Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Super Bowl Pick: End Game

NFL 2015 End
There isn't really that much to say about the end of the worst NFL season since the Strike Year, folks. Sure, it seems like a lot, but nothing that has required your time and attention in the last 10+ days. One of the teams has made the event a joke through repeated rules violations, and the other employs a guy who was ran out of the wildly corrupt college game by being, well, wildly corrupt. One of the teams employed a probable mass murderer quite recently; the other is only here thanks to a choke for the ages from their opponent. We would all be holding our nose about this, but being an NFL fan this year meant that you lost your sense of smell, along with your empathy for the pain and suffering of millions of ex-players and abused women and children. At some point, this NFL season became "Breaking Bad", and we all became customers of Mr. White's sky blue meth. Whether we were pathetic addicts or bloodthirsty drug lords is really only a matter of scale.

And the show will go on, probably with the highest ratings on record, because that's just how addicted we are to this bloodsport drug. I haven't really been able to lose myself in the matchup for the entire build-up to this game, or how it's going to be February and wow, no more games for seven months and it's the dead of winter and whatever. None of the usual rhythms and thought patterns have emerged. Instead, I've just come to accept that, like diminished teeth capacity and the race that is earning potential against obligations, that football isn't going to be as good as it once was, and is going to get worse. The game is no longer going to be an escape from the horrors of the real world, a diversion from aging and worry about what we're doing to the planet. Instead, its just going to be a different kind of suck, like an illness you can't shake.

Despite the fact that, at least theoretically, you could just stop watching. I mean, some have, right? I could just stop running a league, blog, and so on, and find other hobbies. Life's short, and there's no reason to keep pouring into a declining system.

Except, well, my friends and family that aren't going to go anywhere. I'm 45, and the last thing I need is *less* things to talk to people about. I don't want to talk to them about what I do for a living, because that's advertising, and they could care less. Talking about golf or poker or parenting or the dog or so on... kind of limited, at least against the vast cosmos of who's going to win and why. Politics? Hell no. Philosophy? Have tried it; it's like showing a dog a card trick, and they change the topic as soon as possible. So, you think the Eagles are really going to try to get Marcus Mariota? It's like a warm bathtub for the mind. Ignore the dirt in the water. It probably came from you anyway.

So, football it is. A software download that will continue to be supported, despite corrupting files, increasing costs, more viruses, less utility. Can't uninstall. All the way down the line. Ring the bell. And pass me the pipe.

And with that... on to the pick!

* * * * *

New England vs. SEATTLE (+2)

The case for New England: If you believe in motivation based on outrage against the media, this is the team for you. For the past week and a half, all they've heard is that they are cheats and scumbags and liars, and that's got to put all kinds of fuel in your tank. Have the best kind of passing attack (i.e., power TE, quick throws) to attack the Seattle secondary, and have been able to exert their will with a running game from time to time. Defense could dominate against a Seattle offense that has sputtered for much of the year and playoffs. WR Brandon LaFell is the body type that tends to hold up against Seattle (think Kelvin Benjamin in the Carolina game). Rob Gronkowski is playing the best football of his life, and could easily be the MVP of this game.

The case against New England: Haven't played against the same level of competition all year, and in last year's SB, that difference was writ large. Offensive line is prone to breakdown, and QB is not mobile. Their best WRs (Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola) are small speed guys, who tend to disappear against Seattle. Commitment to running game comes and goes, and RB corps has been a parade of disposable guys with fumble issues. Relatively easy to scout in the running game, since their backs are single-skill types (run power, run wide, catch). Special teams are relatively ordinary. Defense was surprisingly poor against Baltimore and probably aren't as good as they looked against Indy. Haven't won the big one in a decade, with bad and improbable things happening to them by teams that haven't had the pedigree of this Seahawks club. Could be due for an epic screwing by the increasingly transparent corruption that is NFL Officiating.

The case for Seattle: Best NFL defense in the last 10 years, and maybe 20.  Power running game that eventually just wins. Most mobile QB in the game against a middling pass rush. Could be due for a breakout game in passing, as Russell Wilson doesn't generally look this feeble for long. Team of destiny vibe in play for somehow coming from two scores down, and getting better on defense despite half of the secondary finishing the last game against the best QB in football while compromised by injury. Might be shockingly motivated at the idea that they are the defending champions, from the better conference, and are the betting underdogs. Got away with playing a terrible game for 55 minutes and won anyway to get here.

The case against Seattle: It's hard to imagine that a team with this little in the way of game-breaking talent at WR could win a Super Bowl in this era. Wilson has played some of the worst football of his life in the past few weeks (Carolina wasn't all that good, either). Have had a really hard time sustaining drives in money time, and turnover-prone in the SB is never a good mix. Injuries in the secondary could be much more serious than they are letting on, and if the secondary is just ordinary instead of dominant, they can not win against this opponent, in this setting. Will be facing the second-best defense of the three playoff opponents, and didn't do much against either of the others.

The pick: Honestly, one of the most 50/50 balls I've ever had at this part of the schedule and calendar. If I knew Seahawks CB Richard Sherman and S Earl Thomas were 100%, I'd probably feel confident in taking Seattle, because Thomas could limit Gronk, Sherman would end Edelman, and when the Patriots need to win with LaFelll and Amendola, they don't. If I knew which New England defense was going to show up -- Indy yes, Baltimore hell no -- that would also be one very valuable piece of news.

At the end of the day, I'm not able to shake the idea that the Patriots get here from a weak schedule, and when they are confronted by a real defense, they struggle hard. (And I'm also not certain that it wouldn't have been a better game as, say, Green Bay vs, Baltimore.) So give me Seattle, and the hope that the game will be ugly and boring and a ratings disaster, even though it won't, because if karma ever dictated a money bloodbath for a league and fan base, it's this year, and this league.

The prediction: Seahawks 24, Patriots 20

Last week: 1-1

Season to date: 130-131-4

Past SBs: 4-4

Career: 618-630-43

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