Green. Color of money. The Super Bowl dumps a gigantic amount of green into a local economy, which is why NFL owners compete behind the scenes for it to be held in their neck of the woods. The Houston Chronicle reported recently one study expects $350 million will flow into “Space City” next month. However the same report indicates not only do two earlier forecasts differ greatly – one up, one down – but the upcoming financial windfall for any mega-event ultimately depends on what revenue any company’s auditors choose or don’t choose to figure in.
Green. Color of real grass. I want my Super Bowls played outside on real grass. Neither will happen for Super Bowl LI. The roof is retractable but the NFL usually keeps the lid on. They used to have real grass at NRG Stadium but that quickly became known as the league’s worst field and they grudgingly switched over to fake grass.
I do believe grass is greener on the other side. I know this because for eleven years I’ve watched winter dump upon our property and development. The way our house is positioned almost half our lawn and driveway each receive zero sun this time of year. None. Across the street similar properties bask in glorious sunshine from dawn on (when it’s not snowing, icing or sleeting obviously). Those properties obtain residual heat which then rejects future precipitation, certainly during smaller storms. A fair share of our lawn…more importantly our driveway…retains every single, blessed grain of snow, ice or sleet as some kind of trophy from hell souvenir regardless of the size of the storms…or for that matter what sporting event is being played. There have been a few Super Bowls I’ve had to venture out after the game’s final drive to start warming our drive for the next day’s drive. And…the grass is greener on the other side.
But I digress…
Green. Lots of it. Super Bowl telecaster Fox is reportedly asking between $5-5.5 million for a 30-second ad spot this year. For many, commercials are the best part of the day. What would make my day? If this year or in future years the NFL, its broadcast partners and their sponsors all worked out an arrangement where a fair portion of this obscene amount of money got off everyone’s ledger sheets and really lent a real hand to the less fortunate in our country. Charities continue to scramble for money to help the poor, the disabled, the homeless. The Super Bowl should not just be historically entertaining but historically life-changing.
To this weekend’s games…where every Divisional Round game will be a rematch – the first time in six years.
Seattle at Atlanta – Seattle held on to defeat Atlanta at home in Week 6 by 26-24. No, really. They actually held on. Seahawks defensive back Richard Sherman grabbed Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones’ arm late in the game to deny Atlanta a shot at a game-winning field goal. Jones and likely league MVP quarterback Matt Ryan lead a Falcons offense that is very balanced and very powerful. He has thrown at least one TD pass to 13 different players, an NFL record. Seattle is hurting on defense with DB Earl Thomas’ season-ending hurt. One note from their win over Detroit last weekend…Lions’ QB Matthew Stafford, even with a disheveled digit that kept him from passing effectively, managed to get several balls into the target area of wide-open receivers. Unfortunately his receivers treated the passes like hand grenades with pins pulled. The Seahawks secondary were struggling early on against the Lions. Atlanta’s defense has its own issues, allowing the 6th most points in the NFL this season. Interesting since Head Coach Dan Quinn used to be a defensive coordinator…with Seattle. The good news for Falcons fans is the Seahawks are not likely to light up the scoreboard. Seattle’s running game isn’t fixed just because they ran wild against Detroit. Their offensive line has been ravaged by inconsistency. And…QB Russell Wilson can’t (injury earlier in the year) or won’t (protecting against further injury) scramble. He just doesn’t look comfortable to me regardless of whether or not he took his knee brace off recently. The game comes down to how well Seattle can keep Ryan, Jones, the other pass-catchers and the Falcons’ running back tandem all under control. Matt Ryan is 1-4 in post-season appearances. The one win? Against Seattle. In Atlanta. History repeats. WINNER – ATLANTA
Houston at New England – New England toyed with Houston 27-0 at home in Week 3 with a third-string quarterback operating in Tom Brady’s Deflategate absence. For me the game is also notable for how Texans Head Coach Bill O’Brien curled up his offense into a collective fetal position and simply prayed his defense could score instead. Brutal. The Patriots are healthier than they’ve been in a long time – long ago compensating for injured tight end Rob Gronkowski. New England has won seven straight games. Houston was 2-6 on the road this season. Brady is on a revenge mission to win a Super Bowl (28 touchdowns, 2 interceptions) and the Patriots haven’t failed to make the AFC Championship in the last five postseasons. Houston’s QB is Brock Osweiler. Houston, you have a problem…actually, too many to count. WINNER – NEW ENGLAND
Pittsburgh at Kansas City – Pittsburgh destroyed Kansas City 43-14 at home in Week 4. The score is indeed reflective of how badly the Chiefs were beaten. Kansas City, who fans normally associate with great defense, has given up the 7th most rushing yards per game in the NFL this season. Kansas City, who fans normally associate with having a great home field advantage, lost to both Tampa Bay and Tennessee at home in the second half of the season. As well…this is a franchise which has lost four straight playoff games at home. Maybe this isn’t as daunting for visiting Pittsburgh – winners of eight straight – as one might think? Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger may be less mobile after a late-game injury vs. Miami last weekend but that’s never stopped Big Ben before. Running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown helped him overwhelm the Dolphins early and if these three start out like that this week it’s over early again. Kansas City’s defense has thrived off of takeaways this year – the team led the NFL in turnover differential – and that’s their formula for winning a bunch of games. It is a formula they’ll need to win this game. The Steelers simply need to take care of the ball and not hand KC ultra-short fields to work with. The Chiefs simply don’t have the firepower to hang in a shoot-out…although rookie wide receiver/returner/game breaker Tyreek Hill is a great weapon Kansas City Head Coach Andy Reid desperately needs going forward…next season. WINNER – PITTSBURGH
Green Bay at Dallas – Dallas went into Green Bay in Week 6 and whipped the Packers 30-16. The two star rookies on the Cowboys offense, quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott, were complimented at that time for showing so much poise with so little NFL experience. They now have a whole season under their belts and anticipating postseason regression isn’t on my radar. Both teams have pass defenses that waved the white flag of surrender on several occasions this year. Two of Dallas’ three losses this season came at the hands of the New York Giants, who just got done getting burned by Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has led the Packers to seven straight wins with a stat line of 2,029 passing yards, a completion percentage rounding up to 70%, 19 touchdowns…and zero interceptions. One glaring issue for Aaron to contend with…bestie wide receiver Jordy Nelson will certainly be hampered – if not outright inactive – after taking a horrible shot to his side last weekend. Rodgers’ success rate is much healthier when a healthy Nelson is on the field. In order for Dallas to win they’ll wish to run Elliott early and often behind a powerful offensive front, using a lot of clock and lulling Green Bay to the line of scrimmage to make it easier for Prescott to throw…keeping in mind Dak’s longest pass completion to a receiver or tight end all season was only 56 yards. I see Elliott being able to run at will. I see Rodgers being able to throw at will. Whoever has the ball last advances. WINNER – DALLAS