AFGHANISTAN — Deep in the most remote regions of Afghanistan, loyal San Francisco 49er fans serving in a Recon platoon are eagerly awaiting news of their beloved football team, and speculating on how satisfying it will be to beat the "Sheattle Cheathawks" in their own domain.
Lance Cpl. Richard Gutierrez, a San Francisco native now stationed at Camp Pendleton, considers himself an expert in all things NFL.
"It's gonna be a tough match, for sure," Gutierrez said as he ripped open his pizza MRE. "But the Niners have won all their away games in the playoffs and have better game stats in the latter half of the season. Even with the unfair advantage of having better fans and those bullshit top-seed home game rules, Kap can easily drive it home for us."
Gutierrez and his fellow Marines from 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, who haven't received any news from the states in more than two weeks, are in near-unanimous agreement that San Francisco will take the NFC Championship game and go on to play in Superbowl XLVIII. There are, however, disagreements on who the Niners will play on Sunday.
Sgt. Jeremy Fallon has the Patriots pegged to take the AFC title.
"It's obvious, really. New England crushed the Broncos last time they met in the season. Sure they have one less win in the regular season than Denver, but it's not about how they play against other teams, it's about this particular matchup."
But the rest of Fallon's company has misgivings about his analysis, pointing to arguments made by sports columnists in a newspaper from early January.
"Denver has a better record and they're the top seed, which means home field advantage," said Private First Class Michael Klaus. "I may not know as much about football as these guys, but I'm from Colorado and the elevation is no joke."
Gutierrez personally predicts a 49er victory in Seattle with a late-game touchdown pass to Crabtree, followed by a win against Denver to take the ring home. But the Marines are quick to point out that first of all, the Niners have to win.
"Now technically, the game has already happened. But we should be getting word this Monday from Staff Sergeant, and our blue-and-green effigies are all soaked in diesel and ready to burn," said Gutierrez as he mercilessly jabbed the 12th man in line for chow.
"Hell, if we're lucky, he'll bring us the score of the Superbowl today too and we can revel in sweet, inevitable victory."