About one-half second after it was announced British band Coldplay would headline Halftime at Super Bowl 50 all heck broke loose across “social” media with opinion, mostly negative. This is not unusual for such an outpouring of reaction because as we know for most people who watch the Super Bowl the game is secondary to Halftime. The two teams are inconsequential.
And you can’t please ever-y one. Ever.
I don’t happen to be one of those folks infatuated with Halftime at the Super Bowl. I’d be good with a marching band. I don’t have a beef with Coldplay – I like some of their songs.
But an awful lot of people do have a problem with them. One presented a rationale why Hip-Hop artists would be more appropriate. Bob Lefsetz of Variety pointed out music actually “lives” on streaming services and in fact, Drake is a bigger mover of music than Adele. Drake has five Number 1 hits in his career. Coldplay has one. He also wasn’t moved by the fact Beyonce and Bruno Mars were thrown into the performing mix after the initial Halftime performer announcement. His disgust at the NFL’s choice not reflecting these music metrics was best reflected in a singular quote:
“Music is all about marketing and sports are all about protecting the past and taking no risks – at a time when society is living on the cutting edge, knowing what happens today probably won’t be remembered tomorrow.”
This IS the 50th Super Bowl. In a society where we put so much emphasis on the Super Bowl being one of the most important global events on God’s Day Planner this anniversary means a little bit more to the NFL. They don’t want to screw this up. Enter Coldplay.
If not screwing this Super Bowl up was indeed high up on the priority list in the League’s offices I still haven’t figured out why the NFL is playing this one in Levi’s Stadium where, having just opened in 2014, folks now find themselves discussing putting in fake grass for 2016…because grass doesn’t root for long. We will root for the NFL to install a quality turf that can handle The Big Game. We will root weather doesn’t cause an issue with it. Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News has a theory the architectural design of Levi’s Stadium features suite windows angled toward the fields which latch onto the morning sun and scorches real grass mercilessly. That design also has made it quite interesting in warm weather periods for fans in one part of the stadium that deal with that sunshine due to a lack of overhangs. Godspeed Santa Clara as you prepare for the universe to tune in.
And on that note let’s take a closer look at NFL Wild Card Weekend as we begin to find out who gets to open for Coldplay.
Kansas City (11-5) at Houston (9-7) – It certainly figures after this wacky season the hottest team in football (10 straight wins) would start the NFL post-season without a bye…and on the road. Ironically it is exactly where the Kansas City Chiefs started the 2015 season, winning 27-20. Remember Kansas City RB Jamaal Charles? He led the Chiefs that day. Houston QB Brian Hoyer has had enough concussions this season to forget he was benched during that opener. Kudos for Texans HC Bill O’Brien for producing amazing results without RB Arian Foster…but even though they appear to be peaking now…we can’t ignore they played in the AFC South. Kansas City is a reflection of their HC Andy Reid. They take the ball away from you and they protect the ball when they have it. They grind it out on offense and make you grind it out on defense. Wait…that’s pretty much how Houston rolls now too. One note from a guy who has seen a lot of Reid…he was famous in Philly for not making in-game or halftime adjustments. If O’Brien throws a few wrinkles in early and the Texans get ahead that might be the difference. A low-scoring affair? Likely. The law of averages (so many close, consecutive wins) catching up with the Chiefs? Possibly. Can Houston win this game? Definitely. Will they win this game? I think not. I like Kansas City in a nail-biter.
Pittsburgh (10-6) at Cincinnati (12-4) – The weather forecast for Saturday in Cincinnati is a 100% chance of rain with plunging temperatures. That’s worth mentioning because Pittsburgh RB DeAngelo Williams may not go and Cincinnati RB’s Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard haven’t provided much go. Elements aside…the Steelers and Bengals are probably both better off traveling through the air. That means Cincinnati QB AJ McCarron versus Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh wins, right? Not so fast. (For the record the teams each won on the other team’s field in the regular season) Big Ben, even with a ton of talent to throw to, has been pressing of late and making poor decisions. Since Andy Dalton got hurt trying to make a tackle during the home loss to the Steelers in Week 14 McCarron has been on-the-job-training as the Bengals have been scrapping for enough offense to get by. But the thing is…they don’t often need much. In fact Cincinnati has sort of become Kansas City…grind it out on offense and make you beat their very-solid defense. And the Bengals are also quite familiar taking the ball away much more than giving it away. The Steelers defense? Pass-wise they’re just about the worst around. If they don’t get turnovers…oh my. I know well the curse of Cincinnati HC Marvin Lewis and all the Bengals’ post-season failures…but they now get another shot to personally escort their rival out of the playoffs on their home turf (mind you Pittsburgh has won 14 of the last 17 the two have played in Cincy). The way the Steelers played at Baltimore in Week 16 was truly perplexing and, to be honest, they didn’t look truly inspired last week at Cleveland even in a win. If McCarron is allowed to throw enough and Lewis doesn’t curl up the Bengals offense in a corner Cincinnati wins…another nail-biter.
Seattle (10-6) at Minnesota (11-5) – Just a month ago Seattle went into Minnesota and won 38-7. The only score the Vikings had that day was on a 101-yard kick return. But it wasn’t zero degrees then. Yes, that’s the weather forecast for Minneapolis Sunday. Zero. The Vikings have looked really good since that home humiliation at the hands of the Seahawks, barely losing in Arizona followed by routing Chicago and the Giants at home before sailing into Green Bay last Sunday night and winning the NFC North…and the right for this rematch. Is it be careful what you wish for? Whether Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch returns this week or not is a bit irrelevant because this team has gone all Wilson-mode instead of Beast-mode. QB Russell Wilson has taken this team and put it on his back offensively. Their defense? In fine form, thank you. That being said if I am calling out Pittsburgh for their play in Week 16 let me do so regarding the Seahawks as well. Two weeks ago they lost at home to St. Louis – for the second time this year mind you. It was the only loss in their last seven games but it was extremely disappointing and made little sense. Minnesota has had a wonderful season but RB Adrian Peterson is going to have to have the game of his life and he temporarily had to back off of last week’s game against the Pack with his bothersome back. QB Teddy Bridgewater is usually quite careful (that’s code for low-risk) with the football but this week careful is just not going to cut it. The Seahawks have given up the fewest points in football and they have been scoring in bunches. The Vikings will need to throw the ball down the field and that’s just not something they do. I think even at ground zero (degrees) Seattle – who has made the last two Super Bowls and has shown fight considering a slow start this year – will warm to the occasion and win this game…not by as much as the first meeting but a convincing win nonetheless.
Green Bay (10-6) at Washington (9-7) – With that NFC North title on the line versus Minnesota at home Sunday night Green Bay continued to look bizarrely off on offense…and man did they look bad in Arizona the week before that. Granted the Vikings and the Cardinals play serious defense but Packers QB Aaron Rodgers looks confused, disgusted and out of sorts. You would be too if you were sacked 13 times over the past two, very important games they’ve played. When was the last time you found yourself saying the Packers defense might be ahead of their offense? Now. As for Washington, champions of the NFC East (yuck), at least they won their last four and took the title instead of bobbing softly on the surface of mediocrity. Truth is these Redskins are very good at home, which is where they find themselves due to the flawed function of the NFL playoff structure. QB Kirk Cousins (an unrestricted free agent at season’s end) has led an offense that finds themselves higher-ranked than Green Bay’s is. His enthusiasm sometimes leads him down “turnover alley” but more than not it leads Washington to points. Their defense leaves a bit to be desired – they have been known to give up an alarming number of yards – but the way the Packers offensive line has been playing that levels the playing field a bit. Here’s the thing…I have been saying for weeks – no – months…Green Bay has to be better than this but maybe it’s time to admit they aren’t who I thought they were. This will be the Packers seventh consecutive playoff appearance. Green Bay is way, way more experienced at this point in the year than the Redskins are. Yet, that is exactly what Minnesota didn’t have going for them when they went into “Titletown USA” several days removed and took the title from the Pack. The Packers aren’t who I thought they were…and now THEY know they aren’t who they thought they were. Stat courtesy of USA Today – over their past eight games (admittedly some versus division (yuck) opponents) the Redskins have managed to hold teams to a 33% third-down conversion mark which over a full season would rank second in the entire NFL. The Packers offense ranks 28th in favorably converting such situations and have failed to reach 30% six times this year. The weather forecast is for a 100% chance of rain on Sunday. I’ll go ahead and forecast a Washington win but that prediction is far from 100% certain. The one pick of these four I am least sure. If you have any nails left to bite…this too should be another nail-biter.