Superbowl XXXVIII has promise

Philip Consuegra

This Sunday, two teams will take to the gridiron to play for one of the most coveted trophies in the sports world: the Lombardi Trophy. If the game itself isn’t enough to excite you, the halftime show and commercials sure will get you pretty pumped. It’s no wonder that the most watched television event every year is the Super Bowl, with the projected number of viewers this year being well over 40 million.

This year’s festivities include Aerosmith and Toby Keith playing the pre-game show, Beyonce Knowles singing the National Anthem and Janet Jackson performing at halftime. Now I realize that Beyonce will be nothing like Whitney Houston in Super Bowl XXV and that Janet Jackson won’t be as impressive as U2 in Super Bowl XXXVI. But think of everything that goes with the awe of the Super Bowl; it’s always amazing.

It comforts me to think that there is at least one day out of every year when this great nation comes together in a celebration of American culture. This Sunday, the people of the United States put all their differences aside with one exception: which team they will root for on the field. In a year of turmoil, sadness and disunity, in a year where American soldiers are giving their lives to protect our nation, we all come back to one of the cornerstones of modern America: football. Think about it: Willie Nelson, an anti-war figure, will pair up with Toby Keith, a vehement supporter of the war to sing “Beer for my Horses.” I think that tells the story of how football can unite people.

All right, I’m off my soapbox. Now on to the game.I know all of you want to know whom I think will be successful.

The New England Patriots have come to this point by being downright gritty. Riding a 14 game winning streak, the Patriots have earned their spot simply by going out every week and winning. Tom Brady has been solid as of late, but the real story in Foxborough is the consistency of Bill Belichick’s defense. New England’s top-rated defense has allowed two touchdowns or less in each of its last six games, a statistic that Carolina should be afraid of.

No one has any doubts about New England’s passing game, as Tom Brady has solidified himself as one of the premier quarterbacks in the NFL. The one weakness that Carolina can exploit is the Patriot’s running game. New England has one of the worst running games in the league, ranking 27th in the NFL in yards, while they are 12th in attempts. If Carolina can manage to put pressure on the pass and force the Patriots to run, the Panthers have a great shot at claiming the championship.

The keys for New England will be to establish the passing game, stop Carolina’s run, and make Jake Delhomme pass more than 17 times.

The Panthers were the most underrated team in the playoffs this season. I’ll admit it, I didn’t have them getting past the Rams. They’ve made a believer out of me, winning twice on the road in two extremely hostile environments. After beating the “Greatest Show on Turf” in St. Louis and coming to Lincoln Financial Field and dismantling the heavily favored Eagles, the Panthers deserve respect. They also deserve a chance against the Patriots.

People have told me all week that Carolina just can’t come close to the Patriots. Well, I respectfully disagree. This is the best match up we could have had out of the playoff brackets. With one of the best rushing offenses in the NFL, Carolina coach John Fox will have to find a way to keep the ball on the ground and establish the run with Stephen Davis. If Davis rushes for more than 100 yards, the Panthers will have a shot. If not, it could be a long day for Delhomme.

Fans of Charlotte will be happy this Super Bowl because of the front four defensive linemen for the Panthers. For Carolina, a blitz is not necessary, since Julius Peppers, Brentson Buckner, Kris Jenkins and Mike Rucker are as good as a six-man rush. They’ll be called on to put pressure on Brady as Ricky Manning Jr., Mike Minter and Terry Cousins will have to step up to contain Deion Branch, Troy Brown and Bethel Johnson.

The keys for Carolina will be to put pressure on the passing game by making Brady scramble, establish the run and win the Special Teams’ battle.

I have lost much sleep over this pick because it really is an evenly matched game. Panthers 23, Patriots 17.