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Eight Thoughts on a Bizarre Super Bowl

| February 6th, 2017

I couldn’t believe what I was watching. The morning after, I still can’t believe it. Eight thoughts…

  • The better team won this game. A lot was made of the adjustments made by the Patriots coaching staff as this game progressed but the truth is the Patriots were simply playing an awful game for the better part of three quarters. Brady missed wide open receivers. Edelman had a drop that was an easy 30-35 yard gain. Josh McDaniels couldn’t get a handle on things. When those mistakes stopped, the Pats scored at will.
  • After the brilliant Julio Jones catch, the Falcons are three kneel downs away from taking an 11-point, two possession lead and essentially ending the game. But what did Kyle Shanahan do? He went pass heavy. He went pass heavy!?!?!! Sack. Hold. For the second consecutive Patriots Super Bowl, their opponent lost their mind when the moment got too big.
  • The difference between 4-3 in the Super Bowl and 5-2 is night and day. The Patriots were staring down the barrel of being remembered as a slightly above mediocre Super Bowl team, with many pointing to luck (Pete Carroll) as the only reason they weren’t 3-4 in the Fantastic Football Foray. Instead, the coach and quarterback have five championships and lay claim to the label of the greatest ever.
  • Julian Edelman’s catch (pictured above) was poetic justice. For Tyree. For Manningham down the sideline. For the Welker drop in the open field. No, it didn’t happen against the Giants but there were few eyes not thinking of Big Blue when Edelman scooped the ball off the field of a Falcons defensive back. When that catch happened I thought, “this game is over”.
  • This was not the greatest Super Bowl of all-time. This was the greatest Super Bowl comeback of all-time. It’s hard to call a game great when one team completely folds. The Falcons didn’t sleep last night. They won’t sleep tonight. They won’t sleep tomorrow night. This is the kind of loss franchises have a hard time getting over and Atlanta immediately becomes the most fascinating team in the NFL in 2017. History and the odds will tell you this group will more than likely be sitting home next January.
  • How is James White not the MVP? His versatility and production were the number one key to the Patriots comeback. It’s always somebody you don’t expect with the Pats. This year it was White.
  • Shea McClellin, Super Bowl Champion.
  • The word I’d use for the game: surreal. I was texting with four different people over the course of the game. Here is a text from each one of them:
    • “Wow. This is just…wow.”
    • “I can’t believe this is happening.”
    • “Are the Falcons serious?”
    • “I can’t watch this.” (Jets fan)

One of the most memorable Super Bowls in history. And now the offseason begins.

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Super Bowl LI Prediction

| February 2nd, 2017

Honestly, I haven’t spent much time thinking about this Super Bowl. The NFL starts to drift from my mind moments after the conference championship games are concluded. (At this point, golf begins to take the leaves the lounge and comes into the showroom.) But having seen a boatload of both teams over the course of the season, here are five thoughts:

  • I don’t think the Falcons have enough in their secondary to handle the Patriots spread game. But Dan Quinn’s defense will need to do two things to keep Brady & Co. from piling up the points: (1) avoid the deep hit and (2) tighten up against the run inside the red zone.
  • Brady has lost two Super Bowls and both of them were not solely because of Eli Manning’s heroics. He lost those games because both of those Giants teams got after Brady with their defensive lines. Both of those Giants teams did not require blitzing Brady – which is schematic suicide – to pressure him into quick throws. While Vic Beasley led the league in sacks, the next guy on the Falcons had 4.5. They’ll need more than Beasley.
  • Is it safe to assume the Patriots will take Julio Jones out of this game when the entirety of the football universe believes the Patriots will take Julio Jones out of this game? If we all assume that, doesn’t Kyle Shanahan also assume that? And wouldn’t that mean there’s probably a healthy helping of Sanu and Gabriel and the two backs coming? I think Atlanta is going to have an easy time moving the ball.
  • This has nothing to do with Sunday’s game but I wonder where the Bears would be today if Phil Emery had listened to me and brought in Kyle Shanahan five years ago. I believed then, as I believe now, that Shanahan is going to be an excellent head coach in the league.
  • This game comes down to one player: Matt Ryan. He’s got a checkered playoff past but he has an opportunity to cement his legacy in the league Sunday and don’t think that hasn’t weighed on him the last two weeks. A Super Bowl title gives a quarterback a blank check for the rest of his career. Joe Flacco could write an essay for the Baltimore Sun denouncing the use of Old Bay seasoning and he’s still not going to be replaced as the Ravens signal caller.

The “expert” analysis seems to be moving towards Atlanta every day. I’m not going there.

New England Patriots 34, Atlanta Falcons 31

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Super Bowl Preview Volume II: Why I Have No Problem With Greatness Prevailing

| January 31st, 2017

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, I hate more than fluke champions. It devalues everything I long for from the Chicago Bears; everything that brings me to the keyboard each and every day. I’m not arguing the Atlanta Falcons would be a fluke champion should they win the Fantastic Football Foray. Far, far from it. But the most definitive reason why I have no problem with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady winning their fifth championship together is simple: greatness.

The Patriots of this era are the most brilliantly run organization in the history of professional sports. Don’t give me the heyday Celtics or late 70s Steelers or late 90s Yankees or Jordan Bulls or one of those hockey franchises that wins a bunch. Every one of those aforementioned runs had a talent advantage on the opposition. Their guys were better than the other guys. They won because they should win.

The Patriots operate at a time where championship continuity is seemingly impossible. They let solid veterans walk out the door and turn castaways into household names. Rob Gronkowski done for the year and maybe longer. Who cares? They lose their Hall of Fame quarterback and still win. They lose his backup and, guess what, they don’t lose.

The Patriots have Tom Brady. And Tom Brady is great. But how many times have the Patriots had the most talented roster in the conference, let alone the entire NFL? Their current defensive roster, the league’s best scoring unit, is nowhere near as talented as the reigning champs in Denver. Their skill players on the offensive side pale in comparison to the group they demolished a week ago from Pittsburgh.

But they are great because of Brady. And Belichick. And Ernie Adams. They are great and if they win their fifth championship Sunday, I will applaud them. They deserve it. Theirs is the success of which all fans should dream.

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Super Bowl Preview, Volume I: Why the Game Lacks Juice

| January 30th, 2017

“Super Bowl” is maybe the silliest name for a sporting event on earth.

What makes the game a bowl? (Bleacher Report traced the completely arbitrary origins.) Were the leaders of professional football in the late 60s so unimaginative that they just lifted nomenclature from the college game? The World Series is at least a series, even if the world has nothing to do with it. Play the game at The Rose Bowl every year if you’re going to keep the dumbo name.

And super? Really? That’s the adjective they decided upon? Even in the late 60s the word super was lame.

     Todd: Well, Jim, the game is gonna be really terrific.

     Jim: The Terrific Title Game. What do you think, Todd?

     Todd: Doesn’t pop, Jim. The name has to pop!

     Jim: The Fantastic Football Foray!

     Todd: Sounds too much like a burlesque show.

     Jim: The Super Bowl? I know it’s lame –

     Todd: Nailed it!

This Super Bowl lacks juice. Three reasons:

  • The best storyline is something that might happen after the game is over, with Goodell handing things to the New England hierarchy. People actually care about this? I don’t even watch the trophy presentation. And based on the way a majority of Super Bowls have gone, I probably won’t watch the tail end of the fourth quarter.
  • This NFL season was awful but the postseason has been a particular kind of grotesque. Outside of Cowboys/Packers, was there even an entertaining game? (Or don’t tell me that thing the Steelers and Chiefs did was entertaining.) As a huge fan of professional football, I’m hoping this season will merely be an anomaly. But I think it’d be foolish to expect this Super Bowl to save the season. Still, one can hope.
  • The Falcons. If this were the Cowboys, the game’s juice would be out of control. If this were Aaron Rodgers, the Rodgers v. Brady would make people salivate. But there’s something bland about the Falcons, even though they have the most dynamic offense in the league. I’ll be rooting for them Sunday but if they lose, it’ll take me about seventeen seconds to get over it.

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Championship Sunday Preview & Picks

| January 20th, 2017

Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Administrative Note: The Weekend Show will return Super Bowl week and continue to run throughout the off-season. Our guests will not only be Bears-related but also branch out to other Chicago institutuions – bars, restaurants, culture, politics…etc. And we’ll do A LOT on the quarterbacks available in this draft.


Went 3-1 against the spread last week but only 2-2 picking winners. So I’m an alarmingly mediocre 4-4 ATS and 5-3 picking winners this postseason. Not good.

Packers +5 over FALCONS

Atlanta had the most impressive win of the division round. Took some body blows early from a proven contender and then did what this franchise has failed to do for what feels like a decade: knocked out an opponent. This is unquestionably the most exciting and dynamic offense left in the playoffs. But what I love about the construction of this roster is they are now equipped to hold a lead because of a young, exciting pass rush.

Will that matter against Aaron Rodgers? Nobody knows. Rodgers is now playing the quarterback position better than anyone in the history of the league. His receiving corps stinks. His running back is a slot receiver. He has a brilliant pass blocking offensive line but the rest of Ted Thompson’s team is the definition of mediocrity. Can Rodgers win this game? Of course he can. But I’m saying the magic runs out. Barely.

Falcons 41, Packers 38


Steelers +6 over PATRIOTS

I have no idea what to make of this game.

Houston’s defense was brilliant a week ago but were beaten by two things: (1) Weirdo Tom Brady moon balls his receivers managed to haul in and (2) their own quarterback throwing the ball to the other team. If the Patriots had either the Chiefs or Steelers on the other side of the field Saturday night, I don’t think they’re playing this week.

Kansas City should have beaten Pittsburgh but Andy Reid and Alex Smith executed an offensive game plan the league hasn’t seen since the invention of the forward pass. (Reid is quickly venturing into Schottenheimer territory.)

Here’s what I know. Le’Veon Bell is amazing, Bill Belichick knows that and agenda item number one for the Patriots will be stopping him. If they do, they win. If they don’t…?

Patriots 24, Steelers 21

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Championship Sunday Games Thread

| January 24th, 2016

olsen

Money Mouth

Nine games over for the season. Need a 2-1 finish this week to set up an all-or-nothing Super Bowl to reach my coveted a 10 games over for the year.

Patriots -3 over Broncos / Panthers -3 over Cardinals

Two best teams in the league meet in the Super Bowl.

Patriots & Broncos Under 45

I had the final score at 27-17 Patriots. That’s 44. Works for me.

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Money Mouth: Divisional Round Picks

| January 15th, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 12.22.01 PM

I have no idea what’s going to happen this weekend. Not a single result would surprise me. So I’m going back to picking SOMETHING for these games. I finished the season six over .500. Still have a chance to get to ten over. But I need a strong performance. (For some reason I didn’t include spreads last week but I would have gone 2-2 any way you slice it.)

PATRIOTS OVER 23.5 PTS VS. CHIEFS

Here’s what Bill Belichick knows: his offensive line can’t protect Tom Brady from the Chiefs pass rush. And since no coach in history has been better at self-evaluation, he won’t ask them to try. Instead Brady will go to the quick-release pass attack with Edelman Edelman Edelman and neutralize Houston, Hali and company. I think it works. Not sure if Pats are healthy enough to win but they are healthy enough to score.

PACKERS +7 AT CARDINALS

I am going to be rooting very hard in this game so I’m making an emotional hedge. Would love to lose this one.

PANTHERS OVER 23.5 PTS VS. SEAHAWKS

Here are the Carolina scores over the last 8 games: 27, 44, 33, 41, 38, 38, 13, 38. I say they play with a chip on their shoulder as the media at-large keeps trying to convince fans the team is overrated. (2015 Panthers remind me an awful lot of the 2006 Bears. Nobody thought that team could make the Super Bowl until their plane landed in Miami.) Bold prediction: Panthers beat them up.

I will not be making a selection in the Broncos/Steelers game as there’s no point. Unless someone can prove to me Roethlisberger will be healthy it’s a sucker’s wager. But without Antonio Brown I’d need a big number to take Pittsburgh.

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Money Where My Mouth Is: Three Picks For Week 14

| December 10th, 2015

money

Let’s face it. Last week should have been an 0-3 week but Jim Caldwell conspired to get me on the board. Need a winning week to return that warm and fuzzy feeling to the old wallet. Let’s go.

PITTSBURGH & CINCINNATI OVER 49.5 PTS

Pittsburgh has the most exciting passing in the NFL and – arguably – one of the five worst secondaries. Maybe these teams will shock me and revert to the division’s previous form but I see both teams scoring and scoring at will. Steelers 31, Bengals 30

NEW ENGLAND -3 AT HOUSTON

The Patriots lost two weeks ago, right? They lost last week too, right? When’s the last time they lost three games in a row? I won’t do the research and will just assume Pete Carroll was the coach. Buffalo put together a game plan to neutralize J.J. Watt and exposed the backend of the Texans defense. Expect Tom Brady to put the Pats back into the win column, even if he might be the team’s best receiver. Patriots 27, Texans 14

NEW YORK GIANTS -1.5 AT MIAMI

The Giants stink. They also are going to win the Super Bowl. But in order to do that they must make the postseason. They’ll take the pole position in the NFC East after this week’s done. Giants 20, Dolphins 17

Season Record: 20-17-2

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