Even though the 2 teams playing in the Super Bowl have been determined, something still doesn’t sit well with me. After scrolling through the news feed on my favorite social media network this morning, the cold wind of discontent blew over me as I realized that NFL fans are not necessarily pleased with the match up. Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing at all wrong with thinking the Super Bowl would have been a better contest if different teams were involved. There is nothing wrong with someone being disinterested in the game if it involves teams that don’t exact play “their brand” of football. You can even have a movie night with friends on February 3rd and watch The Program, Remember the Titans, and Any Given Sunday, if it makes you feel better about your team not being in the Super Bowl. It is a bit unnerving though, to hear all of the negative opinions about the upcoming contest that will determine the champion of the NFL.
I have heard it all. Roger Goodell and the NFL are pulling strings to help Ray Lewis go out on top. The “Har-Bowl” as many are calling it, is nothing more than a publicity and money making scheme. I have heard that it won’t be an interesting game because it lacks the star power of a Tom Brady, or an Aaron Rodgers. I have also heard that the game will be “boring” because it will be a defensive contest resulting in an uneventful, low scoring game. So what I have decided to do is play devil’s advocate for all of those that have decided that the game in New Orleans next Sunday isn’t “good enough for them.”
The Commissioner Conspiracy- Lets be honest. I don’t like Roger Goodell and neither do you, probably. The man has made decisions effecting the game of football that I believe have lowered the quality of the game. These decisions were made to protect the health of the players but more importantly, they were made to protect the multi billion dollar corporation he is in charge of. Just because he wields power similar to that of,” enter dictator’s name here“, doesn’t mean that he wields the amount of power necessary to sway regular season and playoff games in order to get the perfect matchup in the Super Bowl. Football is a game of variables. So many different stars have to align for each team that has made it to this game, that it is preposterous to imagine Roger Goodell, or anyone else in the NFL front office, concocting a plan to achieve this outcome. I admit it plays well to the media frenzy and to the NFL fan base, to have a long time ambassador of the league in Ray Lewis, go out on top. Also, who doesn’t like sibling rivalry, especially on the grandest stage of them all? But these are just 2 of the many story lines that have played out this season, in particular, in the playoffs. For example, no one would be crying foul if the Indianapolis Colts would have rode the Chuckstrong train and rookie sensation, Andrew Luck all the way to New Orleans. And that story line could have reached a much larger audience than any of the stories that will be reported on in the next 2 weeks. Likewise, if Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos would have made it to even the AFC Championship game, we would have had a battle of 2 of the greatest to ever play. It also would have allowed Manning to validate himself in that conversation by taking 2 different teams to the Super Bowl, despite having undergone extensive surgery to repair his injured neck. You don’t see a huge story like that making its way onto the stage do you? One could even argue that Tom Brady and Bill Belichik’s quest for the Lombardi Trophy would have been a bigger story than Ray Lewis and his Ravens making it there. Both Brady and Belichik are in pursuit of many playoff records, as well as a 4th ring for Mr. Giselle Bundchen. As far as the business aspect of the game goes, Ray’s retirement and the game amongst brothers are relatively small stories compared to what might have been.
No Superstar Qb’s means no “Super” Bowl- We all know about Kerry Collins and the New York football Giants getting beat by Trent Dilfer, Ray Lewis, and the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl 35. It is the reference point for anyone who claims that you don’t need a superstar quarterback to win a Super Bowl. Likewise we know that just because you are a superstar quarterback, doesn’t mean that you will get to the Super Bowl and win it. Just ask Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins. Although neither Joe Flacco or Colin Kaepernick have a Super Bowl ring in their jewelry box, both Qb’s are up and coming stars in this league. Kaepernick in just his 9th NFL start has his team in the biggest game of them all and quite possibly has just begun to scratch the surface of his potential. Which is a scary thought, considering just 2 weeks ago he set the single game rushing record for a Quarterback. Flacco, has thrown for 853 yards and 8 touchdowns this postseason to go with ZERO interceptions and a 114 QB rating. As questionable as his regular season may have been at times, since Jim Caldwell took over as the offensive coordinator in week 16, no quarterback in the league has played better for his team. His deep ball skills have also been unrivaled. Although the jury may still be out on these guys, at one point in time, Tom Brady was in a similar situation to Kaepernick, when he took over for Drew Bledsoe and took his 14 point underdog Patriots into the Super Bowl, beating the then powerhouse St. Louis Rams and the greatest show on turf. We all know the legacy that Brady has gone on to build. By the way Flacco has outplayed and beaten Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady already this postseason. All in all, this QB matchup, although it isn’t the most glamorous in recent memory, has the chance to be one hell of a showdown.
Defense wins games but not TV ratings- The circus show that will ensue in the media this week, along with the sensationalism that will surely go along with it, only serve to overshadow what has the ability to be an amazing football game. Both teams come into this game playing stingy defense and boasting offenses that put up 38 and 45 points respectively in the divisional playoff round. So, for anyone who thinks this will just be a defensive struggle between teams who have no clue on how to move the ball up and down the field, shame on you. Outside of Kaepernick’s aforementioned running ability, he also possess’ a cannon arm with, at times, surgical precision. His Tight End Vernon Davis has Wide Reciever speed and his other receiving targets, Randy Moss and Michael Crabtree, both have that big play ability. Crabtree’s only question mark being his eligibility for the game, pending a legal investigation for a sexual assault case. Randy Moss is possibly in his last opportunity to bask in the infamous champagne showers and confetti, and to think he won’t show up to play, is naive at best. That running back corps mixed with the mauling offensive line should prove to be a great test for that Baltimore Ravens front 7. Speaking of the Baltimore front 7, Ray Lewis, at 37 years of age, is playing at a record breaking pace averaging 14 tackles per game. The Ravens offense is averaging 30 point per game in the playoffs and with big play receivers like Anquan Boldin, Jacoby Jones, and Torrey Smith, Joe Flacco always has someone to go to. The stellar play of Tight End Dennis Pitta, and Ray Rice’s versatility just add to what is an extremely potent offense. The defenses on both sides are sure to be tested throughout the entirety of the game. It may even be a passing of the torch of sorts, with Ray Lewis playing against what many call the best LB in the league now, Patrick Willis. Also don’t count out defensive studs Aldon Smith and Navarro Bowman for the 49ers, or Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed from the Ravens.
With all of the hooplah that surrounds Super Bowl Sunday, it is easy to get caught wishing that your favorite team was there in New Orleans, taking part in the festivities of the week. It is important however to keep in mind that, despite your personal feelings, and all the what if’s that took place throughout the course of the season, these 2 teams earned the right to represent their conferences in this game. It may not be a game between the “best” 2 teams in the league, but to be the best, you have to beat the best. And in these NFL Playoff’s,what many teams consider to be a new season, the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers are undefeated. That will end for one of the 2 teams February 3rd. You may be watching the game or you might be having some friends over for mixed drinks and movie night, but either way, the game will be played. And while you haters are watching football movies, wishing your team was playing, remember the reason they aptly named the movie Any Give Sunday. If you play hard, you want it bad enough, and all the stars align, it doesn’t matter who the experts say should win; You can be a champion. Congratulations Baltimore and San Francisco. May the best team win.