Thursday, January 29, 2009

Super Bowl 43 Preview

Well, I fell off the face of the earth a few months ago. So, what's changed? What's brought me back? Well, of course, it's the hot new judge on "American Idol"! How could I not give you 3,000 words on "Idol"?

Okay, her name is Kara DiGuardi....just kidding!

The real reason? Well, it is, of course, Super Bowl 43! And yes, there is a reason I am refusing to use Roman numerals when referring to Sunday's game. The reason is simple: Roman numerals are reserved for legitimate championship games. You know, the kind where we walk away knowing the winning team is either the best team in the world or has just conquered the best team in the world. Can this happen Sunday? No.

Listen, I've bored my best friends with my rants about how this post-season signifies a real problem with the NFL. More specifically, how this post-season reveals that the NFL has become nothing more than the NCAA Tournament on grass. Now, I know we all love the NCAA tournament, and we love the idea that David can slay Goliath. At least, we like to think we love that idea. As evidenced by the complete apathy that surrounded the George Mason Final Four, however, it turns out that we really only love the underdog as long as it doesn't jeopardize the heavyweight battle at the end of the road.

Now, the ghost of George Mason hangs over the Superbowl. In one corner we have the 7 loss team that gave up 874 points in weeks 12-16. And, in the other corner, we have the reincarnation of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens minus a top notch running game. In other words, if this game took place on any other Sunday, you couldn't pay me to watch it. For better or worse, however, this is the Superbowl, and it is every American's obligation not only to watch, but to wager on the coin-flip, who will score the first touchdown, whether either team will score in the last two minutes of the first half, whether there will be a field goal of less than 24 yards, and whether there will be a successful two point conversion, among other things (if, of course, gambling was legal). And, since it is mandated by law that we watch, we might as well break this thing down!

In order to understand what is going to happen Sunday, we need to first look at a few facts:

1) Neither team can run the football. Pittsburgh, as the 23rd best rush offense is slightly better than Arizona's, which is dead last in the NFL. So, we will give the Steelers the edge on the ground, but it's not enough of a difference to really matter. I mean, is bad really better than worst? Actually, it is, but I trust you get my point. I'm confusing myself, so I'm going to move on.

2) To my knowledge, no Georgia Tech grad has ever coached a Super Bowl champion. And, to my knowledge, Dan Reeves is the only other Georgia boy to ever coach in the Super Bowl. Suffice it to say, those are some long odds for Coach Whisenhunt to overcome. That being said, to my knowledge, no television/movie star has ever coached a team to a Super Bowl ring. It's a tough call, but I'm going to go with Whisenhunt over Epps. What? Omar Epps isn't coaching the Steelers? I don't believe that. I'm going to need to see a birth certificate.

3) Mons Venus. I'm not saying anything, but you can imagine what I'm thinking.

In all seriousness (I was actually serious about #3), I can't help but think this game is going to come down to which team can more effectively pass the football. Now, those of you that know me know that I think Ben Roethlisberger is the most grossly overrated football player of our lifetime, but fear not. I'm not just going to go on and on about how this guy isn't deserving of half the slurping he receives or how he is going to crap the bed just the way he did the last time he played in the Super Bowl. Granted, the guy has only thrown for more than 18 touchdowns once in his career, threw for only 17 touchdowns this year while turning the ball over 22 times (it would have been worse if the Steelers hadn't recovered 7 of his 14 fumbles), has averaged 14 picks/year over his career, and has averaged only 208 yards/game over his career*, but I'm not going to belabor how grossly overrated this guy is. Not going to do it. Not at all.

Instead, let's focus on the things we know are relevant to this game....okay, I can't do it. I'm sorry, I tried. I really did. Listen, we've got a game featuring two quarterbacks. One is a guy that went from bagging groceries to becoming a two time league MVP, a Super Bowl champion, a Super Bowl MVP, and now, in the twilight of his career is throwing to the best wide receiver in football and has become the real life Billy Chapel (If you didn't get that reference, go out and immediately buy "For Love of the Game." Not only one of the most under-rated sports movies of all time, but it is also Costner's best performance, including "The Untouchables". I'm not kidding about this.). The other guy was a top draft pick that has been inexplicably exalted by not only the largest group of fair weather fans of any sports organization in the world, but also the media. For God's sake, this guy threw 15 picks this year and fumbled the ball 14 times! And, if that's not enough, he put in the worst quarterbacking performance in Super Bowl history a few years ago, and somehow never took heat for it. And, in case you forgot, and if the media has succeeded in their inexplicable mission, you have, "7" put up these numbers in a Super Bowl apparently officiated by the same crew that officiated the gold medal basketball game in Munich in '72: 9/21, 123 yards, 0 T.D.s, 2 INT's, and a 22.6 quarterback rating.

Listen, I know Warner has his flaws. More importantly, I know the Cardinals have their flaws. In the second half against the Eagles, they only kept the Eagles off Warner enough to put together one drive. The important thing, however, is that they made the adjustments on the fly and gave Warner time to throw when it mattered most. Now, they've had two weeks to prepare for a defense Whisenhunt saw on a daily basis for years. To think that Warner won't have a huge day is borderline silly. And, based on the empirical evidence, to think Roethlisberger will have a better day is flat out ridiculous. So, in a game that is going to be won by the team that has more success passing the ball, there is only one choice: That's right, your seven loss Super Bowl Champion Arizona Cardinals.

Final Score: 31-13.

Now, if you will excuse me, I'm going to go bang my head on a marble counter top.

* As a frame of reference, in their careers as starters, the following quarterbacks have put up the following per game averages (I have chosen these because I think we can all agree they are considered "good" quarterbacks, and I didn't feel like researching them all):

Eli Manning - 212

Drew Brees - 246

Philip Rivers - 220

Tony Romo - 271

Peyton Manning - 259

Tom Brady - 238