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OK. My early Super Bowl line: Packers by 10.

Were you watching back in Denver? Could you stand it? Could you bear to turn on the telly and watch those other guys, those impostors, those . . . those . . . those Patriots and Jaguars play for the AFC championship while your Broncos were at home, still licking their wounds?If you could handle it, if you were watching, you were thinking what I was thinking, thinking what a lot of people were thinking:

How did the Denver Broncos lose to these guys? How is it the Bills and Broncos made Mark Brunell look like Joe Montana and Natrone Means resemble Jim Brown while the Patriots - THE SAME PATRIOTS THE BRONCOS HAVE THROTTLED THE LAST TWO YEARS!!! - were keeping the Jags out of the end zone? Do the Patriots have talent superior to the Broncos'? Are you crazy? Chris Slade? Pio Sagapolutele? When did they get into the Hall of Fame?

I'm telling you now: Packers by 10.

No. Check that: Packers by 20.

This is what I think happened. The Patriots defensive coaches took film from the Jacksonville-Denver game, showed them reel after reel of Broncos flailing hopelessly at Brunell, pawing at Means, looking a whole lot like a team that forgot what it took to be a champion. Then the Patriots defensive coaches said something very sage:

"See what they're doing?" they asked. "Don't do that. Don't run out of your lanes on the pass rush. Don't get sack crazy or selfish. Don't treat Means like he has some horrible, communicable disease."

So the Patriots did everything the Broncos didn't do, and the Jaguars, darned near perfect at Mile High, helped out by committing silly turnovers on offense and special teams.

Yeah, the New England defense was excellent. The special teams - typical Bill Parcells, isn't it? - were very good. But the Patriots offense . . . ugggh. Let's face it: Drew Bledsoe is as ready for prime-time network exposure as Tempestt Bledsoe. Some of us had become convinced that Bledsoe and John Elway were existing in parallel universes and that Bledsoe, like Elway, would emerge as a playoff performer.

Instead, Bledsoe was - how do we say this? - a cipher.

"We weren't as good offensively as I hoped we would be," Parcells said in a classic understatement. "We need to be better if we're going to compete our next time out."


A lot better.

Forget Packers by 20. Make it Packers by 30.

Go ahead and call it sour grapes. And maybe it is. We acknowledge the Jaguars were a magnificent team, the better team, Jan. 5 at Mile High. They deserved to pull off the greatest playoff upset since Joe Namath and the Jets beat the Colts. And they deserved to gloat.

But tell me you weren't watching this wretched title game Sunday - there was a reason the lights went out, you know - and didn't think, "How did our beloved Broncos lose to Jacksonville? And by how many hundreds of points would our beloved Broncos have beaten the Patsies by?"

If you're interested in making yourself really sick - we're talking physically ill, at this point - remember that the Broncos beat the Pats twice in the past two years, right here in Foxboro, by a combined 71-11. And that John Elway is a career 8-0 against this group.

Did I mention my Super Bowl prediction?

Packers by 40.

It's just like the Broncos to screw up another Super Bowl, isn't it? Three years, they mess it up by showing up and failing to make a game of it. This year, they mess it up by not showing up. This year, they get bounced by a bunch of guys nobody else wanted, thus eliminating themselves and the only team that had any kind of chance against the Green Bay Packers - 41-6 notwithstanding.

(Note to Super Bowl advertisers: Get your ads on during the first half.)

The Patriots might have a decent defense, and they are blessed (for the time being, anyway) with one of the great head coaches ever, but they are no match for the Packers. Green Bay has that wire-to-wire look about it, the best team during the regular season and a dominant team in these playoffs. The Patriots? Do they excite you? Does Bledsoe inspire confidence? Aren't these Super Bowls usually quarterback showcases? Brett Favre vs. Bledsoe: no contest.

Yeah, the Patriots are the best team in the AFC. Big deal. They will be Super Bowl victim No. 13 in a row.

And the Broncos won't be able to do a darned thing about it.

Final prediction: Packers by 50.