Super? Picks on the Big Game

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Jim Vallet and Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter

At the risk of dating myself, I remember clearly, today anyway, the first Super Bowl. It wasn’t Super Bowl I then, it was just The Super Bowl, and you didn’t have to call it The Big Game. It was played a month earlier, on January 15th. The Green Bay Packers played the Kansas City Chiefs. There were plenty of good seats available at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Although I’m certain the networks did not have 9 ½  hours (??!!) of pregame shows, I don’t know exactly how long the pregame show was because my football-crazy dad had “volunteered” his and my services to help a friend move on my birthday! No one shushed anybody during commercials, I guess, because we were too busy moving a lot of heavy stuff and didn’t hear much of any part of the game. I remember coming home and asking my mom who won the game, but she didn’t know what game I was talking about.

Man, have things changed! Besides the never ending pregame shows, we have two weeks to get ready for The Big Game. I read that if you can find a ticket, the cheapest one starts at $8,800.00 for one ticket! Big stars beg for an opportunity to show some breast during the Big Halftime Show. Advertisers spend millions making the greatest new commercials, then millions more to show them during The Big Game, where they compete with other commercials to be called, “The Best”. Friends that don’t usually watch football make me mad by shushing me as I try to give “expert” analysis during the commercials. The American Gaming Association says that 31 million Americans will bet 7.6 BILLION dollars, legally and illegally, on the game, prop bets, and squares. (it almost seems like the “g” in “game” should be capitalized) My wife’s cooking shows have spent the last two weeks focusing on football food to eat during the Big Game, which can’t be called the Super Bowl because the NFL has trademarked that name. Friends and family call like they do before holy days and holidays querying each other about Super Bowl Sunday plans. All the free casino hotel nights exclude Super Bowl Sunday, February 13. Alcohol and party goods sales are through the roof on the big day, and pizza and sub sales are way up, too. William Hill has put out a 12 page list of 16 inch paper listing all the bets you can make with them this Sunday. I think the best bet of all on “Super Sunday” is that no one will ask, “What game” when asked who won The Game.

One thing, I’m not sure if it’s good or bad, about the Big Game is that it is taking my attention away from the plethora of sporting events that used to be on ESPN2 after midnight, that is the Winter Olympics.

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The athleticism and/or grit on display is impressive, that’s for sure. But, I can’t help but wonder, how does one know he’s good at curling? Or luge? Or ski jumping? What makes someone try snowboarding on the halfpipe and start doing double and triple flips 30 feet in the air? (Hold my beer and watch this?) I have seen one curling rink (or court, or arena, or whatever it’s called) zero luge runs, zero halfpipes, and one ski jump in my life. I know they must exist somewhere because there are a lot of people who are really good at them. I have seen zero advertisements for curling, luge, or ski jumping tryouts in the 31 years I worked at many different schools. 

Curling, in my opinion, is second only to figure skating as the most boring sport to watch. Curling reminds me of cornhole on ice, so I could relate to it much easier if it were played with beer and without shoes or socks. Maybe cornhole could take a cue from curling and let players somehow impede the flight of the bean bags. Probably it’s best curling is played without beer, at least on the Olympic level. Can you see those sweepers sweeping away while guzzling beer, losing their balance and sliding into the mass of curling rocks so delicately placed? I wonder what the penalty is for that, it MUST have happened, even without beer.

Another thing about the Olympics so far away is the time difference. I don’t know how many times I watched the same curling match (?game?) between Italy and Sweden, or the Women’s 10,000 meter cross country skiing event. And there is very little suspense about many events because we see them on tape delay. Even though I didn’t know who did win, I knew the U.S. didn’t win team figure skating because I already knew we had zero gold medals after the entire day of competition. (Although we may pull that one out yet).

The last thing for me about the Olympics is the sheer magnitude of the television coverage. As much as I love watching sports, it becomes an Olympic overload. I yearn for the days of watching “Everybody Loves Raymond” after my wife goes to bed. I guess I’m free to turn the channel…

Oh, yeah, the football game. I pick the Cincinnati Bengals (I like using my bold print) getting 4 ½ over the Los Angeles Rams. 

Robert’s picks

Robert’s picks

I’m not sure when a more surprising team than this year’s Cincinnati Bengals made the Super Bowl. Maybe the Arizona Cardinals in 2009, or the Tennessee Titans in 2000, when they pulled off the Music City Miracle. The preseason odds on the Bengals to make it to the Super Bowl were 75-1, and more than 125-1 to win it.

Even until late in the season, the Bengals were no sure thing to make the playoffs, then when they got there, they had to survive a last second pass in the end zone by the Raiders, needed an interception in overtime to set up the winning field goal over Tennessee, and then somehow overcame the coin flip and picked off Patrick Mahomes in overtime in Kansas City.

But here they are, and with Joe Burrow playing like an absolute magician, they have a legitimate chance to win it.

The Rams came on strong down the stretch of the regular season, looking like they might be the best team in the league for a few weeks, then with a chance to win the division, lost at home to the 49ers. For the first game and a half in the playoffs, they looked like the team that steamrolled through the last third of the regular season, but then nearly collapsed in the fourth quarter against the Buccs. They were thoroughly outplayed by the 49ers for most of the NFC Championship game, except for their dominant defensive line, which is what ultimately enabled them to come back from a 17-7 deficit in the fourth quarter.

It’s that defensive line, and how the Bengals handle it, that I think will the difference in this game. Burrow was sacked nine times by the Titans and seven times by the Chiefs, and the Rams’ pass rush is superior to both of them, and even more importantly, the Rams’ pressure comes from up the middle, where Aaron Donald is the best interior rusher in the game. He sometimes lines up outside, or loops around the end on stunts, but for a team that struggles to protect the QB, the Bengals are going to have a hard time protecting Burrow.

However, among other things, he is elite at keeping his eyes downfield while he shuffles through the pocket, and he has the best wide receiver trio in the game to throw to.

Outside of their passing game, the Bengals are ordinary in most other aspects of the game. But the NFL is a passing league, and Burrow can connect on big plays and keep drives moving with his feet.

These are two teams with quick strike abilities, and both teams are likely to attack if they have the ball late in the first half. I expect this game to be a battle, and I’ll take Bengals +4 and over 49.

As for the litany of props, if the game is tight, then there is value that there will be a lead change in the 4th quarter (+250).

I see Matt Stafford as Jimmy Garoppolo with a bigger arm, meaning he makes several head scratching decisions per game. He’s thrown at least one interception in 12 games this season, and he’s thrown multiple interceptions five times, so I’ll lay -140 on him to throw at least one interception in the Super Bowl.

The line on the number of passes Stafford will throw is 35, which he has exceeded 11 times this season, But I think the Rams can run the ball on the Bengals, so I’ll take the +135 on under 35 pass attempts by Stafford.

Because of the Rams’ pass rush, I think the Bengals will counter by trying to use the running backs on screens and check downs, so I’ll take Joe Mixon over receiving 25.5 yards and Semaje Perine over 11.5.

Also, if the game is close and goes over the total, then that means the Bengals will have gone over their team total of 21.5, so I’ll lay -115 on that as well.

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