Let me first start off by saying, “I’m only writing this article so I don’t get fined.”
With the culmination of the 2014 National Football League season just days away, the typical frenzy that happens in the days prior to the Super Bowl has been tempered somewhat in St. Louis. Given that the teams playing in Super Bowl XLIX make up 2/3 of a Rams fan’s evil triumvirate (with San Francisco being the missing member), it has been hard to find too much excitement from locals I have talked to. It also seems that most of the media hasn’t been as focused on the game, but instead on the controversy attached to the game. A quick Google search reveals over 17 million hits for “Deflategate”; even St. Louis Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko, Brett Hull and Kelly Chase have teamed up with McBride and Sons to make a Defategate commercial (which is scheduled to air during the Super Bowl). The only brief reprieve from Deflategate was the Media Day appearance by Marshawn Lynch, who responded to every question asked (a total of 29 times): “I’m just here so I won’t get fined.” (Is it too late to trademark that and start selling t-shirts?) Ironically enough, Lynch, will still likely get fined for his appearance because he was wearing attire that was not approved by the NFL.
With all the distractions prior to the Super Bowl, many fans have not had a chance to consider how the teams stack up against one another. So here is some analysis that will hopefully give you some things to watch for on Sunday evening – in between all those much anticipated commercials, of course.
Super Bowl XLIX pits two well matched teams against each other as the defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks take on perennial Super Bowl contender New England Patriots. This is the 11th time since 1975 where the top seeds from each conference will play for the Lombardi Trophy (the NFC is 8-2 in the previous 10 match-ups, including last year’s Super Bowl, with Seattle defeating the Denver Broncos). Seattle is making their second straight Super Bowl appearance, and third overall (losing to Pittsburgh 21-10 in Super Bowl XL) while New England is appearing in their 8th, six of which have occurred since 2002 when the Patriots shocked the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. Seattle comes into the game as the NFL’s best defense, ranking 1st in yards against per game, pass yards against, and points allowed, while sitting at 3rd in rushing yards against. They also have the top rushing attack in football, leading the league in total yards (2762), yards per attempt (5.3), and rushing touchdowns (20). But New England is no slouch either, with an offense that generated the 4th most points in the NFL this year (468) and the league’s 9th best passing attack. The New England defense ranks 8th in points allowed and is 9th against the run. New England’s turnover ratio (+12) is also 2nd best in the league. Both teams routinely get after the opposing quarterback, with Seattle creating QB pressure on 37.2% of passing plays, and New England right behind them, with 35.2%. (Note: QB pressure is defined as sacks, hits, or hurries on a quarterback according to Pro Football Focus).
The St. Louis Cardinals wrapped up their second straight National League Central title Sunday afternoon while finishing off warm-ups. After failing to close the door Saturday night, the division championship came down to the last day of the season, and for perhaps the first time ever, had St. Louis fans rooting for Johnny Cueto and the Reds against the Pittsburg Pirates. Separated by three time zones, and with Cueto picking up his twentieth win of the season, the Cards were able to secure the division without having to win Sunday’s game (a game they won anyway). This marks the ninth division title for the Cardinals since the inception of the NL Central during the 1994 realignment.
The season began with lofty expectations from both local and national pundits. Many considered the Cardinals to have a 100 win potential and easily capture the division crown. Nothing in baseball, however, seems to go as planned. The club battled an underachieving offense, inconsistent play most of the season, and injuries to key players, but finished the season strong. Taking over the Central division lead at the start of September, the Cardinals at a .654 clip (17-9) the final month to end the season 18 games over .500, with a record of 90-72.
Now, with the 162-game MLB season in the rearview mirror, the team can focus on baseball’s “second season,” which starts Friday night in Los Angeles in a rematch of last season’s NLCS. The teams may be the same, but there are several differences between this year’s and last year’s series. The Cardinals come in as the clear underdog. The Dodgers, as the higher seed, own home-field advantage and the Cardinals have not been good on the road, playing three games under .500 as the visitor. The Dodgers won three out of four games from the Cardinals in Los Angeles earlier this season, outscoring the Cards 17-4 in that series, shutting them out in two games. The Cardinals offense was at times anemic this season, finishing last in the NL in home runs (105), second to last in stolen bases (57), and tenth in runs scored (619). The 619 runs the Cardinals scored are the lowest of any playoff team and 99 less than the Dodgers scored. If the Cardinals want to advance past the NLDS, they are going to have to find a way to generate some offense against a pitching staff that features Cy Young award winners Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.
One of my favorite things about sports in general is the history of the games. The undeniable legends who stood taller than everyone else, the greatest plays in history, the indelible moments that come to define legacies.
Like any institution, often these sports attempt to embrace their past, encouraging people and the participants of their sports to learn the history of the game. The name Jackie Robinson may not exactly be a household name, but you would likely be able to find a large portion of the population who is at least familiar with the name. MLB embraces Robinson’s contributions and has an annual Jackie Robinson Day on April 15, during which all MLB players wear the number 42, the number Jackie wore when he broke the color barrier. Some fans like it, some find it annoying. Whether or not you enjoy it, it’s hard to deny that MLB has gotten their point across.
On this episode, I am joined by Jeremy and Jake. We break down this Sunday’s SummerSlam card and give our predictions. We also talk about some of our favorite SummerSlam moments from the past.
Feel free to leave your thoughts or predictions on this Sunday’s show or talk about some of your favorite SummerSlam matches.
WWE Payback was just what the doctor ordered for the WWE: an entertaining pay per view.
It’s just a shame that the company has done a lousy job of promoting the last two pay per view’s. Both have featured some great wrestling and wonderful story telling. Sunday’s event kicked off with Cesaro vs. Sheamus. Paul Heyman shut the crowd up with their CM Punk chants right off the bat, saying that he was over at the United Center watching the Blackhawks. He isn’t the best manager in the business for nothing folks. Both men worked a stiff match, which was welcomed by the fans in attendance, as well as myself at home. There were several near falls, as both men took some hard bumps. I really thought Cesaro would win this match, and it looked like he had it as he went for the Neutralizer. Sheamus surprised everyone as he countered the move with a small package to retain the title. It was a great opening match. These two are nowhere near done with each other. I could see atleast another pay per view battle between Cesaro and Sheamus.
The next match up was the Rhodes Brothers and Rybaxel. Besides the Diva’s match, this may have been the weakest match of the night, but it still told a compelling story. Rybaxel got the win, but the main story happened after the match. Cody left Goldust alone in the ring, telling him he needed to find a better partner. And the split of the Rhodes Brothers begins. I look for them two to battle at Summerslam.