Is there anyone outside of the Windy City that believes in the Chicago Bears? While the fact that the Colts are heavy favorites in Super Bowl XLI is at least based on some logic as opposed to the avalanche of ridiculously premature and misguided praise for the New Orleans Saints a couple of weeks ago, the way that the Bears haven’t attracted any non-partisan believers anywhere is nauseating (as in people that actually believe the Bears are going to win as opposed to those that might be cheering for the Bears as part of the anti-Peyton Manning crowd). I know that the Bears aren’t exactly a perfect or dominating team, but they are playing arguably the worst Colts team of the past 5 years that has equally glaring or worse flaws. Let’s tackle the misconceptions that have become the “conventional wisdom” this week:
(1) “The NFC sucks. No one from that conference can beat the AFC champ.” – There’s no doubt that the NFC has been a whole lot worse than the AFC for the better part of the last decade. This past year, however, should have provided empirical evidence that knocking the quality of play of a conference or a league (which I have admittedly done numerous times) is extremely short-sighted when it comes to championship matchups. Otherwise, we’d be seeing UConn Final Four T-shirts, Dallas Mavericks NBA Champs banners, and Detroit Tigers World Series rings. In the end, it’s the individual matchups between the particular teams that matter and I believe that the Bears match up with the Colts extremely well. This leads to the second flawed piece of conventional wisdom…
(2) “Peyton Manning and his giant cranium are going to take Rex Grossman to school.” – The quarterback comparison was going to be inevitable with Manning being the most high-profile player in the NFL and Grossman having had to go through weekly psychoanalysis sessions on Chicago talk radio over the last 3 months.
Here’s the thing that people seem to forget: Peyton Manning won’t be facing Sexy Rexy head-to-head. Instead, Peyton will be taking on a top tier Bears defense that shut down the most prolific offense in football this year in the NFC Championship Game. Meanwhile, Rex will be leading the Bears offense against one of the worst run defenses in football and, better yet, practices every week against a superior defense that runs essentially the same coverages and schemes as the Colts. The general misguided perception right now is that the Colts’ defense has turned it around in the postseason, but the only real great game that unit put together was against the Chiefs in the wild card round. After that, the 6-point hold against the Ravens was really a function of how awful Baltimore’s offense was while Tom Brady and the Patriots were able to tear the Colts up before Peyton Manning saved that game for them.
The whole seemingly basic point is that the matchups are between the teams’ offensive units and defensive units as opposed to the media preferred storyline of the differences between the quarterbacks. For what it’s worth, if people keep bringing up Rex Grossman’s 0.0 QB rating against the Packers, they also ought to note that he’s got a higher QB rating in the playoffs than Manning (75.4 for Rexy to 66.8 for the Giant Head). Regardless, as the old adage goes, offense sells tickets and defense wins championships. I can’t help you if you actually believe that the Colts have a better defense than the Bears. As for the final item to discuss…
(3) “The Colts have been on the national stage for years and finally got past the Patriots, so they know how to deal with pressure better than the Bears.” – A couple of points here. First, if anything, the Colts are much more susceptible to a letdown by beating their long-time rival in an emotional game in order to get to the Super Bowl. Minneapolis Red Sox has pointed out that this didn’t affect the Boston Red Sox in the 2004 World Series after their comeback against the Yankees in the ALCS, but the emotional carryover/letdown effect is a much more prominent factor in football than baseball. I have the impression that the Colts are very happy to just be participating in the Super Bowl by finally beating the Patriots and figure that Dennis Green can just “crown their ass”, while this year’s Bears are sick of the dual tracks of hearing how they’re such big underdogs to Peyton and the continuous infatuation the City of Chicago has with the ’85 Bears team.
Second, only teams in three other cities can possibly understand the constant pressure of playing in the Chicago media market: New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. I was watching an ESPN report yesterday where the reporters were commenting how well Rex Grossman was handling all of the “tough” media questions about his skills this week. Uh, does anyone realize how much this guy has been put through the ringer in a massive media market with competing sports radio stations and newspapers that have a 24-hour-a-day focus on the Bears during the NFL season? Believe me, the pressure and spotlight this week in Miami are nothing compared to the 4-month in-your-face grind of being the starting quarterback in Chicago. I’m expecting Rex to come out a lot more relaxed and prepared than the national press is predicting at this point.
With all of that, here’s my prediction for Super Bowl XLI:
Bears 46, Colts 10.
Bears 35, Colts 24. Even this score would shock everyone but me. That’s alright, though. Super Bears Super Bowl!
(Image from Chicago Tribune)