Thursday, January 17, 2013

It's Hard Not to Be Ridiculously Optimistic About the Patriots

I'm trying not to get my hopes up too high. I'm trying to stay grounded the week before the AFC Championship game. I'm reminding myself of the 2009 playoffs when Baltimore came here and beat the Pats. Despite the effort to prevent over-optimism, I just can't help myself. Here's why:

The Ravens have played 9+ quarters of playoff football in 2 weeks. Their key defensive players are old, and will have to keep pace with a frequently up-tempo Patriots offense, which has played 4 quarters in 2 weeks. At some point attrition must take its toll.

Joe Flacco is Baltimore's quarterback. He's hit or miss, sometimes great, sometimes completely ineffective. The Ravens are good enough to win without him (See the aforementioned 2009 playoff game against New England), but after two great playoff performances, he's overdue to crap the bed.

The Patriots have a much better secondary than in their Week 3 loss to Baltimore. Flacco threw for 382 in that 31-30 Ravens win. That was when Devin McCourty was a cornerback, not a safety. Aqib Talib was a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. And Alfonzo Dennard was out with a hamstring injury. Baltimore had 10 pass plays of 20+ yards in that game, 4 of 30+ yards, and 2 40+ yarders. Not to mention a 27 yard pass interference penalty on McCourty.

Now, with Talib and Dennard as the corners, and McCourty as a safety, things are much better. The defense keeps the play in front of them. They tackle well. Talib can play man coverage. Which is more likely, Flacco throwing for 380 yards? Or being intercepted by McCourty?

I'm not being a Dan Shauhgnessy and guaranteeing a steamroll victory. I actually think the game will be close until the 4th quarter. And the Patriots can certainly lose. They can fumble the ball, miss tackles, get confused on coverage, and make enough mistakes to allow Baltimore to win.

But if the Patriots play at or near their best, then how can Baltimore win? How can Joe Flacco and a tired defense prevail? It seems impossible.

I Have No Pity for Manti Te'o

You know the story. Notre Dame linebacker and Heisman finalist Manti Te'o was tricked into thinking his online girlfriend was real, and then died of leukemia. The truth was revealed to him in December and now it's finally become public news. And now Te'o is the subject of memes and cracks on Twitter.

While some people make light of what happened, others have expressed sympathy for Te'o. I, however, feel no sympathy, pity, empathy, or any compassion for him at all.

When most people get tricked online, it throws their lives into shambles. They get their identity stolen and lose money and see their credit-rating shattered. Some people see themselves in nude pictures or sex-tapes on the internet. This affects them forever. They struggle to borrow money, get jobs, et cetera. Some people have to move to different towns after something horrible happens to them on the internet.

All that happened to Te'o is that he got embarrassed. Hence the jokes and memes. If this had been serious, if Te'o had truly been permanently wounded by this, then people wouldn't be so fast to mock.

He'll still be drafted by an NFL team, still make tons of money, still have an opportunity to be with the real woman or women of his choosing. That's more than can be said for most of us. So I don't feel sorry for Te'o, not one iota.