Super Bowl XLIX Preview Podcast

It’s Super Bowl Sunday, and if you get tired of listening to all of the so-called “experts” dissect the game, you should definitely check out two informed fans discussing Super Bowl XLIX. Paul Clark and I talk all things Super Bowl, including how Seattle got here, how silly “DeflateGate” is, if this is the most important Super Bowl ever, the keys to the game, and of course, Prop Bets! And at the end, we even manage to touch on some WWE thoughts really quickly.

Excited to listen? Of course you are! All you have to do is click here!

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NFL Playoffs Quadrilogy: Part 3

How did we get so lucky?

As NFL fans, all we do all season long is bitch and complain about everything we don’t like. The shoddy officiating, the players we don’t like, the disappointing teams, the sissifying rule changes, and our incredibly frustrating fantasy football squads. We do this ad nauseum and to the point that I can’t say that I would blame the NFL Gods if they annually tossed us duds in the postseason as punishment for being ungrateful. For whatever reason, those mythical NFL Gods convened and decided this year’s Championship weekend would arguably be the most anticipated non-Super Bowl Sunday of NFL action in recent memory. So I ask again, how the hell did we get so lucky?

Maybe luck has had nothing to do with it. Maybe all it comes down to is that these are simply the four best teams, and they did what good teams are supposed to do… they took care of business in the regular season, finishing with a combined record of 50-14, and are now in position to play themselves into the Super Bowl with one more victory. However, I’m not here to discuss who is going to get that one more victory. For the sake of this write up the results of the upcoming games are completely irrelevant. What I’m here to discuss is what individuals have the most to gain in the next two weeks of NFL action. Since it’s the 2013 season that will soon be coming to a close, let’s count backwards from 13 to 1.

NOTE: For what it’s worth, I’m taking New England over Denver 31-28, and Seattle over San Francisco 23-21.

welker

13: Tim Tebow- Currently has as many playoff wins as a the starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos as Peyton Manning does, and with a Patriots win over Denver on Sunday keeps it that way. Look, I’m not going to flagrantly defend Tim Tebow like I used to. All I’ll say is this: Brandon Weeden, Jeff Tuel, and the immortal Blaine Gabbert started games this year and finished 0-9 collectively. If those duds can finagle their way into starts in the NFL, then what in the holy hell is Tim Tebow doing covering the BCS Championship Game?

12: Wes Welker- Forget about Welker getting the chance to stick it to his former team. That’s just gravy. As long as Welker doesn’t get his ass knocked out cold again he’s the biggest winner of the next few weeks.

11: LeGarrette Blount- Talk about an all-time upset. Considering where Blount was one year ago, he’s the most unexpected individual on this list. Up until the latter half of this season Blount’s reputation was centered more on his one punch knockout ability and being utterly insane than any of his on the field accomplishments, which had more to do with his frequency of hurdling defenders than everything else. As per usual, the Patriots took in a cast off and overlooked his shaky past, and it’s paying off. The LeGarrette Blount redemption project officially became a success last week when Blount ran wild like Hulkamania all over the Colts defense. Now Blount is the centerpiece of the increasingly run-centric Patriots offense and star of the best NFL-related GIF I’ve seen this week.

10: Anquan Boldin- Quietly building a nice résumé for himself, specifically in the postseason. It doesn’t seem like it would be the case, but Boldin will soon more than likely climb into the top ten all-time in playoff receiving yards, and has an outside shot of sneaking into the top five if he goes absolutely bonkers. During the Ravens postseason run last year Boldin was a matchup nightmare for opposing defensive backs. His ability to get open and make plays against the heralded Seahawks defense will be crucial for San Francisco.

9: Any Seahawks or 49ers Defensive Player- Rather than pick just one guy, I’ll give two entire defensive units some love. It’s like killing twenty-two birds with one stone. Both defenses are stacked, and in all likelihood there will be at the very least one guy who separates from the pack over the next two weeks. Your guess is as good as mine. I’d wager on Richard Sherman, Cliff Avril, Earl Thomas, Bobby Wagner, Navorro Bowman, Eric Reid, Justin Smith or Patrick Willis. By picking eight different guys, I really should be covered here.

8: Pete Carroll- USC fans are likely all aboard the 49ers bandwagon this weekend given the condition Carroll left the program in, but a National Championship and four Rose Bowl victories should earn him a little bit of leeway. Even though Carroll abandoned the ship at USC right before it sunk, he brought the Seahawks ship back to the surface and deserves a lot of credit for that. Big Balls Pete is the ideal coach for the loose, high energy and young Seattle Seahawks and whether you’re a fan of his or not, a Super Bowl victory given the circumstances on top of his impressive college credentials gives him a whole lot to brag about. That’s indisputable.

7: Marshawn Lynch- You can’t understate how vital Lynch has been to the Seahawks for the last four seasons. The easiest way to determine that would be to look at his numbers and very easily see that over that span Lynch has been one of the most consistently effective backs in the league. I want to take it a little further. Lynch is the crutch of the Seahawks offense—an offense that hovers between average and below average at throwing the ball. Lynch is the guy who most frequently pops into my head when I think about how I wish Steven Jackson ran with the ball. Lynch is the central figure in one of the most incredible rushes in NFL history; a run that symbolized CenturyLink Field emphatically claiming it’s spot at the top of the Loudest Stadium Rankings. Most importantly, in an evolving league where running backs are disposable and very few stick out, Lynch is one of the few guys that truly matter. kaep and wilson 2

6: Russell Wilson/Colin Kaepernick- With all due respect to Andrew Luck, who I believe is and will be better than both Wilson and Kaepernick, if either Wilson or Kaepernick come away with a Super Bowl XLVIII title it means they will have had to go through the other, as well as either Peyton Manning or Tom Brady in the process. You know what that means? Get ready for the “This guy is THE next great quarterback in this league!” chatter to be beaten into the ground within five hours after the Super Bowl. And hey, it may end up being true. For all we know, Wilson/Kaepernick could be the modern day and fast man’s version of the Manning/Brady rivalry the carries the NFL into the next five to ten years. Look at what the Manning/Brady rivalry has become. It’s taken on a life of its own and somehow become bigger than Broncos/Patriots or Colts/Patriots ever was, even though they’ve never played a snap directly against each other. That is what we should be hoping for out of Wilson/Kaepernick.

4: Jim Harbaugh- Please excuse me for stating the obvious, but Jim Harbaugh can coach his ass off. Just three seasons into his NFL coaching career he has already earned a well-deserved reputation as one of the best coaches in the league and last week he founded his own club; by defeating Carolina last week he became the first coach in NFL history to make conference championship game in each of his first three seasons. That’s just incredible. With a Super Bowl win Harbaugh regains his spot at the top of the Harbaugh Brother Power Rankings over John, sticks it to Pete Carroll again, and completes the restoration of San Francisco to prominence in the NFL. And to think it was just four years ago when Mike Singletary was making chicken shit out of chicken salad in San Francisco before Harbaugh came in and started cooking chicken parmesan? I’m not really going anywhere with that, it’s just incredible how inept Samurai Mike was as a head coach.

3: Bill Belichick- Belichick is two wins away from immortality in the coaching ranks, and maybe greatest coach of all-time status if he’s not there already. With the Patriots he’s put together a 163-61 regular season record, a 16-0 regular season, eleven division titles, an 18-7 record in the playoffs, five Super Bowl appearances, three Super Bowl wins… that’s just incredible. He’s one win away from joining Tom Landry as the only two coaches with twenty career postseason wins, and two wins away from joining Chuck Noll as the only coaches with four Super Bowl titles. The thing is, Belichick doesn’t need the wins like some of the other guys on this list need the wins. Look at what he’s already done. And take into account, going 12-4 with this particular Patriots team might be the greatest testament to how great The Hoodie is. Belichick was dealt a constant stream of injuries, mediocre skill position players and even a PR crisis when we found out one of the ten best guys on the roster might be a murderer. He just put his head down and plowed straight ahead with a boring and quiet resolve like he has for fourteen years in New England. Then again, you could make the argument that his quarterback had a lot to do with it.

2: Tom Brady
1: Peyton Manning
I’ve spent far too much time thinking about Tom Brady and Peyton Manning this week than I would like to admit and for some reason I have the strange desire to visit Omaha, but ultimately my choice of Manning over Brady in the “Who has more to gain” department comes down to one thing: Manning having far more to lose. Even though Manning will go down as the greatest regular season quarterback of all-time without much dispute, he still has that postseason cloud hanging over his head. As long as the “he can’t win the big games” narrative is in play, it mars his legacy to a degree. If Manning comes up short yet again in the postseason, losing potentially his 6th home playoff game of his career, that narrative snowballs and his magnificent 2013 regular season will lose steam historically. He has to win with this team and these playmakers. If he wins the Super Bowl everything changes. A second Super Bowl, a 5th regular season MVP, and the greatest statistical season by a quarterback ever, all after four neck surgeries… all of the sudden every slight against Manning can be forgiven. Even his record against Tom Brady.

As for Brady, he’s two victories away from immortality, just like his coach. A fourth Lombardi Trophy and an 11 to 4 edge over Manning all but clinches his status as greatest quarterback of the generation, if not all-time. So yeah, that’s what is on the line. Enjoy the games.

Brady vs. Manning. Uncle Joe vs. Dan.

It’s what Facebook has been waiting for. The long anticipated debate between Joe Zambito and Dan Zambito makes it’s way from Social Networking into the world of Podcasts. In this edition of The Captain’s Corner, I let Uncle Joe and Dan debate Brady vs. Manning and decide who is going to win this Sunday’s AFC Championship Game.

The Christmas Recap Mishmash

The Captain is back, and optimistically he is better than ever! After a month of recharging my battery and brainstorming some ideas that will take LaterNamed to the top (just go with it), I’m ready to get back to writing and with any luck building towards a career at ESPN. The last time I wrote something noteworthy was way back in 2011. By mid-December, after putting together a 4,000 word bowl preview and going through a challenging semester at college, a hiatus was much needed. I needed some time to enjoy the company of my family, and some time to be able watch a sporting event without having to immediately critique and analyze it. But a month is a long time for someone like me to stay quiet. I’m overflowing with thoughts and opinions, and they are about to spill all over LaterNamed. Enjoy the Christmas Recap Mishmash!

The Return of Jersey Shore
Okay let me work something out really quick. Over the last month, the college football bowl season ended, the NFL playoffs are underway, Tim Tebow cured a blind man (oh wait, Jesus Christ did that, my bad), the NBA season started and WrestleMania 28 is just 71 days away, yet I’m starting off the Christmas Recap Mishmash with Jersey Shore??? How in the holy hell is this possible? Basically, you could chalk it up as a victory for Jonny “The Unit” Manfre.

Star of Jersey Shore Season 7… The Unit

The Unit was so incredibly douchey (Yes, douchey. I made that a word) that he somehow became bigger than not only Jersey Shore, but also the biggest story of my Christmas break. Well, not really, but it did spark a great idea that would make Jersey Shore more sustainable for the future.

Taking an idea that MTV’s The Challenge uses, why not cycle new cast members into the Jersey Shore house with original cast members as well? Just like The Challenge brings in Real World cast mates, Jersey Shore should start bringing in individuals who are familiar with the Jersey Shore franchise. Imagine the Jersey Shore house with the normal eight crazy cast members, plus Jionni, Ryder, Roger and The Unit in the mix as well. Twelve juiced up, smashed, horny individuals living in one house equals more fighting and more sex than there already was. And let’s be honest, that’s why we all watch. No one ever really cared if Ronnie broke Sammi’s heart. We only cared about the two grenades single Ronnie was motor-boating in the Miami nightclub. Hey, we might as well add them to the mix too! Just envision the friends of the cast mates upping the stakes every time they visit the house just to try to get a spot for the next season. Oh good God! Ryder just did back to back to back shots and now she’s dancing topless on the bar, offering sex to anyone who wants it! She’s definitely got a spot locked up for next season! If there is something that could be done to further increase the chances of debauchery and idiocy, why not make that move? For season six, we get rid of the least entertaining cast members (I’d give the ax to Deena and Vinny, if he really doesn’t want to be there) and shuffle in some more friends of the people who are already living in the house. Sit back and let the testosterone laden chaos ensue!

Tebow Magic
We should’ve seen Matt Prater’s opening kickoff that bounced off the cross bar and landed right on the 20 yard line as an omen that something special was in the Mile High air. But we didn’t. We should’ve known that despite a front office that doesn’t want him, critics that don’t believe in him and even his biggest fan picking against him, Tim Tebow was going to something that only the big guy himself, or Tim Tebow could pull off. But no one thought it was possible. Just like a fighter who has one-punch knockout power but nothing else going for him, I gave the Broncos a slight chance just because Tim Tebow was on the field. But I never, EVER thought Tim Tebow and the Broncos could do what they did against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card round. 10 completions, 316 yards, no turnovers, 3 total touchdowns, an astronomical QB rating and an 80 yard overtime game winning touchdown pass. Nope, couldn’t have pegged that one.

Make no mistake, I am a Tim Tebow fan, and I will admit I can be slightly biased at times. But I also have enough common sense to admit that Tim Tebow is not an elite quarterback at this point in time. He’s limited, he’s raw, and he has tons of room for improvement. But don’t tell me he can’t be an NFL quarterback. If you watched that game against Pittsburgh, you probably came away thinking three things:
1) Tim Tebow throws one hell of a deep ball.
2) Tim Tebow just torched a great defense. Yes they were banged up, but Dick LeBeau was still calling the plays and they still had Troy Polamalu, James Harrison and James Farrior out there. Why can’t he be a starting quarterback again?
3) Something a little unexplainable just happened.

Will John Fox be so friendly in the future?

The bottom line is you can think whatever you want to think. You can call it luck, skill, or divine intervention. It’s simply Tim Tebow going out there and doing Tim Tebow things. I believe that’s what is referred to as Tebow Magic. This is part of what makes Tebow the polarizing figure that he is. There is a lot of an unknown surrounding him. Who is he, is he going to improve, is he going to take an unnecessary sack, will he ever learn how to consistently throw a 10 yard out, is he going to try to run over the middle linebacker, how does he inspire everyone on his team to play harder, is he ever going to fail in a close game? We don’t have those answers. And until we figure out what exactly Tebow Magic is, you better be ready to keep hearing about it for a while.

The NFL’s Final Four
For the third straight year, neither team in my pre-season Super Bowl prediction is in the NFL’s final four. I don’t know if it’s because I just don’t have the ability to pick anything correctly that is NFL related or if it’s because the NFL is nearly impossible to predict for everyone. I mean really, was San Francisco on anyone’s radar before the season? Raise your hand if they were. Wasn’t Tampa Bay supposed to be a playoff team? Weren’t the Giants dead in the water when they fell to 6-6? See, the NFL is close to impossible to figure out. However, I was right about two notable things in the playoffs so far.
1) Denver would be competitive against Pittsburgh
2) The Giants would defeat the Packers, and I called this in December.

I came to both of those conclusions simply on what my initial instincts told me. I talked myself out of San Francisco beating New Orleans and Baltimore beating Houston. At this point, I’m not going to overanalyze anything because it only results in a headache, time I’ll never get back, and most of the time me being wrong. That’s why my picks this weekend are the Giants and the Patriots. And I feel just about as confident with those selections as I could. I’m naturally a little cautious because Jim Harbaugh appears to be a coaching God, and the Patriots have struggled against marquee defenses this year. But I expect to see a Super Bowl 42 rematch in 15 days.

It’s a wrap for Bowl Season
While Paul Clark was here we watched a lot of bowl games. We watched so much college football that if my mom hears the words “bowl game” she basically starts trembling. Luckily, she gets an eight month break until college football starts again. Unfortunately, that means me and every other college football fan has to wait eight months for our fix. With that being said, now is a good time to reminisce on the five best games of the 2011-12 bowl season.

R+L New Orleans Carriers Bowl (San Diego State vs. Louisiana Lafayette)- Sure the R+L Carriers Bowl didn’t have the talent or build up most bowls had, but it did feature a very active crowd in the Superdome, and a last second field goal that gave the Ragin’ Cajuns a victory. Unfortunately, this game cost me 27 points in the Bowl Confidence Picks competition that was ultimately won by my father. Naturally, I’m bitter that I wasn’t victorious, but I can’t deny this was a surprisingly fun game.

Valero Alamo Bowl (Baylor vs. Washington)- You can’t say there was a lack of defense in the Alamo Bowl… there was simply no defense. Fans of defensive showdowns were probably slamming their heads against the wall during this game. The Alamo Bowl got Washington’s defensive coordinator fired, set just about every offensive bowl record and sent Robert Griffin III off on a high note to the NFL.

Outback Bowl (Michigan State vs. Georgia)- The lessons learned from the Outback Bowl: It’s a lot more fun to watch this game without a hangover, and don’t play for a last second field goal. Congrats to Michigan State for winning this overtime thriller.

Rose Bowl presented by Vizio (Oregon vs. Wisconsin)- The Rose Bowl Game overall was the best game of Bowl Season. Unlike the Alamo Bowl, there was defense present in this game, it was just overpowered by better offenses. Plus, Mom’s chicken parmesan for dinner during the 1st half was an absolute treat. Yum, chicken parm.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (Oklahoma State vs. Stanford)- Apparently Stanford coach David Shaw didn’t watch much of the Outback Bowl earlier in the day. YOU DO NOT PLAY FOR A FIELD GOAL IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU HAVE THE BEST QUARTERBACK IN THE COUNTRY. Oklahoma State doesn’t win the game if Stanford doesn’t put all the pressure on their kicker.

A Few Thoughts On The Association
Even though I’ll be doing a lot of NBA work over the next couple of weeks, I just can’t resist throwing out a few thoughts to wrap up the Christmas Recap Mishmash.
-Brace yourselves LeBron haters/Kobe fans, I’m giving LeBron the slightest possible edge in my MVP ballot at the moments. It’s by a very tiny margin, and I would actually switch my vote if Kobe could keep this up all year. 30 plus points per game, close to six assists and the burden of taking every big shot (and making most of them). It’s what we should expect by now. But right now LeBron is playing the best basketball of his career. He’s 2nd in scoring, 9th in assists, 5thin field goal percentage, plays all world defense night after night and he’s carried the Heat to a 4-0 record with Dwyane Wade on the sideline. Either way, you can’t really go wrong. Hey, stop shaking your fist at me!

1A and 1B on the MVP Ballot. I swear!

-By the way, 3-5 on my extremely early MVP ballot fills out with Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant and Kevin Love in that order.
-Philadelphia is for real. And by for real, I mean they will win at least one playoff series. Good coach, hard-working and a bunch of quality players. I’m a little scared of this team.
-Washington is for real. And by for real, I mean they will for real have the best odds at the number one pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.
-You think the Knicks regret gutting their whole team to trade for Carmelo when they could’ve just waited until the following summer to get him with Gallinari, Lawson and Chandler still on the roster? Cut to a Knicks fan sulking as he thinks about how fun the Knicks were at the beginning of last season.
-My thoughts on Team USA? Check back next week!