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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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Betting Super Bowl Sunday: Five Surefire Ways to Lose Money

| February 1st, 2017

Here are five bets for this weekend. Bet everything you have. Unless you have a problem. Then don’t bet anything. All odds from Paddy Power.

WASTE MANAGEMENT PHOENIX OPEN: STEVE STRICKER FINISH INSIDE TOP TEN – 12:1

Several years ago I became the first person in Queens history to lose $1,000 on Super Bowl Sunday before the Super Bowl came on TV thanks to the fine efforts of Bubba Watson at the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale. (A golf course I have played and loved.) It’s now become tradition for me to wager too much on this tournament, which often leaks through the opening kickoff and annoys many in the bar In which I’m watching.

Stricker is a very strange player. At his age and with his lack of consistent competition, he has two possible finishes. He’s either missing the cut by three shots or finishing something like T-4. I think he shows up this week and makes you a fortune.

COIN TOSS: TAILS

This is not a heads kind of game. Heads would be Steelers-Giants or Patriots-Cowboys. The Falcon presence on Super Bowl Sunday means tails will not fail.

FIRST TOUCHDOWN SCORER: TOM BRADY – 50:1

I had to double check these odds twice. Fifty to one?!? Listen, we know Brady isn’t exactly Colin Kaepernick but there are so many scenarios where I can envision Brady taking the ball into the end zone for the first score. And at this number, a $10 flier is winning you $500. So you root for a pass interference in the end zone on the Pats opening drive and you’ll probably get four tries to make magic happen.

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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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Five Thoughts on Super Bowl 50

| February 8th, 2016

The game will be dissected all across the board for weeks. Here are just a few quick thoughts.

  • I don’t think I’ll ever forget the image of Cam Newton refusing to go all-in to recover his own fumble. The biggest and strongest quarterback in the league came up small in a massive moment.
  • Has any defensive player ever finished a season better than Von Miller? His AFC title game and Super Bowl were historic.
  • The Gary Kubiak / John Fox debate that jumped on the internet last night makes no sense. The debate people should be having is Wade Phillips / John Fox. I can end that debate now. Wade is one of the greatest defensive coaches in league history. Fox builds great defenses.
  • I don’t want to see Peyton Manning play football anymore. When Denver ran the ball on that late third down I just felt bad. Primarily because it was the smart call.
  • Usually you can’t label a team’s loss this simply but I will make an exception for Carolina. The moment got to them. They seemed to make every mistake. They’re young enough to rebound and get back there but they should show up with real offensive tackles next time.

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Super Bowl Fifty Gambling Prop Guide

| February 4th, 2016

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These odds are courtesy of the great Jimmy Shapiro, who emails the world weekly with various odds.

BET 1: JOHN FOX

How many times will “John Fox” be said during the Broadcast?

Over     1          (-140, 5/7)

Under   1          (EVEN, 1/1)

(Note: From kickoff to final whistle, halftime does not count.)

This seems like it might happen regularly during the broadcast but really why would it? Once the game begins, unless Fox is visible in the crowd, why would the announcers think to mention him? I’ll take the UNDER and feel safe with no worse than a push.

___________________

BET 2: RETIREMENT

Will Peyton Manning announce his retirement in the postgame interview?

Yes      +500  (5/1)

No        -1000 (1/10)

You’re getting 5 to 1 odds on him doing it so you have to take YES. If the Broncos win and Peyton Manning is speaking to Jim Nantz on the stage in a sea of confetti, can’t you see him dropping a reference or two to his “last game”? I can. Don’t load up here but it’s worth the gamble.

___________________

BET 3: SUPERMAN

How many times will Cam Newton do the Open Shirt Superman motion during the game?

Over     2.5        (EVEN, 1/1)

Under   2.5        (-140, 5/7)

 (Note: From kickoff to final whistle, halftime does not count.)

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Super Bowl Sunday

| February 1st, 2015

Seattle Seahawks v Atlanta Falcons

A Note on the Super Bowl

I hear a lot of Bears fans say, “I’m not even going to watch the Super Bowl for this reason or that reason or the other reason or a few different reasons than the other reason.” There’s a sadness to that sentiment. This is the Sunday wherein the sport’s history is written. What is past – regular season, wild card, divisional, title games – is merely prologue.

Fans of the thirty teams not represented in Glendale watch this game with dreams in their hearts. Everything a Bears should want from their club will be represented by the two teams battling this tonight. Every emotion a Bears fan should want to experience will be felt by one of the club’ fan bases well through the evening hours.

This is the Super Bowl.

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Super Bowl Preview Volume III: Gambling Guide

| January 28th, 2015

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Here are four fun bets for Super Bowl Sunday…

COIN TOSS

Heads or Tails.

If you’ve never bet the coin toss for a Super Bowl, you need to. And not to encourage gambling but it’s actually a fun way to get kids into betting on sports! You don’t need an offshore website or guy with a little notebook at the corner of the bar. You just need a friend. Go to your friend before the game. One of you take heads. One of you take tails. Put $5 or a drink on it. It is a 100% foolproof way of giving yourself a boost of adrenaline before the game begins.

Prediction: Tails. Many believe it never fails.

SHORTEST TOUCHDOWN RUN

From PFT piece:

Over-Under on Super Bowl XLIX’s shortest touchdown: 1.5 yards.

Over: +115 (lay $10 to win $11.50).

Under: -135 (lay $13.50 to win $10).

This prop boils down to one question: Will there be a one-yard touchdown in the Super Bowl?

This is a GREAT Super Bowl prop because it involves a wide range of factors. But ask yourself this question: how many touchdowns do you believe will be scored Sunday? 3? 4? This prop relies upon plays being run from the one yard line and whilst a pass interference in the end zone is not unlikely with these two aggressive secondaries, the odds simply aren’t there.

Prediction: Over.

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Super Bowl Preview Volume II: Final ‘Audibles’ of the 2014 Football Season

| January 27th, 2015

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THREE THOUGHTS ON THE GAME ITSELF

  • The outcome of Seahawks v. Packers disguised the story of Seahawks v. Packers: Seattle’s complete lack of pass rush. If Aaron Rodgers had mobility the game would never have been in question (and let’s be honest, it should not have been in question anyway). Tom Brady’s two Super Bowl losses to Tom Coughlin and the Giants had a similar theme. The Giants pressured him. They pressured him consistently. If the Seahawks don’t they will need to score a lot of points to win this game.
  • Who is Richard Sherman covering? The Patriots have no issue not throwing the ball out wide so are the Seahawks going to allow their best cover man to be relegated to Brandon LaFell all evening? The middle of the Seahawks defense can be attacked and I would expecte Edelman and Gronk to live there most of the night.
  • Steve McNair still holds the Super Bowl record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 64. I expect the Seahawks to try and break that record with Russell Wilson. Pete Carroll can say whatever he wants but he learned a week ago his quarterback is at a severe disadvantage when chasing the game. Pats will want to be aggressive on the edges. Expect Wilson to take advantage of that and hit them for some zone read runs.

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Why the 2014 Chicago Bears Are All About Setting the Stage for the 2015 Edition

| July 30th, 2014

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NFL fans have the patience of my orange boy cat (named Bear, pictured above) once he knows his wet food has been moved from the can to the plate. There’s a lot of walking in circles. His sweet-tempered meow morphs into a more desperate, restless MEOORRRRE. He is so hungry for a taste of what he knows is so close he is unable to control himself.

Telling an NFL fan training camp and the preseason are meaningless is the equivalent of placing Bear’s plate on the ground and then holding him ten feet away. Telling them what I’m about to tell them, that 2014 is but a stepping stone to the mountaintop, will elicit more than a MEOORRRRE. It’ll end with my blogging hands scratched until blood is drawn.

2013’s edition of the Chicago Bears established a new direction under the leadership of Marc Trestman and excommunicated the old direction (Lovie) and leadership (Urlacher). It was only an 8-8 campaign but for a fan base desperate for big league offense it left even the most pessimistic fan with a firm understanding the arrow is pointed in the correct direction.

2013, coupled with Emery’s 2012 offseason, were the first step in what Pat Riley calls  “the innocent climb.” Here is a publisher’s summary of that notion:

The innocent climb is the surge that occurs within a team as they are accomplishing more because of the synergy that occurs within a team. Innocence means understanding that the team comes first and being carried along by that; being naive means being ignorant. Innocence doesn’t mean being naive. Teamwork and all of its benefits happen when everyone puts the team first. innocence comes when the leader believes in something and puts him or herself out to accomplish that.

Climbing innocently began with the establishment of this new direction and the building of a new identity. But something funny happened on the way to Soldier Field. Trestman and Emery were successful at a more rapid rate than expected and produced a championship-caliber offense in the first year of this new program.

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