C’mon man, Patriots ain’t no underdogs

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Cut the underdog talk Tom Brady. Please, Patriots, spare us the rap. Nobody buys it.

It’s bad enough you have the best quarterback and coach of all time, and that you’ve been to the Super Bowl nine times since 2002.

“I’m too old,“ Brady told CNN moments after the Patriots knocked off Kansas City in the AFC title game. “We’ve got no skill players. We’ve got no defense. We’ve got nothing.”

Nothing but five Super Bowl rings already.

Does New England understand how Las Vegas odds work? Here’s a simple lesson. That +3 in your column means the Patriots are favored to beat the Rams by three points.

The Rams – with the young coach and quarterback and the inexperienced squad – are clearly the underdogs in Super Bowl LIII.

8-0…or 0-8

Amazingly, the Patriots could just as easily be 8-0 as 0-8  in Super Bowls in the Brady-Belichick era. The Patriots won their first three Super Bowls on field goals, and later added an end-zone interception to beat Seattle and a record-setting 31-point comeback to stun Atlanta in overtime.

On the other side, the Pats came close to beating the Giants twice and the Eagles last year before falling short at the end.

QB Hell

Who’s the best quarterback never to play in a Super Bowl?

Two Charger greats top the list – Hall of Famer Dan Fouts and Philip Rivers, who lost to the Patriots in the divisional round of this year’s playoffs.

Hall of Famer Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham and Archie Manning are also on the list nobody wants to be on.

The best never to win a Super Bowl? That honor goes to Miami’s Dan Marino, whose Dolphins lost to San Francisco in 1985, his second season….and never made it back.

Fellow Hall of Famers Fran Tarkenton and Jim Kelly made the big game multiple times, yet never came out on top.

RICK’S PICK: I’m an NFC guy who would love to see the Rams win. But my head tells me New England, 31-20.


How about an all-LA Super Bowl?

LA

Randy Newman would love it. So would southern California. And all those fans who hate the New England Patriots would have reason to cheer.

Imagine an all-Los Angeles Super Bowl? The Los Angeles Rams vs. the Los Angeles Chargers. In 52 previous years, never have two teams from the same city played in the Super Bowl.  It would be a first, and quite an accomplishment for a city that suffered more than two decades without an NFL team, from 1995 until 2016.

The city of Los Angeles does own one Lombardi Trophy – but neither the Rams nor the Chargers won it. Rather the Raiders, temporarily removed from Oakland, beat the Washington Redskins, 38-9, in Super Bowl XVIII.

The Rams did win Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000, beating the Tennessee Titans. But that Rams team called St. Louis home.

The Los Angeles Rams appeared in one Super Bowl, but lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-19 in 1980.

The LA Rams won their only NFL championship in 1951 over the Cleveland Browns, 24-17. The Cleveland Rams won the NFL title in 1945, defeating the Redskins 15-14. The team moved to Los Angeles the following season.

The Chargers, representing San Diego, played in one Super Bowl. In 1995 they were crushed 49-26 by the San Francisco 49ers in SB XXIX.

The Chargers called LA home in their inaugural year in 1960. They moved to San Diego in 1961, and won their only AFL title in 1963 when they beat the Boston Patriots, 51-10.

 

I Love LA – Randy Newman

Roll down the window, put down the top
Crank up the Beach Boys, baby
Don’t let the music stop
We’re gonna ride it till we just can’t ride it no more
From the South Bay to the Valley
From the West Side to the East Side
Everybody’s very happy
‘Cause the sun is shining all the time
Looks like another perfect day
I love L.A. (We love it)
I love L.A. (We love it)


Covering it all, from Joe Willie to Deflategate

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Joe Namath and the SportsLifer going over the game plan prior to Super Bowl XXV in Tampa. Here’s 10 observations while wading through the interminable hype and waiting for the kickoff.

1. Giant break: The Patriots are just happy they’re not facing the Giants. Admit it, New England fans.

2. Who let the air out? Here’s my theory on Deflategate. The Patriots have been doing this for years, they finally got caught. Somebody, probably from the Colts, tipped off the league and they measured the balls. The ball boy will take a fall, but if a high-level individual like Belichick or Brady can’t be fingered, the team will pay a price. To paraphrase a recent Yogi Berra tweet, if you’re gonna cheat, you better not get caught.

3. Crusader investigator: Ted Wells, who is leading the Deflategate investigation, attended the College of the Holy Cross and graduated a year ahead of me. We’re hearing his name an awful lot these days.

4. If the Seahawks win, they will be first two to repeat since the Patriots in 2004-05. It’s happened eight times. The Steelers have done it twice (1975-76 and 1979-80), and the Packers (1967-68) in the first two Super Bowls, Dolphins (1973-74), 49ers (1989-90), Cowboys (1993-94) and the Broncos (1998-99). There has never been a Super Bowl three-peat.

5. If the Patriots win, they will join the Packers and Giants with four Super Bowl rings. Only the Steelers with six and the Cowboys and 49ers with five have more. This is New England’s eighth appearance in the Super Bowl, matching the Steelers and Cowboys.

6. What happened to the old highlights? Not big on the avalanche of pre-game hype. Years ago. someone aired those classic half-hour highlights of each Super Bowl, game by game. May have been ESPN Classic, but can’t find anything out there now. If anyone knows, let me know.

7. Broadway Joe: Pete Hamill once wrote: “Joe Namath legitimized his team and his league, the old AFL, and more than any other player, he transformed the Super Bowl into a national event instead of a post-season payday.” Now that sounds about right.

8. Silent treatment: Does anybody really care what Marshawn Lynch has to say? He’s getting my silent treatment. And there’s no fine.

9. Attitude: Roger Goodell once more shows his arrogant side responding to a question from CNN reporter Rachel Nichols.

10. Rick’s pick: Going with my pool numbers, picking Seattle 21-19 in a low-scoring. New England scores late, but is denied on a two-point conversion.


10 things to know about Super Bowl odds

It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you beat the point spread. Super Bowl XLIX is upon us, and if the odds hold true, this will be one of the closest Super Bowl games in history. The Patriots are favored by one point over the Seahawks, the tightest spread in 33 years. Impress your family and friends with the 10 things you need to know about Super Bowl odds:

1. One is Enough: This year’s spread equals the closest in Super Bowl history. The 49ers were favored by one over Cincinnati in 1982 and the undefeated Dolphins by one over the Redskins in 1973. Both favorites won, San Francisco, 26-21, and Miami, 14-7.

2. ATS and Straight Up: Overall, Super Bowl favorites have gone 26-18-2 against the spread and 33-15 straight up.

3. The Push: Only two Super Bowls have ended in a push – 2000, when the Rams (-7) beat the Titans, 23-16, and 1997 when the Packers (-14) beat the Patriots, 35-21.

4. Underdogs: Have won 10 of the last 13 Super Bowls.

5. Favorites: Won 10 of the first 14 Super Bowls.

6. Biggest Spread: 49ers (-18 1/2) over the Chargers in 1995. San Francisco justified the odds with a 49-26 victory.

7. Biggest Upset: Jets  (+18) beat the Baltimore Colts, 16-7 I,n 1969.

8. Over/Under: The cumulative mark is 24-24. There was no over/under in Super Bowl I.

9. Failed to Cover: Six teams have won but failed to cover the spread. Steelers 2009, Patriots 2005 and 2004, Cowboys 1996, 49ers 1989, and Steelers 1976.

10. Out of Luck: Four teams have never had a Super Bowl line – they never played in the big game. The Lions and Browns both won NFL championships before the Super Bowl. The Jaguars and the Texans were expansion franchises.

Historic odds courtesy of Las Vegas Insider.


The most unlikely Super Bowl QBs

Baltimore’s Trent Dilfer may have been the least likely quarterback to win a Super Bowl.

Yeah right, back in September you figured Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick were going to be the starting quarterbacks in the Super Bowl. You and all the other experts.

The list of quarterbacks who have started a Super Bowl is a long and glorious one. Many of the game’s greatest QBs  have flourished under the bright lights of football’s ultimate game.

Bart Starr, MVP in the first two Super Bowls, kicks off the list. He joins a Hall of Fame Super Bowl QB lineup that includes such legends as Johnny Unitas, Roger Staubach. Bob Griese, Dan Marino, John Elway, Troy Aikman, and someday Brett Favre, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. Joe Montana was a three-time Super Bowl MVP; Terry Bradshaw, Tom Brady and Eli Manning have all won two.

And don’t forget Fran Tarkenton, who was the losing quarterback in three Super Bowls and Jim Kelly who topped that with four SB losses. Both are Hall of Famers.

But that list also has some surprises, including this year’s matchup. At least four quarterbacks defied common logic to win Super Bowls. Others got to the Super Bowl, but lost. They are the unlikeliest starting QBs in Super Bowl history.

Winners

Jeff Hostetler — A back-up for much of his career, Hostetler stepped into the breech when Phil Simms broke his foot near the end of the season — and piloted  the Giants to a dramatic 20-19 win over Buffalo in SB25.

Mark Rypien — The MVP of SB26, Rypien, right,  passed for 292 yards and two touchdowns as the Redskins beat Buffalo 37-24. Two years later he was banished to the bench, then to Cleveland. (Hey, try winning with the Browns).

Trent Dilfer — Dilfer played for five teams in a 13-year career and never threw more than 21 TDs in a season. In his one-year with Baltimore he beat the Giants in SB35 despite a pedestrian 12 for 25, 153-yard effort

Brad Johnson — A ninth round draft pick out of Florida State, Johnson did throw for 166 TDs in an otherwise mediocre career. Helped by three pick sixes by the Tampa Bay defense, he led the Bucs to their only SB victory in 2003.

Losers

Vince Ferragamo — He threw 30 TD passes and led the Los Angeles Rams to SB14  in 1980, where they lost to Pittsburgh 31-19.  Ferragamo had a decent game in what turned out to be the high point of his career.

David Woodley — Woodstock as he was affectionately known in South Florida. was 4-for-14 for a mere 97 yards in Miami’s 27-17 loss to the Redskins in SB17. Two years later Dan Marino arrived. End of story.

Stan Humphries — Perhaps the most unlikely starter in Super Bowl history, Humphries’ Chargers were victimized by the 49ers, 49-26, in SB29. Three years later he was out of the league.

Chris Chandler — Chandler had a long NFL career, but never came close to equalling his 1998 season when he threw 25 TD passes and took the Falcons to their only Super Bowl.

Rex Grossman — Only once in his career (in 2006 when he threw 23 as the Bears advanced to SB41) did Grossman throw more than 16 TD passes in a season. Oh yes, Chicago lost to the Colts.

Two-time loser

Craig Morton — In SB5 with the Cowboys, Morton, left, was 12-for-26 with three interceptions. In SB12 with Denver against his former team he was worse, 4-for-15 with four INTs. He finished his career with more picks (187) than TDs (183).

Dishonorable Mention

Joe Kapp — A CFL refugee who played four years in the NFL, Kapp was the QB when the Vikings lost to the Chiefs, 23-7, in SB4. Although he threw just 40 career TD passes, he had a record-tying seven in one game in 1969.

Jim McMahon — His Bears won SB20 over the Patriots, but the storyline was Chicago’s relentless defense. McMahon never threw more TDs than the 15 he tossed in 1985.

Tony Eason — He started SB20 for the Patriots against the Bears, but after failing to connect on any of his five passes he was relieved by Steve Grogan.

Jake Dolhomme — Delhomme passed for 323 yards and three TDs in SB38 as his Panthers lost to the Patriots. It was all uphill from there for Jake.

Neil O’Donnell — He threw three picks helping the Cowboys beat the Steelers in SB30. Then he made the mistake of leaving for the Jets and….oh well


11 greatest moments in pro football history

NFL’s greatest moment: Johnny Unitas passes the Colts past the Giants in the 1958 championship game. The game was watched by a national television audience and signified the rise of professional football.

A panel of football writers, historians and other experts recently selected the 11 greatest moments in pro football history for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 50th anniversary book. The only criterion was that the moment had to have an enduring impact on the game.

The top three moments occurred during a three-year period in the late 50s and early 60s, led by the Colts-Giants championship game in 1958. The league’s founding and pro football’s first marquee star were ranked fourth and fifth respectively. And the final four moments took place during a four-year span that began with the AFL/NFL merger and ended with the advent of Monday Night Football in 1970.

The beauty of these lists is that fans can easily come up with dozens of other candidates. You could make a strong argument for  moments like the rules changes in 1933 that opened up the forward pass, the Immaculate Reception in 1972 and the Giants Super Bowl victory over the unbeaten Patriots in  2008.

11 players on a side, 11 top events; Here’s the list:

1. The 1958 NFL Championship Game — The Colts beat the Giants 23-17 in sudden death overtime in what is often referred to as  “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” Soon after, pro football exploded on the American scene.

2. The formation of the American Football League, 1959 — Lamar Hunt, a 26-year-old Texas oil man, along with eight original owners. announced plans for a new professional football league, the AFL, to begin play in 1960.

3. Pete Rozelle named commissioner, 1960 — After 23 ballots failed to produce a new leader following the death of long-time czar Bert Bell, NFL owners selected the relatively unknown GM of the Rams. Rozelle, right,  became the visionary behind the Super Bowl.

4. The formation of the National Football League, 1920 — The league’s organizational meeting was held in the showroom of Canton Bulldogs owner Ralph Hays Hupmobile dealership. The American Professional Football Association quickly became the NFL.

5. Red Grange turns pro, 1925 — The Bears signed the nation’s biggest star, who made his pro debut five days after his final collegiate game at the University of Illinois. Several weeks later, Grange drew 70,000 fans to a game against the Giants at the Polo Grounds in New York.

6. The first NFL draft, 1936 — Bert Bell’s innovative idea to help the weaker teams in the league was instituted, and Heisman Trophy winner Jay Berwanger was the first pick. Selected by the Philadelphia Eagles and traded to the Bears, Berwanger decided not to play

7. The reintegration of pro football, 1946 — Pro football had a color barrier from 1934-46, when the  Rams signed Kenny Washington and Woody Strode and the Browns signed Marion Motley, left, and Bill Willis — a year before Jackie Robinson’s debut in Brooklyn.

8. Monday Night Football, 1970 — The first Monday night game, between the Browns and the Jets, televised on ABC,  kicked off a weekly tradition and changed the viewing habits of a nation.

9. Super Bowl III, 1969 — In one of the greatest upsets in sports history, Jets quarterback Joe Namath guaranteed victory, then delivered in a 16-7 win over the Colts that put the AFL on the map.

10. The Ice Bowl, 1967 — The Packers beat the Cowboys 21-17  in arctic-like conditions in the Green Bay in the last game that Vince Lombardi ever coached at Lambeau Field.

11. The AFL/NFL merger, 1966 — The two rival leagues announced a phased merger, which called for an annual world championship game (later known as the Super Bowl) and full integration by 1970.


Deja blue all over again

 

Here are 10 similarities between the two New York Giants Super Bowl runs, in 2007 and 2011:

1. In 2007 the Giants lost to the undefeated Patriots in the regular season. In 2011, the Giants lost to the undefeated Packers in the regular season. The final score of each game was 38-35.

2. In the 14th game of the 2007 season, the Giants lost to the Redskins 22-10. In the 14th game of the 2011 season, the Giants lost to the Redskins 23-10.

3. The Giants won playoff games on the frozen turf of Green Bay’s Lambeau field in 2007 and 2011.

4. The Giants won both the 2007 and 2011 NFC Championships games on field goals by Lawrence Tynes in overtime; beating the Packers and the 49ers respectively.

5. Without a first-round bye, the Giants won four consecutive playoff games in each Super Bowl run.

6. Eli Manning was the MVP in both Super Bowl wins (XLII and XLVI) against the Patriots.

7. Justin Tuck had two sacks of Tom Brady in each game.

8. Each game-winning, late fourth quarter Giant drive was sparked by an outstanding passing play,Manning to David Tyree in 2007 and then Manning to Mario Manningham in 2011.

9. In each Super Bowl, Manning vs. Brady was the quarterback matchup. In fact, Super Bowl XLVI marked only the third time in history that quarterbacks who had won previous Super Bowls faced off. Pittsburgh’s Terry Bradshaw and Dallas’ Roger Staubach met in 1976 and again in 1979.

10. Tom Coughlin of the Giants and Bill Belichick, each of whom served as assistants to Bill Parcells when the Giants won Super Bowl XXV, matched wits in both games. Super Bowl XLVI marked only the fourth time in history that coaches who had won previous Super Bowls met, joining Bill Walsh (49ers) and Don Shula (Dolphins), 1985, and Chuck Noll (Steelers) and Tom Landy (Cowboys), 1976 and 1979.


Top 10: Giants kings of big game drama

 

The New York Giants have been involved in more dramatic big games than any other team in NFL history. From three classic Super Bowls to overtime NFC Championships to “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” the Giants have given New York fans (and football fans everywhere) a full load of  fantastic finishes.

In the past 25 years, the Giants are 4-1 in Super Bowls and 5-0 in NFC Championship games. Six of those games came down to the final play…..and the Giants won ’em all.

Here are the 10 most exciting big games in New York Football Giants history:

1. Giants 17, Patriots 14, Super Bowl XLII, 2008 — Sparked by an impossible catch by David Tyree, Eli Manning then hits Plaxico Burress for the winning touchdown with 35 seconds remaining as the Giants knock off previously unbeaten 18-0 New England in a huge upset.

2. Giants 20, Bills 19, Super Bowl XXV, 1991 — Scott Norwood’s 47-yard field goal sails wide right at the finish and the Giants, behind backup quarterback Jeff Hostetler and MVP Ottis Anderson, defeat the heavily-favored  Bills in the closest game in Super Bowl history.

3. Giants 21, Patriots 17, Super Bowl XLVI, 2012  — Ahmad Bradshaw backs into the end zone for the winning touchdown with 57 seconds left and Tom Brady’s Hail Mary pass fails to connect as the Giants win their fourth Super Bowl and eighth NFL championship.

4. Giants 23, Packers 20,OT,  NFC Championship, 2008 — Lawrence Tynes, right, who earlier had missed two field goals, kicks a 47-yarder in overtime to beat the Packers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay in one of the coldest games in football history.

5. Giants 20, 49ers 17, OT, NFC Championship, 2012 — It’s a case of deja blue all over again. Following a fumbled punt, Lawrence Tynes kicks the Giants into the Super Bowl with a 31-yard field goal in rainy San Francisco.

6. Giants 15, 49ers 13, NFC Championship, 1991 — Matt Bahr makes a 42-yard field goal at the final gun following a fumble recovery by Lawrence Taylor as the Giants end San Francisco’s dreams of a three-peat.

7. Giants 13, Browns 10, 1958 — Pat Summerall’s 49-yard field goal in a driving snowstorm, below left, gives the Giants a victory and a share of the NFL East title. The Giants beat Cleveland 10-0 in a playoff the following week, but, then lose to the Colts in the NFL Championship game.

8. Giants 13, Cowboys 10, OT, 1981 — Joe Danelo’s field goal — and a Jets win over the Packers the next day — propels the Giants into the playoffs for the first time in 18 years. They go on to beat the Eagles before losing to the 49ers.

9. Giants 23, Packers 17, NFL Championship, 1938 — Trailing 17-16 in the fourth quarter, the Giants rally as former MLB umpire Hank Soar makes a leaping catch of Ed Danowski’s pass for the winning touchdown.

10. Giants 17, Browns 13, 1950 — The Giants trail 13-3 at the half before rallying on touchdown runs by Forrest Griffith and Joe Scott to beat the Browns, who had arrived from the All-America Football Conference to dominate the NFL in their first year..

You Can’t Win Em All

Naturally, the Giants have suffered some heartbreaking losses as well, Setbacks to the Jets in 1988 and the Eagles in 2010 knocked them out of  playoff spots. Then there was an overtime loss to the Cowboys in the final game of the 1993 regular season that cost New York the NFC East crown.

And who can forget the “The Miracle at the Meadowlands” in 1978 when Philadelphia’s Herm Edwards returned a fumble for a touchdown as the Giants failed  to take a knee and  run out the clock.

Here are the Giants five most dramatically horrifying playoff losses:

1. Colts 23, Giants 17, OT, NFL Championship, 1958 — In “The Greatest Game Ever Played” quarterback Johnny Unitas sparks a fourth-quarter rally and Alan Amache scores the winning touchdown Baltimore prevails at Yankee Stadium. It remains the only NFL championship game ever to be decided in overtime.

2. 49ers, Giants 38, NFC wild card round, 2003 — The 49ers overcome a 24-point deficit to win in the second greatest comeback in NFL playoff history.

3. Vikings 23, Giants 22, wild card round, 1997 — Minnesota overcomes 19-3 halftime deficit and scores 10 points in last 1:30 to win a wild card playoff matchup.

4. Bears 23, Giants 21, NFL Championship, 1933 —The  Bears tally a late touchdown on trick play to win the first NFL Championship game.

5. Rams 19, Giants 13, OT, NFC divisional round, 1990 — Flipper Anderson catches a 30-yard touchdown pass from Jim Everett as Los Angeles upset the Giants in the Meadowlands.


Steelers Could Tie Giants With 7 Titles

If the Pittsburgh Steelers win Super Bowl XLV, they will tie the New York Giants for third place on the list of all-time NFL champions with seven apiece.

The Steelers are shooting for their seventh Super Bowl. The Giants have won three Super Bowls, three other NFL championship games, and one title in 1927 before the league began playoff series.

The Green Bay Packers lead the all-time list with 12, including the first two Super Bowls. The Chicago Bears are next in line with nine championships.

The Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers have each won five Super Bowls.


Growing Up on The Super Bowl

The Los Angeles Coliseum was the site of the first Super Bowl, Packers vs, Chiefs.

I grew up on the Super Bowl. That’s right, true confessions The SportsLifer is also a Super Bowl lifer.

My mind wanders back to those high school daze and Super Bowl I — back when it was called the first AFL-NFL World Championship Game. I remember watching the game with my father and brother, knowing Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers were the best football team in the world.

While Joe Namath guaranteed victory for the Jets in Super Bowl III, I wagered $5 with my Dad, who took the Colts and gave me 18 points. Jets 16, Colts 7 in the coming-out party for the American Football League.

Several years later, a college student now, I saw Super Bowl VII in a dirty old bar in Worcester, Mass. That was the year of the unbeaten Miami Dolphins. Perfect.

As a sportswriter, I wrote about the Super Bowl in Scene and Heard, my column with the Fitchburg Sentinel and Leominster Enterprise, and later in my TV-Radio sports  column at the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. Those columns may exist in hard copy somewhere, but they never made it on to the information highway.

Super Giants
Later in life, I watched with joy as the Giants won three Super Bowls, twice on the home television, including the unlikeliest of all wins against the unbeaten Patriots. A

And I’ll forever recall kneeling at the bedside of a dying man willing Scott Norwood to miss the kick. Wide right, thank you.

Once I even went to go to a Super Bowl, when the Giants faced the Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. Had a fun time, meeting Joe Namath, Dan Rather, Adam Sandler and other celebs. No fun watching the G-Men fall big, 34-7.

During the years I’ve been to countless Super Bowl parties, hosted by both family and friends. I’ve run pools, I’ve won pools, I’ve lost pools. I’ve seen dynasties dominate decades, like the Steelers of the 70s, the 49ers of the 80s, the Cowboys of the 90s and, most recently, the Patriots.

Last year I was at Mickey Mantle’s on Central Park South as IBM hosted a party for industry analysts on the eve of the company’s POWER7 announcement. The Saints made history that day, winning the first Super Bowl for New Orleans.

Who knows what Super Bowl XLV will bring?