Sunday, January 25, 2015

49 Stops To Super Bowl XLIX (#1-9)

Every year since Super Bowl XL, I have used this blog for my "Stops To Super Bowl" list.  Every year, I create a list of smart, dumb, inane and chat worthy items for you to use in any banter leading up to and during the Super Bowl.

This year, it is 49 Stops to Super Bowl XLVIX and I'm back with some more (and some of the same) little items for you about the upcoming big game.

#9-STILL HAVEN'T WON ONE: There are now four franchises that have never appeared in a Super Bowl (Lions, Browns, Jaguars and Texans). But there are nine others that have never won the Super Bowl in any of their appearances. They are the Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee Titans, San Diego Chargers, Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals. The Bills and Vikings have lost four games apiece; the Bengals and Eagles have each lost two. The rest lost on their only trip.

And while the Jaguars (1995) and Texans (2002) haven't been to the big game, they don't have quite the drought as some other franchises. The Jets haven't been to the Super Bowl since the 1968 season. The Chiefs went to two of the first four Super Bowls but their last appearance was after the 1969 season.

It's been a while since the Vikings (1976), Dolphins (1984), Bengals (1988) and Redskins (1991) have been there as well.

#8-HERE ARE THE VARIABLES: Your referee for the Super Bowl is Bill Vinovich, who has never officiated a Super Bowl (though he was an alternate for Super Bowl XLVII). Vinovich was a side judge from 2001 to 2006.  However, a heart condition caused him to retire in 2007 and he served as a replay judge.  After being given the medial okay, he returned to the field in 2012 as a referee.  Vinovich also used to be an NCAA basketball official, even officiating NCAA tournament games.

Singer Idina Menzel will perform the National Anthem, while Katy Perry will be the halftime performer.  

#7-NBC UNIVERSAL: NBC, which is televising the game, will have their cable sports network (NBC Universal) digitally stream 11 hours of Super Bowl coverage.  Per Variety

NBCUniversal will launch an 11-hour free digital video stream — centered around live coverage of this year’s Feb. 1 Super Bowl — in a bid to get users to log in to its “TV Everywhere” services across its broadcast and cable portfolio the rest of the year.
The Peacock’s “Super Stream Sunday” event will include NBC’s presentation of Super Bowl XLIX live from Arizona, pitting the Seattle Seahawks against the New England Patriots, as well as the halftime show toplined by Katy Perry. The live-stream will kick off at 12 p.m. ET on Feb. 1 with NBC’s pregame coverage and concludes with an airing of a new episode of primetime drama “The Blacklist” at approximately 10 p.m. ET.
#6-SIX BEST SUPER BOWLS: Here are what I believe are the six best Super Bowls, ever. You can debate this all you want (which is fine), but these six were all great games with exciting finishes and are memorable in one way or another.

1-Super Bowl XXV: This was a great matchup in every way. With a backdrop of war, this game had all kinds of emotion as the game began (thanks, Whitney). That vaunted Bills offense against the stuffy Giants defense. The lead changed times on four occassions. In the end, an old guy like Ottis Anderson ate up the clock and Scott Norwood missed the only time the winner of the Super Bowl came down to the final play (even if Vinatieri missed those Pats FGs, the games would've went into overtime). Giants defensive coordinator Bill Belichick's defensive gameplan for this game in enshrined at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

2-Super Bowl XLII: Yes, the Giants take the top two spots. Their amazing run just to get to the Super Bowl and matching the undefeated Patriots blow-for-blow. Eli Manning's escape and David Tyree's catch has become one of the top plays in Super Bowl history. Second biggest upset ever.

3-Super Bowl XXXIV: Not only was this a surreal matchup (remember that St. Louis and Tennessee weren't NFL cities six years earlier), but some cat named Kurt Warner was shredding up this game. The Titans staged one heck of a comeback (they were down 16-0) to have it ripped away from them on a bomb to Issac Bruce. Also, it had one of the greatest endings any football game could ever have.

4-Super Bowl XXIII: There were so many game changing moments in this one. Remember that the only times the 49ers led this game was at 3-0 ... and after Joe Montana's pass to John Taylor at the end of the game. Cincinnati had this one, but Super Joe took it away.

5-Super Bowl XXXVIII: The problem with this Super Bowl is that the 1st and 3rd quarters sucked. However, the 2nd and 4th were just outstanding! In the fourth quarter alone, there were 37 points scored ... which is a Super Bowl record for points scored in a quarter. It was just the second to have five TDs scored (the Redskins did that by themselves 16 years earlier). And it ended with an Adam Vinatieri field goal with :04 left. Oh, and we got a little nipple action at halftime.

6-Super Bowl XLIII: What a game this was. You had the ultimate game changer with the interception and 99-yard return for a TD at the end of the first half. You had Arizona's miraculous comeback to take a lead late in the game. Then you had Pittsburgh's Big Ben Roethlisberger finding Santonio Holmes for a wonderful game winning score.

#5-ALL TIME SERIES: The Seahawks and Patriots have met 16 previous times.  Each team has won eight of those games.

Remember that these teams used to both be in the AFC.  Seattle has won six of the last eight games in this series.  Their last meeting was in 2012, when the Patriots blew a 23-10 lead halfway thru the 4th quarter and lost 24-23.  This will just be the fourth meeting in the last 21 years.

#4-OTHER SPORTS HAPPENINGS: If you are looking for some other sports to whet your appetite, you have a few options.  The NBA has a national televised game on ESPN, but it is the lowly Lakers visiting the horrid Knicks (there is also the Heat-Celtics game on League Pass).

The NHL will have four games on, with one of them involving the Arizona Coyotes at the Montreal Canadiens.  The Blues-Capitals, Preds-Pens and Wild-Canucks will be on the schedule.  

There are 12 NCAA basketball games scheduled.  CBS will have Michigan at Michigan State at 1:00pm (the Wolverines also played the CBS game last year on Super Bowl Sunday).  ESPNU will show Miami at Florida State at 12:30pm ET then Utah at USC at 2:30pm ET.  Interestingly, Cal faces Washington in Seattle on the Pac-12 Network at 3pm ET.  Will that arena be packed with their Seahawks playing just an hour or so after the game?  

#3-QUARTERBACKS:  Tom Brady will become the sixth quarterback to start a Super Bowl at age 37 or older.   John Elway is the oldest to start and win the big game (XXXIII) at the age of 38.  Of those six QBs, Brady will be the youngest, but will join Peyton Manning, Johnny Unitas, Kurt Warner, Rich Gannon and Elway as 37 year olds to start the game.  A Patriots win means Brady will the fourth oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl as a starter.

As I touched on before, Brady will start his record sixth Super Bowl.  A win will put him with Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw as the only 4-time Super Bowl winning starting quarterbacks.  A New England loss would put Brady with Frank Tarkenton and John Elway as three-time losers of the Super Bowl.  Jim Kelly's four losses is the record.

Russell Wilson is the 20th quarterback to start multiple Super Bowls.  Of those 20, only Kelly, Tarkenton and Craig Morton never won at least one game.  While not a starter in Super Bowl V, Earl Morrall did play most of the game for the Colts after Unitas was knocked out of the game in the 2nd quarter.  Morrall started for the Colts in the legendary Super Bowl III loss to the Jets.  Steve Young didn't start but threw three passes in Super Bowl XXIV (he started Super Bowl XXIX).

With a win, Wilson would be the 12th quarterback to start and win multiple Super Bowls.  He'd be the fourth active quarterback to achieve this, joining Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning.  Of the eight former players to do this, 7 are in the Hall Of Fame (only Jim Plunkett isn't).      

#2-THE WEATHER:  Last year when the Super Bowl was held in New Jersey, the weather was the biggest discussion.  This year, weather won't matter.  Not only is the game being played in Arizona, it will be indoors at University Of Phoenix Stadium.  Weather has rarely been a problem at the Super Bowl.  The most rain we've had was nearly an inch at Super Bowl XLI in Miami.  Four of the last five Super Bowls have been held indoors.  

#1-SUPER BOWL PREDICTION:  This should be a good game.  I said this last year as well ... and it wasn't.  Though I did pick the winner.  Why would I pick Seattle?  They are the defending champions and that defense has been on another level over the last three months.  Defense wins championships -- especially Super Bowls.  However, they needed a miracle to get past Green Bay and suffered some bangs and bruises along the way.
Why would I pick New England?  Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are tough to bet against, though they have lost their last two Super Bowls and both were to stout defensive teams.  Still, this Deflate-gate distraction may just be the rallying point to launch the team into ultimate focus.  

Still, I'm going with defense.  My same prediction as last year.  

Seahawks win Super Bowl XLIX, 24-20

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