There is an exception in virtually every statistical category of the championship equation. Except one.
To win an NFL championship, you must limit the points you allow. The last 22 Super Bowl champions have all ranked in the top 10 in scoring defense. There have been no exceptions. Fourteen of those 22 champions ranked in the top three in scoring defense.
Don't put any stock in the preseason. Offenses play vanilla schemes against vanilla defenses in August. Neither side wants to show anything that can turn up on game tape and be used by opponents in preparation for the regular season. Both sides will dial up the heat in September when the games start counting.
But [Vince] Young will see a difference Sunday. There are three speeds in the NFL – preseason speed, regular-season speed and postseason speed. The game Young saw in August will not resemble the one he sees in September. The players will be better and the schemes more complicated.
Deion Branch, WR, New England. Branch has been holding out all summer, seeking a contract that would pay him among the elite. Except that he's never even had a 1,000-yard season in the NFL.
The Patriots showed Branch how entrenched they are in these negotiations by trading for Doug Gabriel last week. He caught 70 balls as Oakland's third receiver the last two years with 100-yard games in 2005 against Buffalo and the New York Giants.
The Patriots are prepared to enter the 2006 season with Gabriel, free agent Reche Caldwell (former San Diego starter), Troy Brown (New England's third all-time leading receiver) and second-round draft pick Chad Jackson. Quarterback Tom Brady makes these receivers, not the other way around.