I won’t pull any punches with this statement: Not only was Super Bowl LIII a big letdown, it was the most poorly played “big game” I’ve ever watched in the NFL. With the exception of the 2012 BCS Championship Game (in college football), Alabama 19-0 over LSU, I can’t remember watching two more incompetent offenses in a meaningful game. It was brutal.
The biggest takeaway for the long term from the boring and uneventful Super Bowl was how poorly Rams QB Jared Goff looked. His Super Bowl performance was reminiscent of 2016, Goff’s rookie season when he was coached by the lackluster Jeff Fisher. While the Rams should have a hell of a team in future years, will they be held back by Goff? I think that question will be on plenty of Rams’ fans minds going forward.
I’m not going to lie…it’s sad that there are only two NFL games this weekend. While most people get excited for the Super Bowl, I get sad for the end of the season. Hell, I’m more sad at the end of the college football season than anything…but that’s besides the point.
I was wrong when I said around midseason that the Chiefs, Patriots, Saints, and Rams would not all end up among the final four. These teams have been consistent all year and I’m confident that both matchups this weekend as well as the Super Bowl will be exciting!
Before I make my picks below, here are my grades plus a quick thought or two on each of the new coaching hires around the league:
Last week’s picks were flat-out awful. Terrible. Couldn’t do worse. I’m a sports radio guy…and I went 0-4 straight up? Are you serious? So this week I’m going to reset my playoff predictions and we’ll see if I can get it right the rest of the way. I am due for a 4-0 week after all to even things out!
This week I’m not ignoring momentum (at least when it comes to my spread picks) so fade my choices below at your own risk!
Spoiler alert: I’ve never been all that great at picking the NFL’s postseason…so by all means, fade the following playoff predictions as you wish. I’m not sure why – maybe it’s that when I pick all favorites, it comes up underdogs and vice versa.
So I’m going to split the difference this year. My AFC pick will be a road warrior come late-January. I mean…do you really trust Patrick Mahomes in his first playoff game? Or Andy Reid who chokes year after year in the postseason. Or a Patriots team, that while experienced, lacks viable playmakers on both sides of the ball?
In the NFC on the other hand, take the chalk for reasons you’ll see below…you probably won’t regret it. If I’m confident in one playoff prediction, it’s the team I have winning 3 games out of the NFC…
Is it wrong to admit that I believe Super Bowl LII was the most entertaining in my lifetime? Off the top of my head it was one of the most compelling games from start-to-finish that I can remember. Here are three leftover (and probably somewhat crazy) thoughts from the day after the game:
1. Doug Pederson coached circles around Bill Belichick.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Philadelphia deserved to win this game. On offense, the Eagles’ play-calling was superior from beginning to end. I figured that Belichick, a defensive genius and the best-NFL coach I might ever see in my lifetime, would find a way to slow down Nick Foles, especially with two weeks of prep time. Didn’t happen. In fact Foles arguably played just as well as he did against the Vikings two weeks ago in the NFC Championship Game. I’m a firm believer that defense wins championships – however in this case, coaching and game-planning were significant factors in Philadelphia’s first ever Super Bowl championship. Pederson, in only two seasons as an NFL head coach, now belongs among the current NFL coaching greats.
I wish I could say I was excited for these two Conference Championship games but I’m really not. Where are the storylines? None of these teams make for all that appealing of a Super Bowl to me. See my rankings of the potential matchups below (from most interesting to least interesting) and tell me you don’t agree…
1. New England vs. Minnesota: Vikings on their home field with a strong defense against the best QB (Tom Brady) of all-time. I would not hesitate to pick the Vikings straight up.
2. New England vs. Philadelphia: The two best teams during the regular season (prior to Eagles QB Carson Wentz’s season-ending ACL tear) face off in what would be a rematch of Super Bowl XXIX.
3. Jacksonville vs. Philadelphia: Because the winner of this game would have no geographical advantage. Likely a hard-to-watch defensive struggle.
4. Jacksonville vs. Minnesota: If the Jaguars knock of giants Pittsburgh and New England on their home fields, they can’t be ruled out here. But the Vikings would have a decided advantage playing on their home field.
I’m actually looking forward to the day Tom Brady and Bill Belichick retire and/or leave New England. Picking against New England with both still at the helm is foolish – you’ll be wrong a lot more often than you’re right. And honestly, talking about parity in the NFL with the Patriots still in the peak of their dynasty takes some of the shine away from that argument. Is there such a thing as being TOO good in sports? Guess we’ll find out once again starting this weekend. Now on to the picks…
FIRST DOWN – The winner of College Football’s National Championship Game will be…
ALABAMA. Let’s say 31-21 over Georgia.
Nick Saban has never lost to one of his former assistant coaches in his illustrious career…I believe he’s 11-0. Well make it 12-0 as Alabama’s offense cranks it up in the 2nd half against a Georgia team that will have to abandon the run after falling behind early.
Happy New Year to all! What a fun weekend of football it was despite the fact that my Monday bowl game predictions went a whopping 0-5 straight up (but fortunately we won’t discuss those in this column)! Let’s hope that’s not an omen for things to come regarding my picks in 2018.
Before I predict both the NFL playoffs, I wanted to offer some brief thoughts on the coaching departure of Bruce Arians from the Cardinals.
Having gone 49-30-1 in the regular season as Cardinals coach, considering at times he was working with significantly inferior QB play, is very impressive. Arians’ one playoff win in three tries was a thriller against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in early 2016 though Arizona couldn’t get past the Panthers the following week in the NFC Championship Game.