Saturday, January 31, 2015

Super Bowl Fever

"I got a fever....and the prescription is more football."

Well this is it folks, another year of football comes to an end on Sunday. For many of us, this brings that slight twinge of depression, and monthly cleanses (hey, why not make your monthly cleanse during the shortest month of the year??).

Rather than lament about the end of football, let's discuss what should be a hell of a game. Like most talking heads, I've got this game coming down to the wire with the winner taking it with the slightest of margins. However I do have a few more points being thrown out there. Let's present our case for each team here starting with the Pats.

Why New England Will Win
1. They have Tom Brady and Tom Brady will go down as one of the best if not the best quarterback to play the game. Couple that with what we know about the importance of the quarterback position (and what we know about Tom Brady) and there you go. Nuff said.

2. The Pats have a defense too. And a good one. Big man Vince Wilfork to clog the middle; young, athletic linebackers in Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins who are capable of spying and (at times) containing Russell Wilson. And don't forget about Darrelle Revis. Remember him? He's pretty good too. All of these components come together to form a very solid and balanced defense.

3. The Pats also have a pretty good running game too. LeGarrette Blount is a bruiser, no doubt, but he's also struggled against the top running defenses in the league (which Seattle most certainly is). But New England is more than a one-trick pony at the RB position as we saw throughout the year. Shane Vereen and lesser-known Jonas Gray (who, by the way, was the team's leading rusher this year) are more than capable of coming in and being a change of pace type runner to keep the chains moving, or even snap off a big run. With all the talk and attention on Lynch, don't sleep on these guys. They could be the quiet difference makers in a Patriot's victory.

4. Gronk. Last 2 Super Bowls that New England narrowly lost were without Gronk (or, at least without a healthy Gronk). He's that kind of player. Whether it's enough to secure a win remains to be seen, but I can almost guarantee that he will be a difference maker in this game. Oh, by the way, Seattle has been one of the worst in the league in defending tight ends (ironic).

5. Because they're the freaking Patriots. Best QB in the last 15 years, if not ever. One of the best coaches if not the best coach. Ever. It's very, very hard to bet against the Patriots, especially with so much on the line in the legacy department.

Why Seattle Will Win
1. Top to bottom, Seattle's roster simply has better talent across the board. They don't necessarily have a better QB or a better nose tackle, but the do have a better team. At this level of football, in the championship game like this, talent matters. A lot. (See last week's AFC Championship game).

2. They got options. One thing that New England is very good at is taking away a team's first offensive option. They are masters at making you beat them with our second, third and fourth options. But taking away Lynch AND Wilson is a tough order of business. If you think about the teams who have tried to instill a college-minded zone read into this league, you'll find history littered with failed attempts. Except of course for Seattle. When you have a runner like Marshawn Lynch and a smart, savvy (and athletic) quarterback like Wilson, that really opens things up for you. If New England can successfully contain Lynch while also containing Wilson, give them the trophy right now.

3. Beast Mode. I mean, this guy just gets stronger and stronger as the season (and games) go on. To be down by 2 scores with 3 minutes to go as Seattle was in the NFC title game...and to NOT abandon the run is a testament to their faith in Lynch. And a testament in his ability to deliver. They made a huge comeback on the back of Marshawn Lynch. And that shit just doesn't happen in the NFL.

4. Legion of Boom. If there's a group out there that can rattle Brady and make him work harder than ever for every inch he gets, this secondary group is it. I have to believe Thomas and Sherman will be fully healthy and ready to go. I also have to believe Brady is going to test Sherman's side of the field to confirm said health.

5. They have time to focus on their key weakness in this match up - defending the tight end. Two full weeks is ample time for the Seattle staff to put in some wrinkles to defend Gronk. Of course, the fact that New England will play him all over the field won't help, and I'm certainly not suggesting they'll shut him down, but they'll be able to contain him. Look for multiple match ups and looks in defending the tight end on Sunday.

Great, so what does it all mean?
I gotta stick with my prediction I made in the podcast this week. Higher scoring than most have, but I think these offenses are good enough to tilt this game towards the over.
Seattle - 31
New England - 30

Other Random Thoughts Around the NFL
  • I don't, for one second, believe Brady, Belichek or anyone knowingly instructed some punk kid ball boy to deflate any balls. This is beyond ridiculous
  • BUT, I do believe that the NFL has the duty to fully investigate and vet the situation anytime there is accusations of cheating. 
  • Tough year for Roger Goodell. 
  • Who brought it all on himself. He needs to reach out to and listen to Tagliabue. Or someone. Anyone. He's been a train wreck and the he's lost the trust of the fans (and players). 
  • I listened to the Pro Bowl on the radio driving back from Dallas last Sunday. Brutal. 
  • I'm not ashamed to admit that a Katie Perry wardrobe malfunction would not upset me one iota. 
  • I'm going to see how much pre game I can watch on Sunday. I'm shooting for 3 full hours. We'll see. 
That's what I got gang - enjoy the weekend and enjoy the big game! 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Playoff Primer

Hey, I can say that about BOTH leagues this year....That's kind of nice.

While the bowl season has been more or less ho-hum (thank you C. Michigan/W. Kentucky for giving us a good show), that cannot be said for the NFL. What a great last 2 weeks it's been. We'll get to that and this "final four" thing-a-majig debuting in the college game. But first, let's get to this...

Texas vs. Arkansas
What an intriguing, yet potentially disastrous games this could be. Good match up for both teams in that I don't think either coach will have a tough time getting their teams to play up to this game. Had you asked me 2 weeks ago what I thought, I was picking the Hogs by 10. Call it homer-ism, but I'm leaning more towards a much closer game. I truly think this could be a toss up barring Tyrone Swoopes going all Tyrone Swoopes on us....

Why Arkansas will win...In short, they run the ball very, very well, and they are very good at stopping the run. Typically, that spells success more times than not. They have a stout offensive line that I believe averages above 300 pounds. They can really open holes and the backs know how to take advantage of that. Defensively, their weakness is passing defense and to add insult to injury they are missing a starting safety and backup cornerback. That should give Sean Watson a little confidence to open it up a tad more than he normally may. He better have something - rushing yards will be at a premium.

Why Texas will win...In short, I believe in Charlie Strong more than I do Bilema. He's kind of a scum bag, but he is a heck of a coach. I like Texas in a bend, don't break defensive effort to keep the game manageable for the offense. Field goals baby...field goals. Given the aforementioned missing players on that Hogs defense, I think this will give Watson some give to get Swoopes some manageable, if not easier passes that should open things up. Keep the offensive plays beyond the front four of that Arkansas defense and the opportunities open up tremendously more than any "power run" attempts.

As I said above, hell of a match up for both teams. And a win would go a long way to continue building on recruiting efforts. As close as this is, I simply trust Strong's ability to get his team focused and ready to play a full 60 minutes. I'm going Horns here...

Texas - 24
Arkansas - 22

Quick Thoughts on the Upcoming "Playoff" (and a couple of other games)
  • I've gone back and forth on this  over the last couple of weeks: while I respect how Florida State has won these several games - in many instances coming from behind - I know Oregon is much better than those teams. I do think Winston and that offense will give Oregon's defense some fits, I just think pound-for-pound, Oregon is better. And Mariota is the best player in the game. Period. 
  • If Ohio State wasn't on their third-string quarterback with all of 1 game under his belt, I'd be very inclined to pick Meyer in an upset here. Saban with extra time to prepare for a freshman, third stringer? I don't think so. I'm taking Alabama here, but it's close for a while. 
  • Urban Meyer has proved it again, and again. He is one of the best coaches in the game. You forget about him because of his hiatus, but all he does is win. I'm sure he'll have the Buckeyes in the hunt more times than not. 
  • I'm not saying I like it or want it, but I got both Baylor and TCU losing their respective games. Wouldn't that just be poetic justice...
NFL Playoff Reactions and More
  • Who would have thought we'd have 3 teams coming out of the AFC North. That's something else. I think the NFC North has 2 and those are the only multi-team divisions. 
  • Call my crazy, but I think Dallas may be the most dangerous team in the playoffs this year. What a year for Garret and this team. Historically, they've stepped on their dicks better than anyone in the month of December. This year? 4-0 and they've outscored their opponents 165 to 79. And they weren't a bunch of bums, and three were on the road. This team looks good. With that said...
  • I think this could be a great game between Dallas and Detroit. Neither team has much recent experience in the playoffs and have been hampered by "what ifs" in the last few years. And ironically, Dallas has been better on the road than at home this season. Either way, I'm taking Dallas here, but I expect to see it closer than some think early on. 
  • Not only is Carolina (losing record) hosting a playoff game, I'm going on record saying they beat the Cardinals. 
  • Top four team with greatest chance of getting "upset"? Denver. 
  • My Super Bowl: Green Bay over New England. 
 That's what I got folks - have a happy New Year and enjoy the games!