Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Winter in Foxboro

It's that time of the year again - the NFL play-offs have begun, and the New England Patriots are looking menacing.

For those of you unfamiliar with American Football, the Patriots have won 3 of the last 4 Superbowls, and are looking for a unprecendented third in a row. After an injury-devastated season, they limped into the play-offs with a 10-6 record by virtue of being the best team in a very poor division. However, most of their sick list victims are now back, and they clicked into gear with a 28-3 demolition of Jacksonville on Saturday night. New England now travel to Denver, courtesy of the Pittsburgh Steelers upsetting the Bengals in Cincinatti on Sunday evening, which means THEY travel to favourites Indianapolis rather than the Pats.

I started following the Patriots when I first watched the sport on Channel 4 in the mid-eighties. They got to the Superbowl that year (where they were thrashed by Chicago), and for most of the next fifteen years, they were the whipping boys of the NFL (a popular Gulf War I joke was why did Saddam bomb the Superbowl ? It was the only target guaranteed not to have Patriots). However, the arrival of coach Bill Belichick and his trademark aggressive and unpredictable defence, coupled with star quarterback Tom Brady, means the Pats have turned into arguably the best team of all-time. Their first Superbowl win, where they upset the highly-fancied St Louis Rams with the last kick of the game, was one of the most exciting sports events I've ever seen.

Denver's going to be a tough game on Saturday (1am Sunday here), and I wouldn't be surprised if the great run of 10 successive play-off victories came to an end at the hands of some hungrier Broncos. But until that day, nobody is going to want to play New England - they know how to win.

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