BOSTON (CBS) — Normally, this is truly the saddest week of the sports year. The two weeks of Super Bowl hype is unusually bearable, simply because we all know what’s coming next: the final football game of the year.
As annoying as media day can be, and as foolish as some of the off-field story lines are (do we really need to hear Marshawn Lynch give stock answers to reporters’ questions?), and as painful as the two-week wait can be, we all put up with it because it’s the last bit of real NFL we’ll have until September. And that — if you’ll pardon my French — stinks. It stinks a lot.
For as much as we like to bash Roger Goodell, and the officials, and certain players, and ridiculous stadium policies, and outrageous ticket prices, and the never-ending sequence of commercial breaks, and the league’s hypocrisy about “player safety,” and anything else that is simply foolish about the NFL … we still absolutely love it. And the reality that it’s coming to an end is usually a soul-crushing reality here in late January and early February.
But for me, this year is a little bit different. Frankly, I can’t wait for this season to end.
It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed watching football as usual, it’s just that … well … this weekly picks column that used to be a whole lot of fun kind of became a weekly exercise in self-torture. I was flat-out horrible early in the season, and things never really got better.
To put into perspective the type of year I had, here are my picks records (playoffs included) from 2009 through the present:
2009: 141-123-3 — 52.8 percent success rate
2010: 135-127-5 — 50.6 percent success rate
2011: 127-131-9 — 47.6 percent success rate
2012: 128-130-9 — 47.9 percent success rate
2013: 116-138-12 — 43.4 percent success rate
I was never prolific, but I used to be on the right side of 50 percent, losing bets 46.8 percent of the time. Hey, that’s profitable! But I’m clearly heading in the wrong direction, and I’m left with two options: I could quit the game and spare myself the embarrassment, or I could keep going and see if I can pull off an 0-267 season by the time I hit 40 years old.
I honestly don’t know what I’ll do next year, but I might as well finish out this season with one last pick (plus some prop bets, because those are a good time). I may get it wrong, or I may get it right, but either way, I’ll be inordinately happy when this football season finally comes to an official end.
As far as I’m concerned, this is a pretty spectacular Super Bowl matchup. The best offense in history vs. the best defense in the league that even has a nifty little nickname. Legion of Boom. Love it.
And after all of the breakdowns I’ve read, all of the X’s and O’s talk and all of the other nonsense, I remain convinced that the game is going to play out exactly the way it should. It’s going to be a close one.
For as powerful as the Denver offense is, it will be slowed a bit by the cold weather. That’s only somewhat affected by Peyton Manning’s struggles in the cold (I find his issue to be with strong wind these days, more so than cold air) but more a matter of what typically happens in football games played in the Northeast during winter. It’s cold out there, and passing attacks dial things back a bit. The 2007 Patriots, who at the time were the best offense in history, went with 29 rushing plays and 33 passes in their AFC Championship Game in New England.
The Broncos tried to stick with their passing game in their most recent game in cold weather — 41 passes, just 11 rushes — and the end result was a 27-20 loss at home to the Chargers.
So in a big way, Knowshon Moreno is the player who’s flying under the radar the most this week. While everyone’s focused on Manning’s legacy or Lynch’s reluctance to talk to reporters, Moreno is the player who may make the difference in this game.
Obviously, Seattle’s pass defense is a good one, but it’s not impenetrable. Manning will get his yards when he does throw, and with two weeks to figure out a plan of attack, he’s going to find success.
The question, then, is can the Seahawks muster up enough offense to keep pace?
I think they can. For as much as the Denver defense can feel good about stopping LeGarrette Blount, it’s a whole different story when it comes to containing Lynch. The man is nearly unstoppable, and the Seattle offense is much better suited than New England’s to run the ball. And Russell Wilson has proven by now that no matter how far behind the Seahawks fall, he’s always capable of leading them back into the game.
It’s a matchup that’s a lot closer than it might look on paper, and I’m taking that to the next step. I’m calling for overtime.
The first outdoor, cold-weather Super Bowl will also be the first that goes to OT. And after the Seahawks kick a field goal on the opening possession, Manning’s fourth down pass on the possession that follows will fall to the MetLife turf, ending the game and crowning the Seahawks as champions.
Now if I get that exactly right, it might make up for an entire year of awful NFL picks.
The Pick: Seattle (+2.5) over Denver
The Prop Bets
OK, let’s get into the fun stuff. Perhaps I’ll have some more luck with this.
Coin Toss: Heads or Tails
The Pick: Heads
Like I always say: Tails never fails, except when it does, 50 percent of the time. R.J. Bell from ESPN noted this week that in 47 Super Bowls, the coin has landed on heads 24 times and tails 23 times. That’s absurd. That may get some people to push for tails, but not me. Picking heads makes a statement that you’re strong, fearless, ready for any challenge. It’s heads all the time every time. Next.
The Bet: Will the game go to overtime?
The Pick: Heck yes. (13-to-2)
We’ve covered this already. This puppy is going to overtime. We’re making history here, people.
The Bet: Will Renee Fleming take longer than 2:25 to sing the national anthem?
The Pick: Over (+120)
You just always have to pick the over on this. For the singer, it’s the moment of a lifetime, and the last thing she wants to do is rush through it. I’ll admit that I had to do some deep research (on Wikipedia) to find out who Renee Fleming is, but once I found out she sings opera, this pick was cemented.
(Side note: Why is Renee Fleming singing the national anthem? There was nobody from the New York City/New Jersey area who can sing? Or nobody who’s generally famous? What in the world?)
Not a pick, but an observation: For some reason, you can bet Duke Ihenacho to be named Super Bowl MVP (150-to-1 odds). He’s not included in the “field” bet (25-to-1). I’m going to tell you right now that Michael Hurley has the same chance of being named Super Bowl MVP that Duke Ihenacho has.
The Bet: Will Renee Fleming wear gloves when she starts singing the national anthem?
The Pick: No (+250)
I may not know much about this Renee Fleming character, but I know one thing: She’s pretty hardcore. It’s not even going to be that cold out on Sunday. She’s going bare knuckles for this one. You always have to take the opportunity to show off your sweet manicure on national TV. You can’t cover up those things with Isotoners.
The Bet: Will Marshawn Lynch score a TD in the first half?
The Pick: Yes (+135)
Of course he will. I mean, duh.
The Bet: What will Peyton Manning do first — throw a touchdown, or throw an interception?
The Pick: Interception (+195)
You absolutely have to pick interception on this one, even if you’re not feeling it. You will be the guy (or gal) who absolutely loses it with excitement when Manning throws a pick along the right sideline in the first quarter, and you’ll spill the guacamole, and everyone will hate you, but you won’t care because you’ll be fist-pumping like a crazy person. Doesn’t that sound like the most fun moment of your life?
The Bet: Knowshon Moreno rushing yards
The Pick: Over 62.5 (-125)
Easy bet. You know Moreno’s going to get the ball. It’s flat-out difficult to get fewer than 62.5 yards when there’s even the slightest effort to run the ball.
The Bet: Duke Ihenacho tackles
The Pick: Under 4 (-115)
I live by one rule and one rule only: If there’s a Duke Ihenacho prop bet in the Super Bowl, you have to make it. You just do.
The Bet: Who will throw the first TD Pass in the game?
The Pick: Russell Wilson (+175)
That’s just a fun one.
The Bet: How many times will Eli Manning be shown on TV during the game?
The Pick: Under 1.5 (EVEN)
I’ve picked these types of bets in the past, and the person always ends up being shown far fewer times than people think ahead of time. It’s like the networks know that bets are involved, so they try to stay out of the way.
The Bet: Who will be seen first on TV after kickoff — Erin Andrews or Pam Oliver?
The Pick: Erin Andrews (-140)
Are you kidding me? After the whole Richard Sherman thing, Fox won’t be able to wait to get EA on our TVs again.
The Bet: Will the broadcast team refer to Russell Wilson being drafted by an MLB team?
The Pick: Yes (+135)
Are you kidding me again? There’s nothing broadcasters love more than the shocking news that professional athletes have talents in other sports or different positions. Julian Edelman was referred to as “a former college quarterback” about 350 times this past season. You can bet your bottom dollar that Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will pounce on the baseball story.
(I really like Joe Buck in a big game, by the way. Can I place a bet that I’m a part of a growing majority in that camp?)
The Bet: Will the halftime show break Madonna’s record for most watched ever?
The Pick: No (-300)
Probably not worth it, given the -300 aspect of it, but come on. Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers aren’t Madonna. (That would be weird if they were Madonna, though. I just made you think.)
The Bet: Will Richard Sherman get called for pass interference?
The Pick: Yes (+150)
This one’s just as fun as the Peyton Manning interception bet. I have a belief that Manning will go right at Sherman without fear, so I like the chances he picks up one of these penalties.
The Bet: Will Wes Welker drop a pass in the game?
The Pick: Yes (-140)
Wesley, I’m sorry, I love you, but you know, I just had to.
The Bet: If the Broncos win, will Peyton Manning retire before Week 1 of the 2014 regular season?
The Pick: Yes (+700)
I don’t actually think he’ll retire (I don’t even have the Broncos winning the game), but I’ll take any long-term bet that could randomly pop up six months from now and make me happy. I mean, if you can turn 10 bucks into a $70 check out of nowhere in August, that sounds like a good time.
The Bet: Which color Gatorade (or liquid) will be dumped on the head coach of the winning team?
The Pick: Clear/water (5-to-2)
Do professional athletes still drink Gatorade? Stuff is bad for you! So much sugar! Don’t y’all have nutritionists?
I’m ride or die with water.
The Bet: Which region will have the higher local TV rating — Seattle or Denver?
The Pick: Seattle (+110)
I think the Seahawks fans are a little too self-obsessed with their “12th man” stuff, but they do undeniably love their team. They might get a 90 rating.
The Bet: What will be higher — total goals scored in West Brom vs Liverpool on Feb. 2, or Peyton Manning TD passes?
The Pick: Peyton Manning TD Passes (+160)
I love it. I’ve watched maybe two British Premier League games in my life, but heck yes I want some action on this one.
The Bet: What will be higher — total corner kicks in West Brom vs Liverpool, or total penalties in the Super Bowl?
The Pick: Stay away from this one.
I mean, come on now.
The Bet: What will be higher — Jimmie Johnson’s finishing position in the Daytona 500, or total yards on Peyton Manning’s first completion?
The Pick: Manning’s completion (-115)
I also do not watch NASCAR, which means I obviously can’t resist this one.
The Bet: What will be higher — total rebounds for Victor Oladipo in the Orlando Magic’s game vs. the Boston Celics, or Golden Tate receptions?
The Pick: Victor Oladipo (-150)
Because you’ll be able to tell your grandkids that not only did you participate in the single most random bet in the history of the planet, but you went with Victor Oladipo. If you ask me, that sounds like a recipe for zero regret.