Behind the Mic: Who Wins 50?

So the two #1 seeds in their respective conferences will ACTUALLY meet in the 50th Super Bowl championship.  One team (Carolina) scored more points than any other this year and the other (Denver) got up the least amount of yardage.  As I write this, Carolina is favored by 4.5 points.  I will attempt to analyze the two teams and pick a winner.

DEFENSE
“You win championships with defense.”  How many times have we heard analysts tell us that?  If, indeed, that is the case, it would still be very hard to choose a winner based on that adage.  Both teams have outstanding defenses (maybe that’s why they are in the Super Bowl).  Carolina’s defense has been particularly tough on quarterbacks.  They are the best team in the NFL for creating the lowest opponent passer rating.  They certainly made life miserable for Cardinals’ quarterback, Carson Palmer.  And linebacker David Newton, who broke his arm in the Cardinals’ game, is expected to play after having surgery this past Monday.

The Denver defense, however, has stopped almost every team and had little trouble stopping Tom Brady and the PatriotsVon Miller is an awesome player.  The Broncos were first in the league in total yards allowed and had 20 quarterback hits last week.  I would think that the diversity of the Carolina offensive attack would be a bigger challenge than Denver faced against the Patriots.

ADVANTAGE:  CAROLINA

OFFENSE
QB’s – Cam Newton (Carolina) vs. Peyton Manning (Denver) – wow!  Talk about contrasting styles.  Newton never seems to feel the pressure of the moment and always looks like he is just having fun.  Manning, on the other hand, is like a scientist in his lab studying and dissecting.  Newton has the stronger arm; Manning has won this game, has the experience and the knowledge of many years in the league.

Receivers – Greg Olsen and Ted Ginn, Jr. (Carolina) vs. Damaryius Thomas and Emanuel Sanders (Denver).  I like Carolina here because of their defensive secondary and Greg Olsen is not unlike the Patriot’s Rob Gonkowski.

Running Backs – Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert (Carolina) vs. C J Anderson and Ronnie Hillman.  Both teams give up very little rushing yardage, but with Cam Newton as a running weapon, Carolina should be a bit harder to defend.  Both teams, however, give up @ 80 yards per game on the ground.  Running the ball (except by Newton) might be a non-factor.

ADVANTAGE:  CAROLINA

INTANGIBLES

  • Peyton’s last game?  This would certainly give the emotional edge to Denver.
  • Turnovers?  Carolina has a +20 turnover differential compared to Denver’s -4.
  • Carolina’s cockiness? This could serve them well on such a big stage or derail them if things do not go well early in the game.
  • Extra points ARE important – Just ask the Patriots; they chased that one point the whole game.

ADVANTAGE – DENVER

THE PICK
This is a really tough choice (as it should be).  On paper I like the Carolina Panthers; but I do think the emotional edge goes to Denver.

THE WINNER OF SUPER BOWL 50:
CAROLINA PANTHERS  24 – 17

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME SUPER BOWL  MUSINGS)

        1. If Carolina wins, Cam Newton would become the only player to win the Heisman, a national NCAA championship, NFL MVP and a Super Bowl.
        2. If Denver wins, Peyton Manning would be the first quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two teams. He won at Indianapolis.
        3. The Browns, Lions, Jaguars and Texans are the only teams that have not played in a Super Bowl.
        4. A 30-second ad this year will cost $5 million, 11% higher than last year. 4 million people tuned in last year.
        5. If you like to gamble, the odds before the season started that the Broncos would face the Panthers in the Super Bowl were 184-1!

NFL PICKS LAST WEEK – 10-6; OVERALL 160-96 (63%)
NFL PICKS (WILD CARD) – 3-1
NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS – 3-1; PLAYOFFS (6-2)
NFL CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS – 1-1; PLAYOFFS (7-3)

Behind the Mic: “Have I Got a Deal for You…”

The teams are set for Super Bowl XLVIII – Denver vs. Seattle.

I would not think there is a tremendous number of people here on the East Coast who are passionate fans of either of these two teams. However, I would think there are a number of fans who put attending a Super Bowl on their “bucket list”. And with the game being played on the “right” coast this year at MetLife Stadium, wouldn’t this be the perfect opportunity to check this one off your agenda?

Before you jump at the chance, there is one very important item you need to consider: THE COST! The cheapest seat (and probably the worst) costs $500. About 39% of the 77,500 tickets will be priced under $1,000 at face value (try to find those). By comparison, the first Super Bowl ticket cost $6; in 2001 the ticket cost $325. And, to be honest, you will probably not be able to get any of these tickets anyway. The NFL controls 25% of the tickets. These end up in the hands of their corporate sponsors. 35% of the tickets go to each of the participating teams.

And making the remaining 5% of tickets available to fans may be a myth. Josh Finkelman of New Jersey believes the NFL only makes @1% of the tickets available for purchase at face value. He feels so strongly that the NFL is gouging the average fan that he has sued them in court. He complains that about 99% of the tickets must be purchased through a middleman. He is seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

Even if you get a ticket, you also must consider the price of parking. That should be a little less than staying in a New York hotel. The absence of tailgating (forbidden this year) means you should be prepared to pay a week’s wages just to eat and drink inside the venue.

So, if you are still interested and really want a ticket, you can get a $2,600 ducat for the club level and this, too, will give you access to the indoor restaurants. There are $1,500 tickets that do not give you the restaurant access (so see above for additional food costs).

If this all sounds like a hassle and you are reconsidering your “bucket list”, you might want to just literally “go for broke” and consider a VIP Package. Allow me to entice you:

• (4) Upper Level Corner End Zone Super Bowl Tickets
• (4) VIP Pregame NFL Players Party Tickets which includes Hand- Passed Appetizers; Five Gourmet Food Stations prepared by a Legendary Super Chef; Multiple Top-Shelf Open Bars staged throughout the Event; Over 20 Current NFL Players introduced by our Event MC, ESPN Sports Center Anchor Lindsay Czarniak, for Sunday Chalk Talk with our Guests; and VIP Round trip Transportation to Metlife Stadium on Game day!
All-Inclusive Price for Four Guests: $14,500

If you’re like me, you have decided to invite a few friends over for some good food, good drink, and good conversation. Sit back, turn on the TV, enjoy the commercials, the game, go to bed at a decent hour, and sleep knowing you might need to revise your “bucket list” in the morning.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
1. I do not think the high price of a seat has anything to do with it, but Commissioner Roger Goodall will not be sitting in a luxury box for the Super Bowl. His seat will be outside in the stands. By the way, the coldest Super Bowl in history was 39 degrees for Super Bowl VI at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans. That record will be broken this year.

2. With one NFL game left to pick (you’ll have to wait until next week), I finished the season guessing 66% of the games correctly. The last four weeks, I have gone 23-3 and have picked the winner the last six games. It was a good year.

3. “Omaha! Omaha!” Am I the only fan who finds Peyton Manning’s skills to be so good that they are boring? He rarely gets sacked, rarely runs, rarely throws an incomplete pass, rarely looks like he is confused by a defense, rarely throws for less than 350 yards, rarely has fewer than three TD passes, and rarely loses. He’s so consistent; it takes all the fun out of the game.

4. In contrast, I thoroughly enjoy watching Colin Kaepernick play quarterback for the 49’ers. He runs like a running back, avoids sacks like a magician, and sometimes loses. If I was a general manager, I’d rather have Peyton.

5. Ironically, the NFL Network is looking to give up its own Thursday night game broadcasts. They say their viewing audience wasn’t large enough. So ESPN, NBC, CBS, FOX, ABC and Turner Sports are expected to bid @ $800 million for the eight games.

NFL PICKS FOR THIS WEEK
(Last week – 2-0) (174-91-1 66%)

SUPER BOWL PICK COMING NEXT WEEK!

 

The SportsTalk Shop: Eagles Season Recap

One of my pet peeves in the sports broadcasting industry is commentators who make dozens of ridiculous predictions each sports season for the sole purpose of claiming “victory” once one of his/her inane insights happen to come true. These same people will quietly forget or ignore the other, incorrect guesses they made in an effort to make themselves look smarter than they may actually be.

We made our own predictions on an Eagles preview edition of RCN SportsTalk and, in the interest of full disclosure, I went back to see how we did. Here’s the good…and the bad…predictions we made about the Eagles 2013 season, keeping in mind these were made by our panelists and myself several weeks prior to the start of the season.

Preseason prediction #1: The Eagles will end the year with a .500 record or better.
When the team started the year 1-3 and their defense had more holes than Gruyére Swiss, this prediction wasn’t looking too solid. Even when the Eagles lost to the Giants—giving New York their first win of the season—not many people thought this team would break even record-wise, led alone win the division. Between fate (you couldn’t have ask for more opposing teams’ number-one players to go down with injuries), an improved defensive scheme, and an offense that learned to trust new starting quarterback Nick Foles, the team won seven of its last eight games. Despite a frustrating loss to the Saints in the first round of the playoffs, this year’s 10-7 season was a success and built a solid foundation for 2014.

Preseason prediction #2: Michael Vick will start 10-12 games this year.
WRONG! Not one of us on the panel thought that Vick had the slightest chance to go the entire season without missing at least a few games due to injury and/or ineffectiveness. However, Vick went down with debilitating injuries early and often and Nick Foles took full advantage of the increased playing time, turning in a performance for the record books. For a time, he had the highest quarterback passer rating in the HISTORY of the game. Despite a lackluster finish, he ended the year third on the all-time list sandwiched by future Hall of Famers Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Foles’ rapid ascension to the starting quarterback spot made Vick—even after recovering from injuries–an afterthought by season’s end.

Preseason prediction #3: Nick Foles will finish the year as the starting quarterback.
Correct—but….
Most of our panel believed that Foles would eventually win the job anyway, or he’s be the last QB standing by default. Matt Barkley never did anything to indicate that he would be a signal-caller to run this offense in training camp, and the limited times we saw him during the season suggests he’ll only return next year as a third-stringer at best. I know people don’t want to hear any possibility that Foles DOESN’T return as the starter next year, and I still highly doubt that the team will seriously look to move him. However, there’s a few well-respected Eagles’ journalists that I’ve spoken with that insist the team will at least venture into the possibility of “selling high” and getting a bundle in return for him—or at least, ASKING for a king’s ransom, and keeping Foles if no team bites.

Preseason prediction #4: Mychal Kendricks will emerge as a star.
This prediction came true very early in the season as the second-year, 23-year-old out of California established himself as the top-notch middle linebacker this team has sorely needed since the first departure of Jeremiah Trotter. But what we didn’t foresee back in early August was the way the players around Kendricks would step up their games. Connor Barwin also become a force on defense for the Eagles, disrupting passing lanes and rarely allowing a ball carrier to break free in his territory. By season’s end, Trent Cole looked extremely comfortable after adjusting to his “hybrid” position in the Eagles new 3-4 alignment. Really, there weren’t too many weaknesses in this defense overall—with the exception of depth, especially at outside linebacker and safety. Improving on the core with Kendricks at the center of it all will be the Eagles number one priority this offseason. Adding bigger, taller and stronger players into the fold was a focus of Chip Kelly’s post-season analysis and will be the main mission of the front office this offseason.

Preseason prediction #5: Jeremy Maclin will return next year.
At the time this prediction was made and contrary to many other players like him in the last year of a contract, Maclin had made the classy decision to NOT sit-out of training camp. Perceived as a critical piece of the puzzle in Kelly’s new offense, Maclin participated in preseason drills for the betterment of the team, only to tear his ACL, and lose all negotiating leverage he had when trying to extend his contract.

This will be a key issue for the team to address in the coming months. With the emergence of Riley Cooper as a solid number two receiver (despite that dropped pass over the middle in the Saints game), and another steady season by slot receiver Jason Avant, it appears that Maclin will not have a place on next year’s team. The Eagles have dropped the public relations ball on previous players who gave their heart-and-soul to the team (i.e., Reggie Brown, Brian Dawkins) only to be spurned a respectable offer to return. I know Maclin is not in that group’s class of all-time greats, but if the team is truly looking to embark on a new year, it should bite a small financial bullet and bring Jeremy back. It still remains to be seen if one of the top-skilled position players from a year ago will be back this fall.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the Eagles season and on what steps the team needs to take this offseason to further its playoff drive for next season. Post a comment below or email your sports opinions to us at RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com and tune in on Thursdays at 6pm for the latest local, regional and national sports conversations.

 

Behind the Mic – January 4th

2013 is upon us, so I thought I would take one last look at the top 10 national sports stories, in my opinion, for 2012:

10.       Tiger Woods wins again, but not very often.

9.         Peyton Manning released by the Colts; he has a great year with the Broncos.

8.         Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and Gabby Douglas make the London Olympic Games very special.

7.         Lance Armstrong stripped of his 7 Tour de France titles by the US Anti-Doping Agency.

6.         Replacement refs in the NFL – How did that work out?  They were replaced after Week 3 debacle with Green Bay and Seattle.

5.         Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck become the most exciting rookies to play in the NFL in a long, long time.

4.         Notre Dame ends college football’s regular season #1, undefeated, and becomes a very relevant football program once again.

3.         Lehigh beats Duke in NCAA basketball (enough said).  Kentucky wins championship with freshmen and sophomores.

2.         College football playoffs in the BCS are approved for 2014. Top four teams  will compete.  You just know it will expand in the future.

And the #1 story:

  1. 1.      NCAA imposes on Penn State a $60 million fine, a four-year bowl ban, a reduction of scholarships, imposes a five-year probation, and vacates all wins from 1998-2011.  Overkill?  Joe Paterno dies.         

 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

1.                  On Sunday night in Washington, do you think there was more interest in the “fiscal cliff” or the Washington-Dallas NFL football game?

2.                  All four Wild Card games this coming weekend look like tossups to me. 

3.                  Having done four high school basketball games before the holiday break, I think this might be a very, very competitive and exciting year.  Although, looking back, I think I say that every year.

4.                  Happy New Year to everyone, but especially to Mike Joseph, John Leone, Tom Stoudt, Scott Barr, and John Bowman!  I spend a great deal of time in the booths and at courtside with those guys and thoroughly enjoy their company each time!

5.                  In 2012, I lost my 97-year-old mother and my 96-year-old father-in-law.  There will be a large void in 2013.

 NFL PICKS FOR THIS WEEK

(Last week – 12-4 )  (  83-49 for the season – 64% )

HOUSTON

GREEN BAY

 

INDIANAPOLIS

WASHINGTON