ST. LOUIS -- Super Bowl XXV. That's all I can think about this morning. Giants-Bills. New York, of course, was the Little Engine That Could. The Bills, who had just beaten the Raiders 51-3, were the big, bad offensive wolves, the best offense of their day.
Like this year, there was no off-week between the conference title games and the Super Bowl 11 years ago. The Giants played San Francisco at Candlestick, winning 15-13 on magnificent defensive and special-teams efforts; Matt Bahr's fifth field goal of the game clinched it. After the game, the Giants were readying for the five-hour cross-country flight to Tampa. Bill Parcells stepped onto the team bus and spotted Ron Erhardt, his offensive coordinator, in the seat across the aisle.
1. St. Louis (16-2). "Do you know what a great story this is for Aeneas Williams?" Mike Martz asked me after the game. "He's from New Orleans, he used to work in the Superdome, he's tried to get to the game his whole career.
Isn't it something?" 2. New England (13-5). Here's what's good about the Patriots getting there: They upset the Steelers Sunday, but I still feel that if they played again, New England would win. The best two teams are in this game.
3. Philadelphia (13-6). Valiant. Terrific. Gritty. This team has a marvelous upside. And that Donovan McNabb is going to be a very big star in this game for a long time.
4. Pittsburgh (14-4). Bad time to revert, Kordell.
5. Oakland. (11-7). Yeah, they got jobbed. But I like the classy way Jon Gruden handled it. Didn't bitch or moan over spilled milk.
6. Green Bay (13-5). I hear the luggage handlers dropped a few bags when the Pack returned from St. Louis last week.
7. Baltimore (11-7). Free Marvin Lewis.
8. San Francisco (12-5). I erred last week, putting Chicago No. 8 and the Niners No. 9. San Francisco's better. And Terrell Owens isn't going anywhere, by the way.
9. Chicago (13-4). Did you know the Bears will play their home games next season downstate in Champaign, Ill., while their home mausoleum is being refurbished? 10. New York Jets (10-7). Ted Cottrell shows up at his realtor's office this morning in Garden City. He puts a down payment on a cute little split-level in Manhasset. "I'll be here a while," he says with a wan smile.
11. Miami (11-6). Norv Turner to Miami? Now that Marty Schottenheimer is solid in San Diego, and Turner's not going to coach under him, the Dolphins look good.
12. Tampa Bay (9-8). You're on the clock now, Mr. McKay. Take your time. Pick the right guy.
"Shorten the game," Parcells said.
The Giants, double-digit underdogs, won by holding onto the ball for 40:19 at Tampa Stadium, an armed camp while the Gulf War was happening -- sound familiar, securityaholics? -- and by the Bills mismanaging the clock in the final two minutes and by Scott Norwood missing a 47-yard field goal.
I'll never forget getting a few minutes with Parcells the next morning in his room in the Hyatt Westshore in Tampa. He was trying to jam everything in his suitcase, and I was trying to get a few answers about his strange last Giants team. He talked proudly all week about how the Giants proved that playing field-position football can win games. The Giants had a nine-yard advantage between where their offensive drives started and where the opponent's drives started. I said something like: "Is it possible that four of your six most valuable players are special-teams players?" He thought for a minute. Punter Sean Landeta, Bahr, special-teams gunner Reyna