(WARNING: Unseemly bashing of this year's AFC Champions ahead.)
As might be expected, I am now the World's Biggest Carolina Panthers fan -- not because they beat Philadelphia, a team that I like a lot and actually rooted for yesterday, but because the Panthers are now the sole obstacle to total and complete hegemony over the NFL by the greatest force for evil known in the sport since the days of Jimmy-n'-Jerry, the New England Stupid Patriots. Only the Panthers can keep Teddy Bruschi from doing that stupid dance he does every time something good happens to the Stupid Patriots, and only the Panthers can erase that "Awww, shucks!" grin from Tom Brady's face. Here's hoping. Random observations:
:: I'm sure there will be all manner of hand-wringing in Eagles-land that Donovan McNabb "can't win the big one", but from what little I actually watched of that game (and also last week's game), McNabb doesn't seem to get a whole lot of help from his supporting cast. The Eagles might need to go out this offseason and bring in some free agent talent, as opposed to expecting McNabb to both pass for 250 yards and run for 100 every game.
:: Someday, Adam Vinatieri's karma is going to come crashing down and he's going to miss a huge kick. I hope that day comes sooner rather than later. Say, two Sundays from now in Houston.
:: The Panthers were 1-15 two years ago, which is about as bad as an NFL team can possibly be. (Nobody's ever gone 0-16.) That year, the Panthers were one of the Bills' only victories in a 3-13 year. Now, they're in the Super Bowl. It's amazing how fast you can rebuild a team now, and it also highlights the frustration that the rebuilding didn't take here in Buffalo.
:: This Super Bowl's dynamic sounds a lot like the one that existed two years ago, when the Stupid Patriots rode the greatest wave of luck in football history all the way to the championship. The matchup involves a heavily-favored team that went 14-2 and won its first championship two years earlier against a "lesser" team comprised of low-priced cast-off players from other teams that had won its conference championship on the road. Here's hoping this Super Bowl plays out like that one did, with the "lesser" team shocking the juggernaut.
:: The Stupid Patriots are only the fourth AFC top seed since 1992 to advance to the Super Bowl, and the Panthers' win yesterday keeps alive the NFL's ten-year streak, beginning in 1993, of not having both top seeds advance to the Super Bowl in the same season.
:: Five of the last six Super Bowl champions were teams that, to the point in their franchise history, had never won the Super Bowl; and while history tends to not favor teams making their franchise's first-ever Super Bowl appearance, the last two teams in that situation won the game. Reasons to hope for the Panthers!
UPDATE: In comments, Jess Nevins points out that my dislike of the Patriots doesn't seem particularly rational, and I pretty much grant the point, thinking it obvious since I've taken to referring to them as the "New England Stupid Patriots", which is about as rational as, say, Redskins fans referring to the "Dallas Cowgirls". That said, I responded that I genuinely dislike Bill Belichick, I find the amount of respect he has commanded (prior to this admittedly outstanding season) overblown, and I find it hard to forgive the football organization that made Brian Cox, one of the most nauseating football players ever, a guy with a Super Bowl ring.