacker Ray Lewis has those beady, snarling eyes that say, “I’m gonna k-” I’ll leave it there, but he’s got that ferocious attitude on the field that is similar to former Bear linebacker Mike Singletary. Right defensive end Michael McCrary is like Richard Dent, only Dent was more commanding. Trent Dilfer is like Jim McMahon. They’re both blowhards with no talent.
How the hell did McMahon make this column? He’s supposed to be mooning reporters at the terminal in Tampa.
Yet Baltimore does three things, and it does these three things well.
They’re faster than you, smarter than you, and tougher than you, and they are going to make you pay once you step out on that 100-yard field. They are not a pressure defense, they play a zone about 60 percent of the time in a regular 4-3 package. The efficiency of the defensive line allows Baltimore to dictate how the offense on the opposing side is going to operate. They know how they’re going to kill, and they’re going to do it. They break you until you are nothing.
Allowing 165 points in 16 games is no small feat, and 56 takeaways in the 19 games they have played is proof that they make things happen on the field.
Baltimore will pound the ball and play it safe on offense and unleash the beast of their defense this Sunday. The Giants will try to entice Dana to join them on the sideline. Baltimore, 23; New York, 5.
The Bears are simply letting the rest of the league catch up with them, cause nobody can pull off another “Super Bowl Shuffle” quite like the greatest player on the greatest team of all time, Walter Payton.
Eliav Appelbaum is the Daily Nexus Sports editor, and he’ll be thinking of sweetness this Sunday.