Friday, January 31, 2014

The FGR Super Bowl Preview

Let's get one thing straight right off the bat. I don't give a crap who wins this game. I don't care about Peyton Manning's legacy. I saw Joe Montana play in his prime and, as much as I despised him, I haven't seen anyone play the position as well as he did so as far as I'm concerned, Manning, Brady and Elway are all jockeying for second place no matter what happens this Sunday. If I was going to lean one way, I guess it would be towards Seattle because their only sports title was won by the Supersonics way back in 1979 and then Oklahoma City stole their team. As a transplanted Annapolitan* who is now a Baltimorean, I can relate . . . to both Seattle and Oklahoma City. (And that might conclude the worst opening to a written work since "Stanley looked quite bored and somewhat detached but then again, Penguins often do.") Anyway, let's get on to picking this sucker.

Here's a Broncos cheerleder.
Two weeks ago I tried to handicap the AFC Championship Game by comparing it to a Super Bowl from 2002 (seemed like a good idea at the time). I was loud wrong but that's the peril of guessing the outcome of a sporting event based on what you thought was a clever writing idea. That form of analysis leads you to believe in somewhat ridiculous notions like coaches can out-scheme far superior personnel and a quarterback who just had the greatest season in NFL history is suddenly going to fall flat on his face because he's afraid of the guys coaching and quarterbacking the other team (and yes, there was part of me that really thought that but then again, there was part of you that thought that too). It serves me right for crawling into bed with Brady and Belichik.

In the NFC game I was just a bit unlucky as Colin Kaepernick and his three 4th quarter turnovers wrecked what was destined to be a game decided by between 1-3 points. Say what you want about Richard Sherman, but if I'm a quarterback playing with the game on the line in the final minute, I'm finding him and then throwing somewhere else. If for no other reason than that is the last guy you want to make the play that beats you. It's the same reason you'd rather walk A-Rod with the bases loaded than give him the chance to hit the walk-off grand slam. It's one thing to lose, it's another thing to lose to THAT GUY.**

But that was all so two weeks ago. In three days we will have arguably the best Super Bowl match-up since 1979 when the 14-2 Steelers faced the 12-4 Cowboys.*** That game also featured the undisputed best team from each conference with one bringing an old school nasty defense and the other one sporting the highest scoring offense in the league. Defense won-out in Super Bowl XIII as the Steelers built a 35-17 lead before holding-on to win 35-31 despite a furious 4th quarter comeback by the scrambling Roger Staubach. So am I now using a Super Bowl that was played over 35 years ago to determine who is going to win this one? Maybe.

OK, then how about a more recent example that actually featured two teams that mirror the current Seahawks and Broncos pretty well. In 1990, the Giants had the best scoring defense in the league and featured a relatively conservative offense that did a great job of taking care of the ball. (Sound familiar?) In the Super Bowl they held the high-powered Bills offense (yes, there was a time when you could say that with a straight face) to 19 points despite the fact that the Bills had scored 95 points in their two playoff games. Even with that great defensive showing, the Giants still needed Scott Norwood to miss a 47 yard field goal on the last play of the game which may be the cruelest fate suffered by any athlete not named Bill Buckner. Chalk-up another close win for the defense.

And here's a Seahawks
cheerleader. Whatever.
I think the blueprint for this Sunday is pretty similar to those two Super Bowls and the result will be the same with the edge going to the defense.**** Just like those games, it's going to be close because the one thing the Broncos defense did well this year was stop the run which means that Russell Wilson is going to have to make some plays. Unfortunately for Denver, they haven't seen a mobile quarterback like him since Terrelle Pryor back in week 4 and Pryor had a pretty solid game. Meanwhile, the Seahawks got two recent looks at Drew Brees in addition to late season games against Matt Ryan and Eli Manning. Peyton Manning is obviously better than all of those guys but he's not that much better than Brees who averaged 24-41 for 228 yards with 1 touchdown and no picks in those two games.

If Manning's stat line looks anything like Brees' average, the Seahawks will win by 10 but I think he's going to do a little better. Something along the lines of 25-41 for 265 yards with 2 touchdowns but I also think he'll throw a pick. Limiting Manning to under 300 yards and 2 touchdowns will be just enough for Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch to get the job done. Congratulations Seattle. Your 35 years of wandering lost through the sports wilderness is about to come to and end.

Seattle - 27 . . . Denver - 24

Last Week's Record: 0-2 . . . Playoff Record: 4-5-1 . . . Season Record: 139-117-4

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Footnotes

* An "Annapolitan" is someone from Annapolis, Maryland. It is not an Annapolitician as my college roommate from Long Island used to say. Then again, he also used to say "wait on line" instead of "wait in line" and he pronounced "drawer" as "draw" so, in the overall scheme of things, Annapolitician wasn't that annoying.

This is a real painting that A-Rod
had commissioned. I really wish
I was making that up but I'm not.
** For the record, I am pro Richard Sherman. As someone who sacrificed my moral compass years ago for the right to root for Ray Lewis, I am no longer allowed to judge (except when it comes to A-Rod who has entered a whole other dimension of detestability).

*** The '78 Cowboys were the highest scoring team in the league with Roger Staubach and Tony Dorsett while the '78 Steelers had one of the best defenses of all-time thanks to guys like Mean Joe Greene, Jack Lambert and Mel Blount. The two teams featured 13 Hall of Fame players and two Hall of Fame coaches. The game did not disappoint (unless you were a Cowboys fan) and it could have been even better if not for arguably the most critical dropped pass in NFL history. (That clip is worth watching just to hear Curt Gowdy and John Facenda).

**** We can't really look to the wins by the '85 Bears or the '00 Ravens because the offenses and the coaches they played in the Super Bowl were so over-matched. I really have no fan feelings either way for John Fox and Peyton Manning but I certainly respect them enough not to compare them to the General Custer/Hindenburg/New Coke/Titanic/Gigli combos of Raymond Berry/Tony Eason and Jim Fassel/Kerry Collins. In Super Bowl XX, the Patriots' offense had 7 total yards rushing, turned the ball over 6 times and scored 10 points (they actually led the game 3-0 before the Bears scored the next 44 points). The Giants' offense may have outdone them in Super Bowl XXXV, however, with 5 turnovers, 86 yards passing and no offensive points. (The immortal words of Dean Wormer come to mind, "no grade point average . . . all classes, incomplete"). I remember starting to feel sorry for them by the end . . . except for Tiki Barber.