Dodging through the crowd my own basket was filled with makings for my "chocolate chorizo chili', to be served to the nearly 40+ who had said "Yes" to the Evite. Beer was already chilling outside on the deck, and the temps were about to go north of 70. Super Sunday, indeed. The mind was focused on finding some dried chilis when I nearly ran down a woman near the canned vegetables. At first her face read disdain, as if to wonder how I could possibly be so focused not to see another human. Until she glanced at my hat, and I, her shirt. Both read in bold and proud letters, New England Patriots.
Super Sunday is not simply for the fans of the two teams, it's a celebration of all things NFL and all things football. Looking around at the grocery today I saw the following NFL teams represented: Jets, Bills, Patriots, Packers, Cowboys (obviously), Texans (semi-obviously), Chargers (WTF, who moves from San Diego), Ravens, Steelers, and Titans (a now defunct VY jersey, but still). Today we all get together to watch the ending of something we started in the late days of August, frustratingly watching pre-season games. Of course it is better when your team is playing in the game. But if you love this game, today is about you as much as it is about the teams.
The look on the woman's face immediately turned when she saw my hat, "Too bad the Pats aren't playing today, huh?" she said in a heavy south shore accent. My reply could not mask my sudden deflation, knowing how amazing those six Super Bowl Sunday's when the Pats had played had been, "Yeah, always feels a bit different." As I turned to my right, having spotted those elusive chilis she said with full sincerity, "But it's still the Super Bowl, and I can't wait."
Yes, today is still the Super Bowl, and although my Pats and probably your team are not playing, I can't wait.
A few bits of housekeeping before we move on to the game analysis.
Pats/Jets...I'm Done With It
The nice thing about Super Bowl Sunday is that I finally get to put away the Pats loss. This has always been true, no matter when the Pats went out of the playoffs (or, for the majority of the years, never made it in). Today I get to start fresh and just enjoy the game. That being said, I watched the Pats/Jets tilt again yesterday, and noticed several things I hadn't before:
- Matt Light was owned all game and Mankins was owned for half of the game. They looked tired, old and not excited about playing that game. Perhaps it was the long season, the week off, the freezing temps? But the offensive line simply was not what it had been during the year. Yet, they didn't even come close to costing them the game.
- Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis is going to be a star in this league. I watched every run this year, more than once, and although our line was stellar, he also has that sense of where the play is going to end up in a few steps. No he's not going to run for crazy numbers, but he is going to be a Bettis like producer for the next few years. I'm excited to watch this happen.
- Eugene Chung made the right call. Not because it looks like he could have made the play, even without the fumble, although I think he could have watching the tape again. But because Bill Belichick grants his players the ability to read situations and make the decision they feel is the best one to make. A second year player is already in the position to make those decisions, not to mention he had an amazing year. Eugene Chung is the kind of guy you want on this team and if you can't see that you missed the whole point of Belichick during the past decade.
- The Jets had an awesome game plan. But it wasn't that awesome. Patriots made SO many mistakes.
- Tom Brady stunk in that game. Go back, watch it. There was something off. He was floating balls, missing reads, and not able to move up in the pocket like in the past. That foot was obviously bothering him, but it's no excuse. The bigger surprise, and Dilfer brought this up on Simmons' pod, was the lack of emotion from Brady overall. He seemed sick or out of it. Perhaps if he doesn't throw that pick on the first possession and Crumpler makes that TD catch on the second possession he comes out in the second half with his normal passion. But we are past the 'woulda/coulda/shoulda' stage and we know if one person will come back with even more fire it's Tom Brady.
- Not to give too many hints into my upcoming Draft analysis, but I do see Belichick packaging up picks for Fitzgerald...and that could be the move that really seals this team's fate.
- This team really missed a Bruschi out there during that Jets game. Not from a playing standpoint, but a leadership standpoint. The good thing is that the Pats know you can't buy that leadership in free agency, instead you have to watch a Chung or a Mayo become that leader. Next year they have the experience to become those leaders.
- Awesome, awesome, awesome season for the Pats. Nobody reading this gave them a shot at a #1 ranking. They over achieved in every part of the game. Sure it was frustrating to not make it further, but look at the big picture. This team is stocked for a run every year until 2017.
Packers (-3) versus Steelers
Flip flops are currently on my feet as I write this column, but it can also describe how I've felt about this game all week. One part of me loves the fact that the Steelers have all of this experience in Super Bowls. It just makes sense that if you've been here before that you'll handle all of it much better. Add to that the fact that they are underdogs and all of a sudden they also have the "no respect" card to throw around.
But what if not having any experience is exactly what you need? What if it's better to be able to take a nap in the locker room before kickoff? What if because you don't have experience you are actually looser coming into the game and can really drive the game plan to perfection? The Packers might be able to walk into JerryWorld tonite and simply dominate this game because they are going to play loose and fast, which is exactly why the '99 Rams succeed, but the '01 Rams did not (well, that and an amazing Belichick game plan, but just give me that one).
Back and forth my mind would go, always thinking about the intangibles of leadership, experience, karma, and the crowd. But slowly it dawned on me this afternoon. Certainly those things are important, but at the end of the day, who is the better team? If you can determine that, and then look at the intangibles, you can get a better sense of who is going to win the game tonite.
The Better Team
The Packers are, by a substantial margin, the better team. Their receivers are super fast and run slant routes tighter than anyone. When they catch the ball they already have gone five more yards before the camera is even onto the play. Aaron Rodgers is the new breed of quarterback in the NFL, someone who can not only make the quick read, but can also scramble and make something happen. The Green Bay defense is not as strong as Pittsburgh's, but they are damn good. Even in special teams Green Bay has the clear edge. So why only a three point favorite?
Pittsburgh too has a great quarterback in that mold, and now that he has had another extra week off to heal Ben Rothlisberger will be a foe to reckon with, whether on the ground or in the air. The Steelers have some very talented receivers, and if they are to win I would guess that Mike Wallace put up a monster game. Hines Ward, future HOFer, shows up for big games and they can still batter you on the ground. The Steelers defense is amazing. Form the front guys to the line backers to another HOFer patrolling the outfield, this is a defense I personally love to watch play and wish that the cameras would pan out so I could watch it from up high to truly appreciate their brillance.
Both teams have survived injuries throughout the year and will be missing key players tonite, so don't talk to me about Pouncey. Yes, Tomlin is the better coach, no denying that he wins that match up. The game is indoors so weather will not be a factor like during the playoffs...wait, what? The game will be indoors, on carpet. Hmmmm, which team has dominated on turf this wear, when their speedy playmakers on both sides of the ball could really grip and rip? That would be the Packers, and that is probably the reason I would favor them, in terms of talent, to win by 10.
But What About The Intangibles
OK, back to the intangibles. This isn't really that big of a deal with these two teams. Pittsburgh has the experience. Green Bay has the characters. Pittsburgh has the veteran leadership in droves. Green Bay has veteran leadership in dollops. Pittsburgh has been down in the playoffs and come back to win. Green Bay has been in control for the most part, not having to truly sweat out a game. In the intangibles department I'd give Pittsburgh a three-point edge.
Just Make a Decision
It comes down to simple math at this point. Green Bay is up by ten with talent, and then up by seven when you factor in the intangibles. Certainly we see a fairly tight game the first two quarters, but it opens up in the second half a bit, and Green Bay starts to pull away.
Green Bay 30 - Pittsburgh 20