Friday, February 1, 2013

The Excessively Rambling Super Bowl Post, Featuring The (Un)Official Suite Sports Super Bowl Pick

By Jeremy Conlin and Joe Parello

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to decide who the NFL champion is, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare a Super Bowl to be played.

So here we are.

It's been a rather interesting season. The NFL Network no longer puts together the "Time to get your story straight" commercials (which frankly should result in arrests and jail time), so here's what one might look like for this season:

Four Months Ago:

Man Sits at a bar wearing a St. Louis Rams' jersey

"Man, I'm glad we traded RG3 for all those picks - I'd definitely rather have Sam Bradford."

A few guys sit around a living room with a Fantasy Draft board behind them

"Wait a minute, you drafted Adrian Peterson AND Peyton Manning? Good luck, dude."

Two men stand outside in the cold wearing Lions jerseys

"I'm telling you - we won 10 games last year and the team is only getting better."

A Steelers fan, a Giants fan, and a Saints fan sit at a table in a restaurant.

"Half the league is starting rookie quarterbacks. Don't worry, we're all making the playoffs."

It's Time To Get Your Story Straight


A Historic Turnaround

There is no doubt that Jim Harbaugh has done a great job in San Francisco, but is it the greatest turnaround in NFL history? Well, if the 49ers win the Super Bowl, I would say so.

The only two coaching jobs that can really compare in terms of turning around an absolute train wreck are Chuck Noll in Pittsburgh and Jimmy Johnson in Dallas. Noll took over a laughingstock franchise that was in the midst of five consecutive losing seasons in 1969. He promptly endured three losing seasons of his own, but got his team to the playoffs in 1972, then won four titles in six years from 1974-1979.

Johnson took over the Cowboys in 1989 after four losing seasons in Dallas. Though he went 1-15 in his first season, Johnson guided the 'Boys to a Super Bowl win in just his fourth season, then again in his fifth. The team he put together would go on to win Super Bowl XXX after the 1995 season, despite Johnson leaving due to a feud with owner Jerry Jones.

But what Harbaugh has done, at least on paper, is more impressive. I say on paper, because we now live in a salary cap era where turnarounds happen quicker and the talent disparity between teams is not as great. Still, you can't deny Harbaugh's incredible coaching job.

When Harbaugh took over the 49ers, the franchise hadn't enjoyed a winning season in EIGHT YEARS! That's insane. Without missing a beat, Harbaugh led the Niners to within a muffed punt (or two) of the Super Bowl in his first season, and has them playing in the big game in his second.

If they win, it is simply the biggest turnaround in league history.


The 49ers spoiled the fun of having an all-avian Super Bowl (Superb Owl?), so that's just something that we'll have to live with. I don't plan on forgiving them for this any time soon, but I'm a bit petty that way.

Instead, we have the Harbaugh Bowl/Harbowl/Super Bro-wl/whatever shitty pun your media outlet of choice came up with. I feel cheated.


Lewis' Place in History

While a second Super Bowl, especially in his final game, would certainly enhance Ray Lewis' legacy, I would argue that his place in the history of NFL defenders is already set. While Lewis is in the conversation of greatest defenders of all time, I don't even think he cracks the top-5. Here are the guys I would rank ahead of Lewis, for arguments sake.

1. Lawrence Taylor (10x Pro Bowl, 10x All Pro, 3x Def. POY, 2x SB Champ, 1x NFL MVP)
2. Reggie White (13x Pro Bowl, 10x All Pro, 2x Def. POY, 1x SB Champ, 2nd All Time in Sacks)
3. "Mean" Joe Greene (10x Pro Bowl, 5x All Pro, 2x Def. POY, 4x SB Champ)
4. Ronnie Lott (10x Pro Bowl, 8x All Pro, 4x SB Champ)
5. Deion Sanders (8x Pro Bowl, 8x All Pro, 1x Def. POY, 2x SB Champ)

On top of pure numbers, I would add the following reasons for why I ranked these guys ahead of Lewis:

LT pretty much changed the way linebackers play the game, White was the most impactful defensive lineman ever, Greene was the anchor of some of the greatest defenses in NFL history, Lott is the most versatile and punishing defensive back the game has ever seen, and Sanders may be the NFL's all time defensive playmaker.

I would also throw guys like Dick Butkus, Deacon Jones and Bruce Smith in that next tier with Ray, but here are his accomplishments so you can place him however you want historically.

Ray Lewis (13x Pro Bowl, 7x All Pro, 2x Def. POY, 1-2x SB MVP)


The 49ers are going to beat the Ravens in the Super Bowl.

Here are my two favorite reasons why:

1. We still haven't seen a model that comes anywhere close to stopping San Francisco's pistol zone read. The Packers had no idea it was coming and got beaten to a bloody pulp with it. Atlanta saw Colin Kaepernick thoroughly eviscerate the Green Bay defense, so they had their strong-side end rush upfield to keep contain, and Kaepernick was content to hand off to Frank Gore or LaMichael James straight up the middle for big chunks of yardage. The Ravens just don't have the speed and athleticism in the front seven to adequately contain the zone-read game. 

2. Joe Flacco has played three consecutive games at a pretty elite level. He has a quarterback rating of 114.7 in the playoffs and is averaging 9.2 yards per attempt. He's been sacked only four times and has fumbled just once (his only turnover in the postseason).

So why is this being mentioned as a reason the 49ers will win? Because if Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, or Aaron Rodgers put up those numbers, it would be consistent with their career performance. A stretch like this from Joe Flacco is in contradiction with what he's established as his level of play and level of consistency this season and throughout his career.

This year, Flacco's quarterback rating was a solid 87.7. But he put up that number with wildly inconsistent play. He had six games with a rating above 100, and six more with a rating 76 or lower. It's much more likely that Flacco will struggle, especially against an elite defense like San Francisco, than he will put up his fourth straight All-Pro caliber game.

San Francisco 27, Baltimore 17 (San Francisco covers -3.5)

Best bets:

San Francisco money line (-165)
Longest TD of the game - OVER 45.5 yards (-115)
Will either team score three straight times without the opponent scoring - NO (+120)
Shortest made FG of the game - OVER 24.5 yards (-130)
Will there be a safety - NO (-1100)
Will there be overtime - NO (-1100)
Will the 49ers score a rushing TD - YES (-300)