It was week 17 of the NFL season. Teams were still fighting to make the playoffs. The Green Bay Packers were watching the St. Louis Rams. The St. Louis Rams were watching the Detroit Lions. The Detroit Lions were trying to survive the Chicago Bears. Week 17 was thrilling no matter who you rooted for week to week. Then when the dust cleared and the battlefield was ready, 12 teams remained. From this point on, you win or you go home. And it is tough to continue winning from this point. However, it is even tougher to lose.

The NFL playoffs had its mighty defenses in the Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans, New York Giants, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It had its high-octane offenses in the Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, St. Louis Rams, and Indianapolis Colts. It had its surprise teams in the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles. This year’s playoffs had it all. And the easy favorites were the Vikings and Titans to cruise into Tampa Bay to battle it out for the ultimate trophy...the Lombardi itself.

A look at how the path was defined

The wildcard games were wild indeed. In the NFC, the Vikings greatest gift was New Orleans beating the St. Louis Rams. And what a game it was. For the first time, New Orleans had won a playoff game. The Saints went in as underdogs but emerged the winners giving the defending Super Bowl Champions an early exit.

One of the two playoff games that I incorrectly predicted was the Tampa Bay/Philadelphia game. Why? I failed to look at the weather report. Had I seen the below 40 forecast, I would have easily picked the Eagles at home. And easy it was for the Eagles. The below 40 curse continued for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as they never truly got going on offense. The one-man show named Donavan McNabb confused and bombarded the Buccaneer’s defense. This game was a great look at things to come for Philadelphia if they can get a supporting cast for the second year quarterback.

The second of the two games that I incorrectly predicted in the postseason was an AFC wildcard matchup. How could Indianapolis’ potent offense lose when compared to a struggling Miami Dolphins’ offense? The Dolphins answered that question by limiting the dynamic Indy trio of Manning, James, and Harrison and taking it into overtime to steal the win.

In the final wildcard game, the favored Denver Broncos went up against the powerful Baltimore Ravens defense. That defense made the Broncos think they were running into a steal wall as the Ravens gave the Raiders a huge gift beating the team that many thought were the only thing in the AFC standing in the Raiders way. But Baltimore was not done yet.

The NFC Divisional playoffs had two teams well rested and ready to face those that survived week one. 2000 shocker team number one went into Minnesota and was totally dominated, as a strong Vikings offense was far too much for the Saints’ to compete with.

2000 shocker team number two, the Philadelphia Eagles went into New York to take on the Giants. McNabb was the only thing New York needed to worry about so they planned on containing him the best they could, and that they did. New York had already swept them in the regular season and it was an easy kill the third time.

The AFC Divisional playoffs had the underdog Baltimore Ravens going into Tennessee and facing what many thought to be the most well balanced team in the postseason. While they probably were the most well balanced team still alive, the Baltimore Ravens did not need balance. It was starting to look as though they did not need an offense at all either as the defense dominated once again.

The other AFC game that week had the Miami Dolphins going into hostile Oakland facing what many thought were the next best thing to Tennessee. The Raiders acted like it as well with a shutout of Miami guaranteeing Oakland an appearance in the AFC Championship game.

It was the final game week prior to the Super Bowl. Two teams would survive, the other two would be out of the hunt plagued with the thoughts of what could have been. The Minnesota Vikings never really had a chance in New York. First off, it was an outdoor game (something the Vikings don’t see a lot). Second, it was in cold weather. Third, the field would be cold and wet pretty much taking the explosive duo of Randy Moss and Chris Carter out of the game. When you think of the Giants, you think defense. And while the defense was most impressive, it was NFL refugee Kerry Collins that stole the show energizing what many thought was a stale offense. New York was clicking on every cylinder. By the first quarter it was 14 to 0. The New York defense, who was not used to seeing their offense score so often, decided to do their part as well and defend the lead. Eventually after being smacked around for 60 minutes, the game finally ended for the Vikings as the lost 41-0.

The Ravens were underdogs once again. The Raiders were destined to win it all now right? Well, no one told the Baltimore defense that. 16 points was all they needed to beat the Raiders. All of a sudden, reality fell on Oakland and it was over. There would be no Super Bowl dreams fulfilled this year.

Boring Bowl?

After week 17 and once the playoff picture was clear, everyone thought I was mad for saying that it would be the New York Giants triumphant in Tampa Bay over the Baltimore Ravens. Three weeks later, even I am shocked that this stage has been set. At the time, I was questioning my sanity for choosing these two teams. So what was it about them? Baltimore and New York had already proved their worth during the regular season as the Giants won homefield advantage and the Ravens were one game away from doing the same thing. Yet, no one gave these two teams any respect or a ghost of a chance to appear in the Super Bowl despite what they had already proven to the world. They were still underdogs. Everyone love underdogs. They are also the most dangerous as they have already been counted out prematurely before even playing one postseason game. Underdogs can be the scariest of all opponents. Because for them, no one has the high expectations and it’s just one game at a time as they try to prove their worth.

The 2001 Super Bowl has been called many things like the "Boring Bowl" and "Snooze Bowl." It has been said that the big story is the fact that there is no story. No big stars to focus on, no one to root for. That is as far from the truth as possible. This is a great matchup. It is one of the best in recent history and I expect a great game once again.

No big star you say? How about focusing on great players like cornerback Jason Sehorn of the New York Giants who has finally returned to form after an injury plagued past. Tiki Barber who has had a phenomenal year caring the ball for the Giants in the regular season and injured in the postseason. What about the Ravens’ Ray Lewis who has been a force all by himself on an unbelievable defense? What about former Pittsburgh Steeler and San Francisco 49er Rod Woodson who is still playing extremely well a the end of his career. And if you throw in Ravens’ cornerbacks Duane Starks and Chris McAlister and Giants’ receivers Ike Hilliard and Amani Toomer, I’m sure you can find or create some star power in there.

No big stories? You can find big stories just looking at one position. What about refugee quarterbacks Kerry Collins, the former Carolina Panther that was given up on? Despite some poor play early, the Giants never gave up on him and now he is a Super Bowl quarterback thanks to a 381-yard, 5 touchdown NFC Championship performance. He is the man that the Giants owe thanks and kudos to. What about the other refugee quarterback in Trent Dilfer, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneer who may not be the player that strikes fear in opposing defenses, but is the player that led the ravens to this point by not making a lot of stupid mistakes. He doesn’t have the numbers or the edge over Collins, but he does have the drive and desire.

So, you think that this is a bad matchup for television’s biggest day? You think there is nothing here worth your time? Think again. These who teams are the only ones left standing after a 31 squad, 20 week war. How long before everyone starts to respect them? The NFL marketed the slogan "Show Me Something" for the playoffs. The Baltimore Ravens and the New York Giants showed us a lot. And on Super Bowl Sunday, they are going to show us a bit more. Are you ready to be shown something?

To reporters like ESPN.com’s Brian Murphy who wonders "what we've done to deserve such punishment from the football gods", you obviously weren’t watching the same games as Sports Illustrated reporter Don Banks who calls this game unexpected, but a "great matchup."

Playing the odds

The Baltimore Ravens are 2-point favorites over the New York Giants. However, the odds were 75 to 1 as of August 21st that the Giants would win it all and 22 to 1 that the Ravens would do the same.

By the Numbers

The Ravens finished the regular season 12-4 and own a 15-4 record overall.
The Ravens have a 10 game winning streak. The last time they lost was on October 29th against the Steelers.
The Ravens’ rushing offense is ranked 5th in the league averaging 137 yards a game.
The Ravens’ passing offense is ranked 22nd in the league averaging 176 yards a game.
The Ravens’ overall offense is ranked 16th in the league averaging 313 yards a game.
The Ravens’ rushing defense is ranked 1st in the league giving up 61 yards a game.
The Ravens’ passing defense is ranked 8th in the league giving up 187 yards a game.
The Ravens’ overall defense is ranked 2nd in the league giving up 248 yards a game.

The Giants finished the regular season 12-4 and own a 14-4 record overall.
The Giants have a 7 game winning streak. The last time they lost was on November 19th against the Lions.
The Giants’ rushing offense is ranked 11th in the league averaging 126 yards a game.
The Giants’ passing offense is ranked 13th in the league averaging 210 yards a game.
The Giants’ overall offense is ranked 13th in the league averaging 336 yards a game.
The Giants’ rushing defense is ranked 2nd in the league giving up 72 yards a game.
The Giants’ passing defense is ranked 16th in the league giving up 212 yards a game.
The Giants’ overall defense is ranked 5th in the league giving up 284 yards a game.

Rushing offense: Advantage Ravens
Passing offense: Advantage Giants
Rushing defense: Advantage Ravens
Passing defense: Advantage Ravens