Last week was rough. Say goodnight to all reasonably attractive Super Bowl matchups. I guess that isn’t really a fair stance, but when you are anticipating two weeks of media saturation on a game the two teams playing have a big role in what is going to be talked about. And, talked about. And, talked about until you start begging for mercy and flip over to Bravo. I’m not sure who to root for in these games. The Ravens make me violently ill. Should I pull for them this week so I’m guaranteed a rooting interest in the Super Bowl? Is that worth risking the Ravens actually winning the Bowl? Tough call. Here are the possible matchups and the story line that will be hammered into your backside.
Ravens/49ers–The Harbaugh Bowl.
This is the game Rick Reilly wants. That’s what we do here, right? Take easy shots at Rick Reilly? The inevitable Reilly article on the Harbaugh men will probably include a phrase like, “The Coaching Kennedys.” It’ll happen. If the Niners play the Ravens, you’ll spend the next two weeks getting to know every member of the Harbaugh family. You’ll probably see them wearing those split jerseys–half SF/half Baltimore. There will be almost no mention of the players as if the Harbaugh brothers are just going to sit down to a heated game of Madden to award the Lombardi trophy. Factor in that both these teams are defensively oriented and this has to be the nightmare matchup.
Patriots/Giants — The Tyree Bowl.
This would be mildly amusing for the sake of watching Patriots fans get a little nervous and defensive, but you’re talking about one of the most over-played highlights of all-time and now we’d see it for two weeks straight. There would be a lot of talk of a “budding” rivalry. There would most certainly be a Yankees/Red Sox tie in, which would be too much to bear. You could conceivably hear from Curt Schilling if this game happens, so that’s enough right there to root for any other scenario. Also, if Eli makes the Super Bowl we’ll be facing a lot of, ‘Is Eli the Better Manning,’ stories. And, despite the hilarious riots that would cause in Indy, I’m a little Manning-ed out right now.
Giants/Ravens — The Oh God, Not Again, Bowl.
I’m reasonably sure the 6.994 billion people in the World that don’t live in Baltimore consider Super Bowl XXXV one of the worst ever played. When The Backstreet Boys (is it Boyz?) perform the National Anthem, you’ve gotten yourself off to a terrible start. The Ravens were one of the best defenses of all-time. I have no idea how the Giants got through the NFC–but they did. Collins vs. Dilfer. The Giants didn’t score on offense. The Ravens scored 30-some points without doing much of anything. Ray Lewis was the MVP I think mostly because people were afraid of what he might do if he didn’t win. Ray-Ray is about the only holdover from this game, but we just can’t risk anything like that happening again.
49ers/Patriots–The Brady Bowl
If the Niners make the Super Bowl and they don’t have the Harbaugh brothers to talk about, we’ll be forced to suck down a tall glass of nostalgia. Hey, remember when the Niners were good! They had, like, Joe Montana and sh*t. And, since no one wants to waste any time comparing Alex Smith to Tom Brady, we’ll opt for the historical comparison. Brady vs. Montana. Here’s old Tommy B, pride of No-Cal, playing against his boyhood team, trying to tie Joe Montana’s 4 Super Bowls. It’s almost too perfect, right? There will be a high probability the word ironic will be misused dozens of times. What does ironic mean, anyway?
Baltimore @ New England. Line, NE (-7). O/U: 50.5
Patriots games this season have followed a familiar refrain. Can anyone cover the tight ends? But, in the three Patriots losses this year, Gronkowski had solid games. The point being, you’re probably not going to stop Gronk and Hernandez, you need to find a way to stop everything else. Limit the damage, or else just plain outscore them, which hasn’t been done since week 3. The Pats are riding a 9 game winning streak and are prohibitive favorites to go back to the Super Bowl. There doesn’t seem to be much faith in Baltimore’s D, or in Joe Flacco. The Ravens have won 9 of 11, but haven’t gone over 24 points in their last seven games. They’ll almost surely need more than that to beat NE. The Patriots looked supremely focused last week and also have the revenge factor from ’09. Deck really stacked against the Ravens here.
New York Giants @ San Francisco. Line, SF (-2.5). O/U: 42.
What would concern me if I was a Niners fan would be the 32 points that New Orleans tallied last Saturday. It was easily their worst defensive effort of the year. The Niners have been trading on this ferocious defense, but the Saints moved the ball with ease. The Niners still created turnovers and had a few intimidating hits, but without the Saints miscues, they could have easily been over 40 points. What I’m saying is, the Niners defense piled up good numbers against the following offenses: (STLx2, AZx2, SEAx2, CLE, TB, CIN, WSH). That’s 10 games against teams that don’t exactly light it up. The Giants should be able to score some points, but at the same time, the 49ers proved they aren’t totally inept on offense themselves. Both these teams are riding incredible waves of momentum, and both look like the “hot” team in a way. The Niners beat the Giants earlier this year, but you can probably throw that result out. I’m expecting a close, sneaky high-scoring affair.
Over/Under Lock of the Week (Record, 8-6. 0-2 Playoffs): I’m HOT! NY/SF Over 42.