NFL: Super Bowl Preview (?)

Oakland over Dallas.

I will say that again:   Oakland over Dallas.   That was my preseason pick for Super Bowl LII, and you wonder why I don’t write much about football on this site.   I picked Derek Carr to win the League MVP, and was so convinced of that becoming a reality that I drafted him to pilot both of my fantasy football squads.  Thankfully, I also had Carson Wentz and Alex Smith on those squads, and was able to take home one title and one second place.   I would love to claim skill, but recognize it is mostly luck.

However, in my preview, I did pick the Philadelphia Eagles as a “potential surprise team” in 2017!  On the flip side, my confidence was so high that I didn’t even predict them to make the playoffs.   I predicted that Jacksonville may be a surprise, but also picked them to go 8-8.   I did pick three of the four AFC Division champions (I actually had the Raiders winning the Super Bowl as a wild-card entry.  There is no explanation for my kind of stupid.)

How does all of this qualify me to make a prediction on this year’s Super Bowl?  It doesn’t.  I am probably more qualified to pick the winner of the Puppy Bowl, which actually does have a prop bet attached to it.   I used to run a “prop bet” pool – I had an Excel Workbook (I probably still have it) with 200+ questions in it.  I would pick 50 of those questions every year to send out for people to answer, and whoever scored the most points would win.   It was fun, though the tradition ended one year when several of the people who begged me to do it didn’t actually participate.   It wasn’t my proudest moment (didn’t do much for my already deflated ego).  In 2018, I am not currently in any Super Bowl pools.  Not only does the match-up give me more heartburn than a plate of nachos and taco dip, I also have no financial rooting interest to lean back on.   What is the point of this game, again?

If I had to choose two random teams to be in the Super Bowl, these two particular teams would not be high on my list.   The New England Patriots are no longer a team people will randomly root for to win the Big Game.   You are either a fan of them, or a fan of the team playing against them.  If you are a Giants fan, I can at least get behind two reasons why you may not feel that way:  1.  You want nothing to do with the Eagles winning, regardless of the opponent; 2.  You want the Giants to be the only team who defeated the Patriots during their dynasty.  Understood.  You have been granted immunity.

Beyond fans of the Giants, it appears that the vast majority of unaffiliated fans are rooting for the Eagles to win this game, based on who the opponent is instead of who the Eagles are.   If this Super Bowl was Eagles-Jaguars, a satellite picture of Earth from the international space station would show a little pinhole where Eagles’ fans resided, with the rest of the globe covered in the Jaguars’ color scheme.  I find this to be at least a bit weird, as there doesn’t even appear to be all that many people in Jacksonville who care much about the Jaguars, never mind the globe.  That is the allure of the Eagles though – people love to hate on a franchise that never wins.  That in itself is interesting, no?  Usually the teams that are despised are the teams that actually win.  Nobody cared much about hating the Patriots until they started winning a boatload of Super Bowl trophies.  The Eagles are unique:  They have been mostly a non-factor for a vast majority of their existence, yet nobody likes them anyway.

The Super Bowl has always been about more than just the game.  I have been through the gauntlet when it comes to the game itself:  My favorite team (Panthers) have participated and lost twice.   When I was in my late teens and early 20s, the game was going through a phase where it was rarely close, making the commercials (which used to actually be good) the main attraction of the night.    Who wants to see the Buffalo Bills and San Diego Chargers get annihilated when you can instead watch frogs croak out “Bud-weis-er”?   Yes, back in those days, you took a break during the game action to make sure you didn’t miss a commercial.   The games have been closer lately (7 of the last 10 have been within six points or less), with a few even going down to the wire.

This is especially true of the Patriots.  In their five Super Bowl victories, they have not won a single game by double digits, with their biggest margin of victory coming in the only Super Bowl overtime game in history:  The 6-point win over the Falcons last season.    Their two losses were by a combined five points to the Giants (of course, before this stretch of excellence, they didn’t fare well in their first two Super Bowl appearances:  Losses by 36 to the Bears and 14 by the Packers).

The Eagles were one of the victims in the close Super Bowls, losing by three in 2005 back in Donovan McNabb‘s heyday.

Philadelphia will be starting their backup quarterback on Sunday, a fellow by the name of Nick Foles.  After a rough ending to his season, Foles played exceptionally well in the NFC Championship victory over the Vikings, the type of performance that likely gives people some belief that the Eagles can pull off the miracle in Minnesota.   This game has some parallels to Super Bowl XXV, when backup quarterback Jeff Hostetler did a masterful job of managing a game plan in one of the game’s biggest upsets, a 20-19 win over a high-powered and heavily favored Buffalo Bills squad who would soon become one of the nation’s favorite punch lines.   People remember that game for Scott Norwood‘s missed field goal as the clock expired to 0:00, but Hostetler’s touchdown pass with 30 seconds to go in the first half gave the Giants some life after being dominated for most of the game’s first 30 minutes.

Of course, that Bills’ team did not have the pedigree of this Patriots team.  Bill Belichick + 2 weeks of preparation + a backup quarterback piloting the opponent doesn’t manifest in one’s mind as an opportunity for the spawn of Satan…oops, I mean the actually lose this game.   We likely have a better chance of a Gilligan’s Island reboot than an Eagles victory, but the beauty of the Super Bowl (beyond the halftime show – sometimes) is that it is ONE game.  Anybody can win one game – even the Browns have done it once in 32 tries over the last two seasons.

My day on Sunday will consist of driving in some rain to reach my Super Bowl destination, eating some good food, and coming home to watch the highly anticipated episode of “This is Us” on our DVR.  Somewhere among all that activity will exist a football game.   Once that football game is over, the visions of the NCAA Tournament and baseball’s Opening Day will be dancing in my head.

Patriots 27, Eagles 24.  Do I want to see Tom Brady win #6?  I would rather fall down a steep set of stairs, though that is highly probable regardless of the outcome of the game.  It should be tight, because all Patriots’ Super Bowl appearances are.   And if this game follows suit with most of my NFL predictions this year, Eagles’ fans will wake up very happy Monday morning.








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