By Gus Ramsey
Two worlds collide, rival nations. It's a primitive clash venting years of frustration.
- Burning Heart by Survivor
It's not Russia vs the USA. It's not Drago vs Rocky. But one of the longest running rivalries, one that doesn't get nearly enough attention, is the battle of head versus heart.
As a sports fan, this is longest running battle you can encounter. I try to be pragmatic in my fandom. I certainly want my teams to win. There are times when I talk myself into ways my teams can pull upsets or won't blow games they should win, but I always try to be as rational as possible when analyzing my teams chances for victory. If you let your heart get in the way, you end up making bets that result in you wearing a tiara and a tutu as you walk into CVS and purchase feminine hygiene products in the middle of the day. The heart is where hope lives. The head is where common sense sets up shop. So let's look at tomorrow's AFC Divisional Playoff game between the Patriots and Broncos through the scope of both my heart and my head.
CAN THE BRONCOS SLOW DOWN THE PATRIOTS OFFENSE?
HEART: Yes. They'll do it by keeping the ball on offense, winning the time of possession battle something like 35:00-25:00. Even though the Pats slowed the Denver running attack after the first quarter in their last meeting, Denver will make some adjustments and still rush for 150+ yards. On defense, they'll have a better plan for the tight ends and a healthier Von MIller will help keep the pressure on Brady.
HEAD: No. They can't afford to blitz Brady too much because he torched them when they blitzed in the last game. Right now Denver's best success with pressuring the QB comes when they bring more than four rushers, as we saw last week against Pittsburgh. There will be a huge need for Dumervill, Miller, Ayers and the other linemen to generate pressure up the middle without having to bring other people and expose the LB's and DB's in one-on-one matchups with the Patriots tight ends and Wes Welker.
CAN THE BRONCOS OFFENSE SCORE ENOUGH TO WIN THE GAME?
HEART: Yes. They just torched the #1 ranked defense in the NFL for 447 yards and the Patriots give up 428 yards a game. Clearly Denver was thwarted by their own mistakes last game, and once the deficit was too large, the Patriots ignored the threat of the running game. The Broncos won't cough it up three times in this one and should be able to score 28 points, which might be enough.
HEAD: No shot. This is Bill Belichick we are talking about. Even with a substandard defense, he is seeing a team for the second time. He knows what worked and what didn't last game. He'll make the necessary adjustments. Also, little known fact, the Patriots gave up fewer points this year than Denver, and they get back two key guys in Spikes and Chung who didn't play in the first game. The Patriots are going to score 30+ points and there is no way Denver can keep up with that.
THOSE THREE FUMBLES MADE THE DIFFERENCE IN THE FIRST GAME
HEART: You bet they did. The Broncos were ahead 16-14 and moving the ball with ease on each possession when Lance Ball gave up the first one, which New England recovered on the Denver 23. Tebow coughed up the next one at the Denver 42 and the Pats turned that into a touchdown. Suddenly Denver was down eight and came out passing in their ensuing series, leading to a three and out. Then Cosby handed over the third fumble and suddenly it was 27-16 Patriots. Game over.
HEAD: Maybe, but there is a larger point to be made. Inconsistent teams make mistakes like that. During the Tebow starting stretch, consistency has been hard to find. So while yes, the fumbles hurt, you can't just simply dismiss them as not happening again, because inconsistent teams can't be trusted. And there is this: New England had an AFC best 34 takeaways. Denver was second to last in the AFC with 30 giveaways. Not a good combination of stats for Broncos fans.
THE COLD WEATHER IS NOT A GOOD THING FOR TEBOW
HEART: The coldest weather game Tim Tebow has played in was the game at Buffalo in week 16. He came out sleeveless and tried to convince us (and maybe himself) that cold is only a state of mind. We all know the results weren't good, but it's not going to be -25 Saturday night. It'll be 10-20 degrees, the adrenaline will be pumping, he'll probably put on some sleeves and maybe a glove and he'll be fine.
HEAD: BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!! It's going to be frickin' freezing tomorrow night. The Dude is a Florida guy. My wife is from Coral Gables. When I dragged her kicking and screaming to Connecticut seventeen years ago, it took her a good two years to adapt. I understand he has been in Colorado for a few months now, but this freezing cold is not going to be a good thing.
REMEMBER ROCKY 4?
HEART: Yes, of course I do. And yes, right now Tebow is Rocky, trying to beat the unbeatable foe. Tom Brady is Drago. The rugged, unbreakable fighter with the hot wife. America is Adrian screaming at Tim, "You can't win!!" Bill Belichick is Nicoli Koloff saying stuff like, "It is physically impossible for this little team to win." Robert Kraft is the Soviet President (normally played by Billy Packer) sitting up in his box, expecting destruction. John Fox is Paulie. John Elway is Duke. He'll pull Tebow aside before the game and tell him, "The Denver Broncos were like my son. I made them. And when I retired, a part of the Denver Broncos died. But now you're the one. You're the one that has to keep the Bronco spirit alive. You're the one that's going to make sure I didn't retire for nothing. Now, you're going to go through hell. Worse than any nightmare you ever dreamed. But in the end, I know you'll be the one standing. You know what you have to do. Do it. Do it!"
HEAD: If he dies, he dies.
CAN THE BRONCOS WIN THE GAME?
HEART: Maybe. It'll take an amazing performance. Probably have to be +2 in turnovers. Probably have to win the time of possession battle by a decent margin. Someone on defense is going to have to put on a Superman cape and find a way to slow down the Patriots passing game. Plus, they have some momentum going now and a lot of confidence after beating the Steelers. If things go right, they can win something like 27-24.
HEAD: No. The Patriots are a better team, a healthier team and certainly a nearly impossible team to beat at home. It's likely that Denver will be playing catchup most of the game. I still don't see where Denver has an answer for the Patriots tight ends. It's been an amazing season, but it ends here, and it could get ugly. Patriots 38-17.
I really, really hope the Broncos win this game. I just don't see it happening.
My heart just kicked my head in the shin.