Is "overconfidence" a requirement to be a fan?
Coach preps his men for battle, Friday 1/9.
If there was one game on the NFL playoff schedule for this weekend that most of us would have put in the books, it was the Cardinals and Panthers. The Panthers are the more balanced offensive team. They have the secondary to keep up with the Arizona receivers that Altlanta didn't. Arizona's defense is small and weak against the run. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower won't be able to run... blah blah, blah bla blah.
I'm sitting here watching the closing seconds tick away in Charlotte. It's 33-13. Soon the players & coaches will be shaking hands, giving interviews or heading toward the locker rooms. Except for Jake Delhomme, who'll be heading directly for the parking lot, car keys in hand. He'll probably drive home with his helmet still on. I don't think of the Ravens beating the Titans earlier as an upset. It's an upset as far as seedings go, but in reality you could see that one coming; you might have almost expected it.
But Arizona? Wow...
I can honestly say - with a straight face - that I've never, ever had a feeling of overconfidence about the Giants prior to a playoff game. I've been confident in their ability, readiness and determination. It's a confidence that is born from trust, and if you're a Giants fan right now you're lucky enough to be able to trust these coaches and players when looking at ability, readiness and determination. But I'm never confident they'll win the game - in my way of thinking, that's overconfidence. There's enough evidence in the trash talking you'll find in threads, sports bars, at work, or just about anywhere opposing team jerseys meet up that support the notion - beyond a shadow of a doubt - that the sentiments expressed by many fans are simply an expectation of complete and utter dominance of the enemy.
Overconfidence and expectation. If you're a fan of an NFL team you can live without it, and will be better off for doing so. If you have it, you must have both - you can't have one without the other. And as a fan of an NFL team myself, I'll never understand how another fan of any NFL team can have it.
I'm certainly not a paranoid or pessimistic fan. You know those folks, don't you? The one's that always prepare for the worst possible scenario. In fact, I'm pretty laid back about the whole thing... until I hear the pregame scene set from the announcing team. That's when the butterflies wake up and I lose my hearing when the wife and kids come in and ask me if I want to join them for a board game. I say "GIANTS!" and they get the hint. Once the game begins though, I'm fine. The kickoff is a shot of sedative. I strap in and enjoy the ride. By the way, the announcers for tomorrow are Joe Buck and Troy Aikman - the booth will just be glowing with personality, insight and entertainment...
I wonder what was going through Tom Coughlin's mind as he walked on the grass in an empty stadium as his players stretched, warmed up and ran light drills yesterday afternoon? I wonder about what's going on in his head as he gears his team up for this event? Whatever he's thinking, I'm sure he - and his players - are ready. When I give in and resign myself to the fact that the team is confident, it makes it easier for me to sleep tonight. Not because I "know" they'll win (because I don't), but because they'll give it everything they've got. And what they've got is a real team - in the truest sense of the word.
I expect defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to go with a lot of nickel and dime packages, so that a safety or corner can shadow RB Brian Westbrook instead of Antonio Pierce. Pierce is not quick enough, and the secondary will provide the necessary speed and open field tackling ability you need to contain Westbrook. I expect Brandon Jacobs will be healthier than we've seen him over the last month, and running with more determination and power. I expect Eli Manning to manage the game well and make a few big plays when necessary. That's all I expect.
But I'll never expect to win the game. And I'm confident that it will be a good one, because they always are between these two teams.