Inside the Super Bowl
Our friends at Scouts, Inc., checked in with their final thoughts on Super Bowl XXXVIII. But this is just a taste of the kind of in-depth analysis they've been providing all week.
We are almost there. The hype is winding down, and we are settling in for what should be a great game. The best thing for us about having the extra week before the game was more time to watch film, breaking down each teams tendencies and strategies. The one thing that really stands out is that these may be two teams that are more married to their style of play than any teams that have played in the Super Bowls in recent memory.
Go deeper inside these games with statistical splits, computer simulations and Hector & Victor's projections.
The Panthers will do what they always do, and that is run the football until the Patriots stop them, if the Patriots are able. They will trap; they will use the "wham" play (bringing the tight end across the formation to trap the backside defensive end or linebacker); and they will try to wear down the Patriots' defense by keeping them on the field. They will try to control the clock and keep Brady and the Patriots' offense off the field. Jake Delhomme will have his shots in the vertical passing game against single man-to-man coverage if they can draw Patriots SS Rodney Harrison up in to the box in run support.
This will be a game of "ebb and flow" and it will be played intelligently and aggressively. In the end, the Patriots will score a defensive touchdown and do a better job in their red zone offense, winning a very competitive game 24-16 and securing a place in Super Bowl history.
Scouts, Inc., has been in Houston all week, poring over film and revealing the truths contained within the myriad schemes and strategies you've heard so much about. Their insights and analyses are available only to ESPN Insiders. To get access to all their Super Bowl breakdowns and be ready when their offseason looks at free agency and April's NFL draft hit in the coming weeks, become an Insider today.
Super Bowl XXXVIII
CAROLINA PANTHERS vs. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Sunday, Feb. 1, 6:25 p.m. ET (CBS)
Early look: Pats will force Panthers to pass
Carolina will find it hard to run against New England, and that could tilt Super Bowl momentum to the Pats.
Take 2: Pats' offense always unpredictable
Bill Belichick is famous for his defensive wizardry, but New England's offense schemes with the best of them, too.
Monday: Matching up with Muhammad
If New England puts CB Ty Law on WR Steve Smith, Carolina will have a size advantage with Muhsin Muhammad on the other side.
Tuesday: Delhomme keeps it simple
Don't count on Carolina QB Jake Delhomme being baffled by a bizarre Bill Belichick brainstorm on defense.
Wednesday: Defensive difference-makers
Richard Seymour and Kris Jenkins are dominating players who force opposing offenses to adjust.
Thursday: Don't overlook Panthers' D-line
A quality six-man rotation keeps Carolina's front line fresh. Plus, what Jake Delhomme needs to look for.
Friday: Field (position) day
If the Super Bowl becomes a field-position battle, the Panthers' superior punting game gives them an edge.
Mismatches: Super Bowl edition
Mike Rucker will need to apply pressure on Tom Brady if the Panthers are to slow down the Patriots.
Game Plans: How we'd coach this game
ESPN analysts Sean Salisbury and Ron Jaworski go inside the Super Bowl match-up between the Panthers and Patriots.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Sunday, Jan. 18, 3 p.m. ET (CBS)
Take 2: Manning a maestro, but so is Belichick
Bill Belichick likes to take a team's best weapon away. Look for him to target Peyton Manning and force Edgerrin James to carry the load for the Colts.
Game Plans: It's all in Manning's head
If QB Peyton Manning has time to evaluate his options, he's deadly. That's why the Patriots must try to keep him guessing.
Colts are poised to pull off upset
Peyton Manning is peaking, and even Bill Belichick will struggle to counter the Colts' balanced attack.
CAROLINA PANTHERS at PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Sunday, Jan. 18, 6:45 p.m. ET (FOX)
Take 2: Carolina must limit McNabb's options
The Panthers' front four will have to get to QB Donovan McNabb and keep him from breaking contain and scrambling.
Game Plans: McNabb a key for both sides
When things break down, there's no one better than Donovan McNabb at improvising. The Panthers must keep him contained.
Panthers pose problems for Philly
The Eagles feed off mistakes, but the Panthers don't beat themselves, and they won't hand this game over.
AFC Divisional playoffs
TENNESSEE TITANS at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Saturday, Jan. 10, 8:15 p.m. ET (CBS)
Take 2: LBs, safeties key to Titans' defense
Look for the Patriots to run out of passing sets and throw on rollouts against Tennessee's agressive linebackers.
Pats D should be able to contain McNair & Co.
Expect the Patriots to take advantage of a hobbled Steve McNair and advance to the AFC title game.
Game Plans: Titans at Patriots
Mark Schlereth and Merril Hoge go inside Saturday's matchup between the Titans and Patriots.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS at KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Sunday, Jan. 11, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Take 2: Colts safeties must play with discipline
If RB Priest Holmes can draw SS Mike Doss into the box, TE Tony Gonzalez can exploit the deep middle with ease.
Manning should exploit Chiefs' D
In a virtually even match-up, the difference will come down to the QBs, and Peyton Manning has a leg up there.
Game Plans: Colts at Chiefs
Sean Salisbury and Ron Jaworksi go inside Sunday's matchup between the Chiefs and Colts
NFC Divisional playoffs
CAROLINA PANTHERS at ST. LOUIS RAMS
Saturday, Jan. 10, 4:30 p.m. ET (FOX)
Take 2: Panthers must force Rams out of cover-2
If the Panthers can get man-to-man coverage on the perimeter, they will have a shot to make some big plays.
Panthers should grind out victory
Carolina will use its physical running game and emerging passing attack to pull off the upset on the road.
Game Plans: Panthers at Rams
Sean Salisbury and Ron Jaworski go inside Saturday's matchup between the Panthers and Rams.
GREEN BAY PACKERS at PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Sunday, Jan. 11, 4:45 p.m. ET (FOX)
Take 2: Eagles CBs vulnerable if Pack's run game clicks
If the Eagles commit to stopping the run, they had better also get pressure on Brett Favre or their corners will get eaten alive.
Defense, home field give Eagles the edge
The Packers' offense is peaking, but Brett Favre will struggle to make plays against the Eagles' complex schemes.
Game Plans: Packers at Eagles
Eric Allen and Mike Golic go inside Sunday's matchup between the Packers and Eagles.
Our friends at Scouts, Inc., went 4-for-4 on Wild Card Weekend.
AFC Wild Card
Saturday, Jan. 3, 4:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
TENNESSEE TITANS at BALTIMORE RAVENS
Take 2: Titans hope to make Wright go wrong
Tennessee will try to take this game out of the hands of Ravens RB Jamal Lewis and put it in those of QB Anthony Wright.
Passing game gives Titans the edge
The Ravens have a spectacular defense, but the Titans' Steve McNair should be able to engineer a tough road win.
Sunday, Jan. 4, 4:30 p.m. ET (CBS)
DENVER BRONCOS at INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Take 2: Colts must control Denver's run game
Indy's cover-2 defense is improving, but Denver can neutralize it with another strong performance on the ground.
Colts will capitalize on second chance
Peyton Manning is focused, and Denver will be hard-pressed to duplicate its Week 16 victory in Indy.
NFC Wild Card
Saturday, Jan. 3, 8 p.m. ET (ABC)
DALLAS COWBOYS at CAROLINA PANTHERS
Take 2: Cowboys must give passing game a chance
For Dallas to have a chance, it must trust QB Quincy Carter to throw the ball to loosen up the Panthers' defense.
Panthers should outlast Cowboys
Bill Parcells has squeezed everything he can out of the Cowboys, and there's not enough left for a playoff run.
Sunday, Jan. 4, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS at GREEN BAY PACKERS
Take 2: Composure, consistency key for Seattle
The Seahawks have struggled with both all season, and Lambeau Field in the playoffs isn't the place to work out kinks.
Favre, Lambeau magic should carry Pack
Expect the Packers to rally around Brett Favre and the Seahawks to succumb to Lambeau Field in the playoffs.