By: Kevin Rousseau - Kevin's Articles are Sponsored by Comdoctor.net
January 02, 2006

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I kind of figured it would be my fate.

Some quick math indicates that there are 8,760 hours in a calendar year. Of those 8,760 hours, roughly 60 to 70 of them are consumed watching the Patriots. After our first child, Jacob, was born shortly after game six of the 2004 ALCS, I figured that it was destiny that Sunday's Patriots game would be a good bet for "the time"¯ that Baby Number Two would decide to begin her descent.

Right on cue, just a little while before Doug Flutie dropkicked into history my wife dropkicked into labor.

Anticipating such a date with destiny, I decided to prepare a column before Sunday's meaningless game against Miami. So without further ado, sit back and enjoy this quality, canned playoff preview column and join me in giving thanks for the graceful entrance of Evelyn Cecilia Rousseau into our world.

The weather on the day after the first Patriots Super Bowl victory was fairly cold and overcast in the New Orleans area.

Of course, such disappointment in the weather in this southern city couldn't dampen the smiles on our faces as we took a swamp boat tour just outside of the city.

Somewhere between thinking I was in a scene from "Deliverance"¯ and being blown away by the landscape, I leaned over to my father and said "You know, the funny thing is there's a lot of room for improvement on this Patriots team."¯

Two more Super Bowl championships and this year's division title later, the beat rolls on for this franchise and a fan base in a form that hasn't been seen around these parts since the Celtics of the late 1960s.

The Patriots place in NFL history is firmly set in terra firma but a deep playoff run and even "" well, you know what I'm thinking "" could place this team into the exclusive club of immortals. Often a clichƩ when describing sporting accomplishments, the description would fit like a glass slipper for this franchise if a little luck, good execution and grace under pressure bestow Bill Belichick, his coaches and players over the coming weeks.

I suppose it's often difficult to grasp the historical context of what we witness while living in the moment. Especially if you've lived through some of the embarrassing episodes that this franchise has subjected us to over past forty years. There was the ban on Monday Night Football for over a decade because we couldn't behave ourselves. And the electrocution and death of a fan that had the misfortune of touching his souvenir goal post to a utility wire along Route 1 after the Patriots clinched a playoff berth in 1985. There were also the legendary black hole traffic jams along the same road as Schaefer Stadium opened up 1970, to name a few. Indeed, there was a time when we looked to emulate the Arizona Cardinals.

But forget those days because if the Patriots win it all on February 5th in Detroit they will have staked their claim to immortality.

But between now and then there is a lot of football to be played in the AFC and it may not include the Patriots. After the November 7 loss to the Colts, the title of my column was "The End of An Era."¯ Not so fast, Rousseau. Yet despite the past two weeks, the leader heading into the clubhouse has still got to be the Colts; especially with home field advantage home. Do I think the Patriots can give them a game at the present moment? Absolutely. But would I be surprised if the Patriots late-season surge ended on the carpet in Indianapolis? Of course not.

The Denver Broncos have the two seed and are always difficult at home as evidenced by the fact that the Patriots have only won twice at Mile High since 1968. The question for the Broncos is Jake Plummer. Namely, can he be trusted not to do something irrational or stupid with the ball with a playoff game on the line?

Perhaps even quieter than the Patriots recent surge has been the Steelers digging the dirt off from underneath their 2005 burial plot after losing to the Bengals at home in November. Winners of four in a row, they possess the two time-honored successes for a successful postseason - a running game and good defense.

I would be very surprised if an immature Bengals team makes much of a splash in the postseason. Making self-amusing music videos and having players like Chad Johnson put up bulletin board material is no way for a team that hasn't won anything besides a division title since the first Bush administration to go through life. Much like the Chargers of last year who wilted under the playoff spotlight, expect the same from "Da Tigers."¯

Probably the same could be said for an inexperienced Jacksonville Jaguars squad who will have to play most of their playoff games in cold, road environs. Come to think of it, just how did this team end up with 12 wins? This may have been the most stealth playoff team in recent memory. Then again, when you can bank on victories from foes such as the Texans, Titans, the Browns, 49ers, Ravens and Cardinals, it certainly helps. They have a pretty good defensive front seven but a hobbled running game in Fred Taylor along with an unproven Byron Leftwich at quarterback.

As the Patriots train continues to pick up momentum, you have got to like their chances. Tom Brady won't win the MVP award, but he should for keeping his team together during a bumpy middle of the season. The defensive front seven is the best in football. And in the playoffs, experience matters. 30 players in that locker room are the owners of at least two Super Bowl rings.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, during this time of year we have a lot of questions.

Starting this weekend, we begin to get our answers.

Idle Zinger thoughts while wondering if this is the year when my golf game does not continue to be a source of personal embarrassment:

If he stays around next year, Brett Favre has an outside chance of breaking George Blanda's all-time interception record of 277. This "will he or won't he retire?"¯ soap opera being filmed in northern Wisconsin is getting a little old, frankly.

Anybody else notice that Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer will be sitting at home this January and the team he publicly buried after his team's blowout win in October, the Patriots, will be playing? It gives fuel to the old adage that no conclusions can be made before Veterans Day.

I'm not making a comparison in ability but doesn't it seem as though BC's own #12, Matt Ryan, is trying to mirror the same mannerisms as Mr. Brady?

For whatever reason, Titans games are the only ones not offered on Sirius satellite radio.

After his sideline act back in 1995 when he pretended to call the President and ask him to send in the National Guard because his Broncos were "killing the Patriots,"¯ I could hardly stand him. But if you keep an open mind, Shannon Sharpe isn't that bad of an analyst.

This column also appears in the American Journal (Westbrook/Gorham, Maine), the Current (Scarborough/Cape Elizabeth/South Portland, Maine), the Lakes Region Suburban Weekly (Windham/Naples, Maine), the Citizen (Sacopee Valley, Maine), the Reporter (Waterboro/Hollis, Maine), the Sun Chronicle (Saco/Old Orchard Beach, Maine), and online at VillageSoup.com (Belfast, Camden, Rockland, Maine).


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