Posts Tagged ‘Super Bowl’

Two 0-3 teams going nowhere - oh wait going to London this week

Two 0-3 teams going nowhere – oh wait going to London this week

The Steel Curtain prevailing over the Purple People Eaters – no not the name of two fantasy football teams that squared-off on Sunday, these were two of the most dominating defenses in NFL history.

For the Steel Curtain, a Pittsburgh Steelers team led by the likes of Mean ‘Joe’ Greene, there were four Super Bowl wins. For the Purple People Eaters there were an equal number of Super Bowl contests fought, but for the Minnesota Vikings no wins.

That was the 1970s when sideburns ruled and disco dancing was the thing you did on a Saturday night.

Fast forward to the 21st century and these two teams are again under the media magnifying glass, but this time it is for two reasons, and neither of them are anything remotely to do with winning football games.

The 0-3 Steelers travel to London this Sunday to lock horns with the 0-3 Minnesota Vikings, in the first of two, yes two regular season NFL contests being played on this side of the pond.

Both teams sit at the foot of their respective divisions, having failed to muster a victory between them in six contests.

The Vikings, the home team in London, have conceded 31 or more points in each of their losses, and the Steelers have managed to score just 42 points in three games. The Denver Broncos managed 49 in their FIRST game of the season.

When I saw the two games announced last year that were to be played in London this year, the other being the San Francisco 49ers against the London…I mean Jacksonville Jaguars, I was like the majority of UK and European fans, most excited about seeing the six-time Super Bowl winning Pittsburgh Steelers play the Minnesota Vikings.

I did think at the time that the Steelers were on a downward slide, after two Super Bowl wins in the last 7 years (2006 and 2009) and an additional Super Bowl loss in 2011. No team in this modern age of free agency can sustain winning and winning big for such a long period.

I also thought that it would be amazing to see Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, the leading rusher in the NFL in 2012, live in front of me, just two hours away from where I live. I had a bad feeling he would be injured before the game, but thankfully he made it through a week 3 loss against the Cleveland Browns in one piece.

One thing is certain on Sunday, one team will be travelling back over the pond with their first win of the 2013 season, and one team will have reached the quarter mark of the season with no wins and a rather embarrassing 0-4 record.

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Time for my annual guess at a Super Bowl winner - this time the luck winner is the Atlanta Falcons

Time for my annual guess at a Super Bowl winner – this time the luck winner is the Atlanta Falcons

Forget the calls for a three-peat or for ‘one for the thumb’, there is always something special about an NFL franchise winning its first ever Super Bowl.

In my lifetime I have seen (live on tv in England in the early hours of the morning that is) seven teams with their inaugural Vince Lombardi Trophy;

  • New York Giants (1987) – first of four
  • Denver Broncos (1998) – first of two
  • St Louis Rams (2000) – only title
  • Baltimore Ravens (2001) – first of two
  • New England Patriots (2002) – first of three
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2003) – only title
  • New Orleans Saints (2010) – only title

Now I am not including the 2007 Indianapolis Colts in this list as they were the Baltimore Colts who were winners back in 1971.

So why the lengthy reminiscence? Well I am convinced we are going to add another new team to the first-time trophy club this upcoming season.

NFL FAN IN ENGLAND’s 2013 NFL 2013-14 SEASON PREDICTIONS

NFC East – Washington Redskins

NFC West – San Francisco 49ers

NFC South – Atlanta Falcons

NFC North – Detroit Lions

NFC Wild Cards – Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks

NFC Championship – Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons

NFC Representative – Atlanta Falcons

AFC East – New England Patriots

AFC West – Denver Broncos

AFC South – Houston Texans

AFC North – Cincinnati Bengals

AFC Wild Cards – Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs

AFC Championship – Cincinnati Bengals @ Houston Texans

AFC Representative – Cincinnati Bengals

Super Bowl XLVIII winner – Atlanta Falcons

Super Bowl MVP – Matty Ice Ryan – QB Atlanta Falcons

Offensive Player of the Year – Colin Kaepernick QB San Francisco 49ers

Defensive Player of the Year – Luke Kuechely LB Carolina Panthers

Offensive Rookie of the Year – Eddie Lacy RB Green Bay Packers

Defensive Rookie of the Year – Jon Bostic ILB Chicago Bears

NFL MVP – Aaron Rodgers QB Green Bay Packers

Comeback Player of the Year – Darelle Revis CB Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Coach of the Year – Marvin Lewis – Cincinnati Bengals

Most Improved Team – Kansas City Chiefs

Biggest Disappointment Team – Toss up between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers

The Atlanta Falcons were so close last season to reaching their second Super Bowl last season that they could almost taste the promised land. This was with a starting running back that was slower than a snail without an agenda.

Now the Falcons have Steven Jackson in the backfield, admittedly no rocket launcher, but certainly a huge upgrade with soft hands and a ‘win it all now’ attitude following a decade in St Louis that many consider wasted.

Future Hall of Fame tight-end Tony Gonzales is back for a Balboa-esque ‘one last shot’ at a title, having finally shaken the playoff win monkey off his back last season.

I know that defense wins championships and the Falcons defense is certainly no ’85 Bears vintage, but they have the playoff experience, the hunger and a nice blend of veteran experience (DE Osi Umenyiora and CB Asante Samuel) youth (rookie starting CB Desmond Trufant) and those with experience who are not household names but play hard (LB Akeem Dent and DE Kroy Biermann).

It’s hard to equal the talent of Atlanta’s number one and two wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White.

The biggest problem for the Falcons is quality of depth. If one ore more of the big names goes down with injury then this will have a huge effect on the team being able to get a 13-3 regular season record. If they remain fully fit and can get a bit of luck, then the likes of the 49ers and Seahawks will be beatable.

The trend for multi-dimensional quarterbacks will not go away this year, and studs like Russell Wilson, RG3 and Colin Kaepernick will make lots of headlines, but you don’t win conference championships with wideouts like Golden Tate, Josh Morgan or Jon Baldwin.

Joe Flacco went from lukewarm to boiling hot in the playoffs last year, I think that Matt Ryan can do the same, and having the feeling of being a touchdown away from a Super Bowl will have been on his mind for the last nine months.

I raise my glass of  (Matty) Iced (Georgia) Peach to my Super Bowl XLVIII paper champions the Atlanta Falcons.

Cue the ridicule…………………..

Born and bred a winner - Dennis Pitta

Born and bred a winner – Dennis Pitta

by Lawrence Vos

Super Bowl XLVII will likely be one of the more brutal games played in recent championship memory.

The Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers are playing against each other in the Har-Bowl because they execute to the highest standard the two most fundamental aspects of professional football, the ability to block and the ability to tackle.

I have to say the hype surrounding the running ability of Colin Kaepernick has gone a bit galactic, but sustaining long clock dwindling drives, through a dominant running game will be a big key to this game.

So without further ado here are my top five individual matc=hups for this game…

1) Ravens tight-end Dennis Pitta against the 49ers outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith.

Pitta, in his third season, was second on the team in receptions (61) and receiving touchdowns (7). He had five catches in the AFC Championship and score. In five playoff games he has scored three touchdowns. What frustrates fantasy football fans with Pitta is that his production is as boing-boing as Zebedee with a spring freshly sprayed with WD-40. Twice this season he failed to register a catch and once he got just one grab. In other games he went up to eight catches (at Philadelphia) and 125 yards (home against the Broncos).

The 49ers outside linebackers will need to show discipline in their pass coverage skills, as Brooks will likely be man marking Pitta for the majority of the game. Both Brooks and Smith are excellent at rushing the passer, combining for 26 sacks and 5 forced fumbles this season, but they can play so hard that Pitta could find himself open throughout the game for those 8-12 yard gains that help sustain drives.

Prediction – Pitta to get 6 catches for 77 yards and one TD

2) 49ers wide-receiver Michael Crabtree against the Ravens cornerbacks Corey Graham and Carey Williams

It took a change of quarterback (in Week 10) for Crabtree to move from an average NFL stater to a top 10 in his position. The former Texas Tech wide-out went from 39 catches for 440 yards in games 1-8 to an outstanding 46 catches for 665 yards in games 9-16. Crabtree’s touchdown total doubles in the second half of the season and his yards per catch went up from 11.3 to 14.5 during that span.

Despite a quiet performance in the NFC Championship Crabtree still managed 7 catches. Now he faces a pair of cornerbacks who are not exactly household names. Graham stepped up to a starting role when the Ravens lost up-and coming star Lardarius Webb after six games. Williams in his fourth year with the Ravens had four interceptions this year, the first season he recorded picks in his five year career.

Crabtree knows how to find separation in the end-zone and also has the advantage of being Kaepernick’s out and out number one target. With Randy Moss on the opposite side of the field and rampant post-hibernation tight-end Vernon Davis ready to perform, Crabtree may find himself in a number of single coverage battles that he has the speed and guile to win. Now he has the confidence to match the talent, and could put up MVP type stats if the Ravens focus too hard on trying to stop the running game.

Prediction – Crabtree to lead the game in receptions with 11 for 131 yards and two tds. MVP like numbers but he isn’t a quarterback so he wont win the award.

Gronk wont be playing in the Super Bowl regardless if the Pats win on Sunday

Gronk wont be playing in the Super Bowl regardless if the Pats win on Sunday

Five Super Bowl performances in the last eleven seasons is pretty remarkable, all led by the same quarterback and head coach combination is mind-bending.

Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots franchise stand on the verge of a sixth Super Bowl berth in the last dozen seasons, which if they do succeed means they have represented their conference in 50% of Super Bowls since 2002.

They face a Baltimore Ravens team this weekend in  a rematch of last years AFC Championship, a game the Patriots triumphed 23-20.

The Ravens are now in their third conference championship in five years, hoping that it’s third time lucky.

There are many many storylines and matchups to look out for:

– Can Ray Lewis fire up his team enough or will his final NFL game be a heartbreaking defeat?

– Can the Patriots live without the man-beast Rob Gronkowski?

– Can the Ravens pull-off a third playoff win in a row against a fresher team who will have a huge home field advantage?

– Can the Patriots secondary live with the speed of Torrey Smith – will it be Aqib Talib marking Smith to leave Anquan Boldin to have a big game?

– Will there be a Ravens player do a ‘Lee Evans’ and drop a game winning touchdown?

I have to say I love the way the Pats have taken the two tight-end set into a different stratosphere, which is why it’s such a shame that Rob Gronkowski re-broke his arm last weekend and will next suit up in anger in about six-months. I do expect a big game from the ‘other’ tight-end Aaron Hernandez.

Regardless of Hernandez’s stat-line, or the lack of the Gronk, the Patriots are 60 minutes away from their eighth Super Bowl, and for me a seventh time watching those silver helmets take on an NFC opponent.

When you are a supporter of such a dominant team then you are hoping the Super Bowl performances are never-ending, but when you are a fan of one of the other 31 NFL teams you just hope that there are some new teams losing their Super Bowl virginity.

As a neutral it has been a lot of fun seeing the likes of the New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals reach (and in the first two cases win) a Super Bowl.

It’s not so much fun watching the same teams keep going back. The irony is not lost that we have the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL Championship as I grew up watching Joe Montana and Steve Young win three Super Bowls over a seven year stretch.

I do have very clear memories of the Ravens winning their only previous Super Bowl appearance, and likewise the Falcons somewhat flat performance against the John Elway led Denver Broncos in 1999.

As long as the Patriots are held out of this Super Bowl I really don’t mind who wins out of the 49ers and the Falcons. You have to love the dynamism of Colin Kaepernick and then the emotional high that would be experienced if Tony Gonzales the future Hall of Fame tight-end would get if he could somehow play his last game in the Super Bowl.

Just don’t think I can stomach another two-weeks of hype led by Tom Brady’s face and the grey face of Bill ‘the Emperor’ Belichick.

Come on Ray & Ray you wouldn’t want to let down your international admirers would you?

Super Bowl XLV - Can't wait for kickoff

I can’t wait for Super Bowl XLV to kickoff on Sunday night here in England. The Green Bay Packers v Pittsburgh Steelers has the ideal combination of explosive offense and bone crunching defense, along with a rich, rich history from both teams and their combined 9 previous Vince Lombardi trophy wins.

To prepare for the big game I have a number of rituals, which I will describe below. If you have any please add them in the comments section at the end of this post, as I’d love to hear what you do around the world to get ready for the biggest game on the planet.

To buy a Troy Polamalu shirt from a top UK NFL merchandise shop click here

NFL Fan in England’s Super Bowl traditions

  • Super Bets – I like to do some MVP and some first touchdown scorer bets. This year I have money (not much of it) on three different players for MVP and three different scorers for first td. I always go for both teams quarterbacks to get a rushing td as the first score. I have Aaron Rodgers at 16-1 and Big Ben Roethlisberger at 25-1. Last time Big Ben was in a Super Bowl it looked like he had scored, only for his run to be called back and Gary Russell to punch it in.
  • Super Food – Well not exactly super food in the traditional sense, more like junk food. I have a life size plastic Redskins helmet that doubles up as a food server. I fill the middle with toffee popcorn and the two trays in the face cage with Peanut M ‘n’ M’s. I get some Doritos (cheese and fiery hot) and also a bag of beef crisps and a single Snickers bar that I cut into small slices during the pre game build up.
  • Super Drinks – I have had a can of Pepsi with me at the Super Bowl since 1987, and despite the fact I don’t drink normal Pepsi under any other condition (I have Pepsi Max nowadays) I get a can ready. I also get a pack of Budweiser (bottles) that my wife and I share.
  • Super Program – I always have a Super Bowl program with me, which this year I purchased via http://www.nfluk.com . I got an email yesterday to say it had been dispatched so I hope it arrives today or Friday. I did used to buy it from a shop in Birmingham called Great American Sports, but they shut up shop in the West Midlands. I then ordered it 2 years ago via a website called Great American Sports with its business based in Devon (which may or may not have business relations to the former shop with the exact same name that closed in Birmingham) and they failed, first time round, to send me the correct limited edition program I paid for so I refused to ever use them again. When I rung up to complain I was indeed sent the correct program second time round but I was asked not to mention this on my blog, then in an email told I could publish what I want. I kept the first one as it arrived with a damaged spine. This damage I blame on nobody as I cannot prove it was damaged before or during transit. I miss the shop in Birmingham.
  • Super Structures – Hmmm maybe at bit of an exaggeration but I do move the sofa from the side of the living room to a spot directly in front of the television. It’s important to have your drinks and snacks within touching distance so I make sure that the nest of small tables we have are displayed in front of the sofa.
  • Super Monday – One last thing – as the Super Bowl finishes in the early hours of Monday morning here in England I book the day off and so does my wife. We like to go for a swim in the morning and then a nice lunch. My way of saying thankyou for staying up until 2am to watch the game.

What do YOU do to get ready for the big game?

This is a pick from the heart not the head.

Super Bowl Sunday – no feeling like it.

It’s history, it’s drama, it’s the personification of the American dream, and above all it’s only hours away.

I had predicted a Ravens v Eagles Super Bowl, and an Eagles win. I did predict the Colts making the final four, but then again I also predicted the Falcons to be playing in the NFC Championship too.

Now we have the most offensive Super Bowl in history, completely smashing into tiny pieces the old adage that ‘offense wins games and defense wins championships’.

The Indianapolis Colts are back in the Super Bowl just three years after they beat Da Bearz, complete with the NFL MVP at quarterback, and around half of the current team boasting a giant ring with a big blue horseshoe on it.

The New Orleans Saints are at the big dance for the first time in their history, having suffered many years of futility, embarrassment and playoff heartache.

Despite the recent history and the post season experiences of both teams this is not a David v Goliath battle, it is a match-up of the two highest octane offenses in the NFL.

Just about the only thing that may slow down the Colts and the Saints from scoring 50 points on each other is the fact the game is being played outside in grass, and not on the speedy artificial surface that the two finalists are accustomed to.

Both teams are equally capable of falling behind by 14 points and then scoring two touchdowns in under three minutes to tie it back up, without even breaking into a sweat.

Both Drew Brees and Peyton Manning can win this game, and both can be ruthlessly efficient. Both have big arms, big hearts and their internal computers are faster than the ones in that room Matthew Broderick broke into in ‘War Games’.

Peyton has a ring and knows what it takes. I don’t think I can recall a Super Bowl with this many game breaking wideouts on both teams (deep breath) Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Lance Moore, Robert Meachem (Saints) and Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon (Colts). We then move onto TEs, and this is where Dallas Clark does outdo Jeremy Shockey.

Joseph Addai was a rookie in 2007 and he was part of a two-headed rushing monster (with Dominic Rhodes) that won the Colts the Superbowl. Addai has not stepped up much further, but that is because he is not asked to do any more than be part of the offense, not the focus.

His support act is rookie Donald Brown, who could surprise today. The Saints have a troop of backs that are built for every situation. Reggie Bush has the hands and the speed, Mike Bell has the nose for a first down, Lynell Hamilton could be a fantasy td thief and we cannot forget Pierre Thomas, who when given bigger responsibility is nothing but business like.

Its gonna be a fun game for sure, and it comes down to two key factors – which defense will cause the most turnovers and who can get a running game to step up and keep the clock running on long drives.

My head says the Colts, but my heart says the Saints. I just have a feeling that the Saints defense will play the game of their lives, with Jonathan Vilma all over the field and Darren Sharper showing his true talent.

My Super Bowl prediction is Saints 33-28 Colts – MVP Drew Brees 3 td passes and 311 yards passing.

Half a yard from a big payday - and I'n not talking a King Size peanut based snack bar
Half a yard from a big payday – and I’m not talking a King Size peanut based snack bar

I’m over it now, but it took me almost 48 hours to calm my hulk like rage following the Ben Roethlisberger touchdown that never was in Sunday’s Superbowl.

I had £8 on Big Ben to score the first touchdown of the game on a run, and when he took off scrambling I saw the £’s flashing in front of my eyes as I got 33-1 odds on that event occurring.
I didn’t quite celebrate as I knew it was a close call, but the commentators in the London Sky Sports studio, which included former Cardinals QB Jay Schroeder, all agreed that Roethlisberger had crossed the line. See here for the play so you can make your own mind up.
Once I saw the red flag on the Raymond James Stadium field I had a bad feeling – but I also knew I could be time to celebrate.
When the ref reversed the call on the field I was gutted to say the least and I let out a few choice words in my living room.
On cold reflection two days later  his knee was down and it was a helluva tackle by Darnell Dockett, who could have been in the running for MVP had the Cardinals held on.
It was a superb game (aside from that play!) and I absolutely loved the momentum shifts, the Cardinals fightback and the way Santonio Holmes stepped up and said ‘I will take responsibility for us moving downfield’ (probably a bit more dramatically broadcast in the huddle).
Dominique Rogers-Cromartie had a fantastic rookie season, but he was picked on at the Superbowl, as was Cardinals safety Aaron Francisco. The Cardinals showed the world that they deserved to be in the big game, but the Steelers showed why the won their sixth title, by finding the very small flaws in the Cardinals defense.
This was a game for the ages, and in the end the better team just about won. Congratulations to the Steelers for title six, and a big round of applause to the Cardinals for making this game one that will not be forgotten in a hurry.
Big Ben I forgive you for falling short on that td run, but next time you take off in the first quarter of a Superbowl (and yes I do think he will be back again before his career is over) give it that extra little bit of effort please. For the sake of my wife’s sensitive ears. 
Anyone else lose money on the Super Bowl? Let the world know