Super Bowl Mythical Picks 2-1-09

Please keep yourselves under control. This will be the final Mythical Picks of the football season. Despite the amazing lack of success in these picks, there is no reason for you to be so obvious in your glee that these have come to an end. Not to worry, there is a heaping dose of schadenfreude coming soon to these parts. I have not gone back to look at my pre-season NFL analysis since I wrote it back in August but I remember enough of my selections to know that the grades I give myself on the “post-mortem analysis” will not be good ones. I will probably do that sometime next week.

Two weeks ago, the Over/Under picks went 1-1. That brought the playoff record for Over/Under picks to 4-6 and it brought the season total to 51-65-2. If that record were a person, that person would have been voted in high school as the classmate most likely to be studied at the Paleontological Institute of Ugly Creatures.

Two weeks ago, the Against the Spread picks also went 1-1. That brought the playoff record for ATS picks to 5-5 and it brought the season total to 86-85-7. Of course, that would not be a profitable record accounting for “the vig”; but if you are looking for a “glass half full” interpretation, there is no way I can finish under .500 for the season here.

Time for the mandatory disclaimer. Do not use any information here as part of whatever decision process you use should you decide to make a real wager on the Super Bowl game. Look at the numbers above; why would you believe any of my analyses based on those numbers? Anyone who is stupid enough to think that I have some inside info on this game probably also thinks that the Super Bowl is a self-cleaning toilet.

General Comments:

Last Monday, I wrote about the NFL and said I was going to try to make it through the week without mentioning the NFL or the Super Bowl one time until these Mythical Picks. I was not sure I could do that given that the sports news of the week has been so dominated by Super Bowl “stuff”. Well, I actually made it through the week on that pledge and so now, I will focus on NFL “stuff” exclusively.

Even though the Dallas Cowboys folded up like a pair of pantyhose in December and missed the playoffs completely, news about the Cowboys continues to flood the media. In the past week, we learned that Michael Irvin will produce and star in a Survivor-like TV show next summer where NFL aspirants will compete for a spot on the Cowboys’ training camp roster. Jerry Jones will be one of the judges on the program. I’ll bet the Cowboys’ coaching staff cannot wait to inherit some guy from a made-for-TV special show who arrives with the endorsement of Jerry Jones in his team role as “owner” and “general manager” and “overall buttinsky”.

    Memo to Michael Irvin: Get Vince Papale to be one of your judges. He might actually know something about your premise here. Google is your friend, Michael.

Not to be outdone by the silliness of this announcement, Terrell Owens will also be involved in a reality TV program over the summer on VH-1. As I understand it, the focus of this program will be for people to get to know Terrell Owens in his personal life; as you might guess, I will certainly not be a regular viewer. Nevertheless, I do have a philosophical question to pose here:

    How can someone whose behaviors so often suggest that he is woefully out of touch with the real world be the focus of something that pretends to be “reality” television?

Sunday will be the tenth Super Bowl since the turn of the millennium. [All of you geeks who continue to insist that the millennium didn’t really begin until 2001 need to take your slide rules and do something very unpleasant with them.] In those ten Super Bowls, there will have been six teams that have played in the Super Bowl for the first time:

    Tennessee (2000)
    Baltimore (2001)
    Tampa Bay (2003)
    Carolina (2004)
    Seattle (2006)
    Arizona (2009).

Please note that two of these first-time participants were Super Bowl winners (Baltimore and Tampa Bay) so the idea that a team needs to “learn how to handle the pressure of the Super Bowl” in order to win it might be a bit overblown.

The Cardinals’ franchise is the one with the longest drought between championships – ignoring of course teams like Houston that have never won a championship. The Cards last won in 1947. If – I said IF – the Cardinals were to win on Sunday, then the team with the longest drought would be [drum roll please]:

    The Detroit Lions who have not won a championship since 1957.

The Cardinals are not the first team to arrive in the Super Bowl with 7 losses on their record for the season. The Rams also did that in 1979 when the Rams put together a string of playoff upsets to arrive in the “Big Game”. Interestingly, the Rams’ opponents in that game were the Pittsburgh Steelers. If you see this as a sign of fundamental symmetry in the universe, you will also recognize that the Steelers won that game.

As did the Rams in 1979, the Cardinals won the NFC West with this mediocre record because the other three teams in that division were either brutally awful or hugely underachieving – - or both. The Cardinals have been in Arizona since 1988 and this is only their second winning season in that venue; they were also 9-7 in the 1998 season.

Interestingly, the Cardinals did not want to be “realigned” into the NFC West when the NFL did its reshuffling in 2002. Since moving to Arizona, the biggest crowds that the Cardinals ever had were when the Dallas Cowboys came to town; and, truth be told, the number of people in blue garb usually outnumbered the ones in red garb. The Cardinals wanted to be in the same division with the Cowboys to preserve these big days at the gate.

Paul Tagliabue took all of that under advisement and then sent the Cardinals to the NFC West and kept the Cowboys in the NFC East and time marched forward. Here we are in 2009 and since that realignment event, here are some immutable facts:

    1. The Cowboys have not won a single playoff game. In fact, the last time the Cowboys won a playoff game was in 1996.

    2. The Cardinals have won 3 playoff games this year and a conference championship and are in the Super Bowl. In fact, the Cardinals have won 4 playoff games since the Cowboys last won one and the Cardinals might add a fifth victory this weekend.

    3. The Cardinals 3 playoff victories in January 2009 are more than the total number of playoff victories for the franchise prior to this season. They won one game in 1947 and another in 1998. That’s it; that’s the list.

The Cardinals would not be the first team to win a championship having only won 9 games in the regular season either. The Green Bay Packers were 9-4-1 in 1967 and they won the Super Bowl that year.

Quick Quiz: (Answers provided a few paragraphs below)

    1. Name the only two coaches in NFL history to win at least one game in five consecutive post-seasons. [Hint: Vince Lombardi is NOT one of them.]

    2. What was the #1 NFL player jersey in terms of sales last year on NFLShop.com? [Hint: I am not surprised it was in the Top Ten but I would never have identified it as #1.]

When you hear announcers/analysts heaping praise on the two coaching staffs on Sunday, please keep in mind this note from Bob Connolly of the Bronx Times Reporter:

“One thing that has always impressed me is that some teams are able to make adjustments to their game plans during half-time intermission to counteract their opponent’s offensive and defensive strategies and usually wind up doing pretty well. The fact that their own game plan wasn’t carved in stone shows that those coaches weren’t too stubborn to see that something wasn’t working and could be improved.”

Professor Connolly is absolutely correct. Success comes from superior strategic planning mixed with superior tactical adjustments to meet the situation at hand. If you do not understand the fundamental difference between strategy and tactics, consider that an officer who had never seen the terrain over and into which the brigade would charge ordered the Charge of the Light Brigade. The result was not pretty…

Answers to Quick Quiz above:

    1. John Madden won post-season games from 1973 through 1977 and Mike Holmgren won post-season games from 1993 through 1997.

    2. The largest selling NFL jersey was Brett Favre’s NY Jets jersey.

Since this is the Super Bowl, there a bazillion proposition bets out there – - most of which are outrageously silly such as:

    Over/Under 1 minute 54 seconds for the singing of the National Anthem.

    Over/Under 42.5 for the United States TV rating according to Neilson.

    Color of the liquid dumped on the winning coach at the end of the game.

    Number of planes in the pregame flyover.

    Over/Under 7.5 for number of times announcers refer to “Big Ben”.

Actually, the prop bet that might be interesting – and would surely have long odds – would be this one:

    Will John Madden vote to make Brett Favre the Super Bowl MVP on Sunday?

The Game:

Pittsburgh – 7 vs. Arizona (47):

When you think of Super Bowl champions of the past, many folks recall the dominant teams of the past such as the Steelers of the 70s and the 49ers of the 80s and the Cowboys of the early 90s. Those were teams that were very good on offense and on defense. So people have tended to dismiss the Cardinals from consideration here because their defense was anything but “super” for the entirety of the NFL season. Remember that the Cardinals finished 28th in the NFL in scoring defense this year. However, please also recall the Indy Colts’ championship season. The Colts were an offensive team with a horrible defense – - until the playoffs when the defense played significantly better than it had for the whole season. That is sort of what is happening with Arizona now.

The Cardinals finished 2nd in the NFL in passing and they had their QB and both of their WRs named to the Pro Bowl. They won their games by outscoring opponents.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are almost a mirror image to the Cardinals. The Steelers’ defense allowed the fewest yards and the fewest points for the season. Oh, by the way, they Steelers defense also led the NFL in pass defense too. The Steelers also have three members of their defensive unit prominently on display as Pro Bowl players, James Harrison (merely the Defensive Player of the Year), James Farrior and Troy Polamalu. The Steelers won their games by preventing the opponent from scoring much at all.

I think this line is fat. Therefore, I will take the Cardinals with the points.

I think the Steelers’ defense is too good to let this game get into the 50s and I think the Cardinals’ defense is good enough to keep the game from getting into the 50s. I will also take the game UNDER.

Then again, look at my season record and ask yourself,

“What the Hell does he know?”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…

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Comments

  • JJC  On January 30, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    With the exception of the Lions, I imagine that the year in review for the year in preview is going to be ugly when it comes to prognostication powers. But the fun is in making them, right?

    Q1 – I knew Holmgren but my other pick was Levy. He had 4 Superbowl appearances so I figured he might have made and won a playoff game either before of after. Turns out I was wrong.

    Q2 – I would have went with #12, Aaron Rodgers just because he was new and was doing quite well for a while. So I appeal for half credit because it was someone for linked to the one who sold the most.

    I’ll take the Cards (who will win outright) and the over at 28-20.

    PS – There was no year zero.

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On January 30, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    JJC:

    The pre-season post-mortem will be ugly this year. I just know it…

    My guess was Madden and Lombardi; I did not have Holmgren on my radar.

    I am fully aware that there was no “Year Zero” and of the mathematical implications therefrom. Nevertheless, the millennium began on 1 Jan 2000.

  • Rich  On January 30, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    The Detroit Lions just experienced Year Zero, didn’t they?

  • Eric K.  On February 1, 2009 at 12:35 am

    Shouldn’t Bill Belichick be on that list? The Patriots won a playoff game for each of the 2003-2007 seasons. (My other guess was Landry.)

    I know you’re probably not a Jim Rome listener, but occasionally on that show there will be a soundbite of Jim Lampley’s rant of when the millennium really begins. Once you hear that soundbite, I dare you to tell Lampley what to do with his slide rule (and while you’re at it, his grammar book too).

    Trivial observation: For each of the past eight years, the NFC has sent eight different teams to the Super Bowl. Similarly, both the American and National Leagues have had (separate) eight-year spans sending eight different teams to the World Series.

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On February 3, 2009 at 11:47 am

    Rich:

    The Lions will be trying to forget their Year Zero for the next couple of thousand years.

    Eric K.

    I thought the Pats went out in their first game in 05. I found that trivia question somewhere and when I flubbed on the answer I just reported it here.

    I have not heard Jim Lampley’s rant on the millennium. From your comment, I infer that he is one of the folks who did not believe that 1/1/2000 ushered in the new millennium. I know he and the “2001-is-the-right-date partisans” are mathematically correct, but they miss the point. Millenia are “celebrated” by the masses of people who didn’t study math or history for the purpose of scoring debate points like that one. They celebrate the change with the change of the first digit in the year.

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