Super Bowl Preview
XXXIII already? Wasn't it just yesterday that it was XXIX? Oh well…
Right from the outset let me say that this is the toughest Super Bowl I've ever had to pick. I'm not sure there is a good bet in this game, so if you're going to bet on my selection, use your own enthusiasm, not mine. I usually love betting on the Super Bowl, since the better team gets to focus on this game and not look ahead, so they never call in the dogs. Also, the better team gets an extra week to look at films, to find every weakness to exploit, then has plenty of time to practice exploiting them. Teams don't sneak in under the spread with a "back-door" cover, in fact, only four teams have ever covered the spread while losing (there's one other, Dallas vs. Pittsburgh that either did or didn't depending on when you bet on them. That said, while this has historically been a strong game to wager on the favorite, that trend may be changing, as the favorite is 0-2-1 vs. the final spread the last three years.
The Super Bowl can be a cruel game, as the winners, often by a wide margin, are hailed as Champions of the World, the losers, well, are thought of as Losers. Are the Buffalo Bills of the 90's thought of as four-time AFC Champions, or as a team that couldn't win "the big one"? John Elway was a loser until last year, a rich man's Jim Kelly, someone who came up short in the Super Bowl. Now he's a legendary figure, towering atop the game.
The best reason to bet on Denver: they've been here before and that matters. They haven't been wearing dog collars or talking about how they've overcome great problems to get here, they have focused on the game and when it starts, they will be ready. They absolutely know they can win this game, if they do fall behind, they won't panic. Their season has been about this game, now they are here. Playing on their favorite surface, on a field they've played on before, is a bonus.
The worst reason to bet on Denver: They want to send Elway into retirement with a win -- puh-leeze…that was the reason they won last year's game.
The best reason to bet on Atlanta: Speed. Their wideouts and their tight end get deep consistently and make the big play. Over the last 20 years, the big play has been the key to this game, the ability to stop it is not Denver's strength. Denver will try to outmuscle Atlanta, wearing them down for the second half, but Jamal Anderson will enable Atlanta to rest their defense long enough for that to not work.
The worst reason to bet on Atlanta: They're the Team of Destiny. If they win, everyone will say that was the case, if they lose, they get to join a string of such teams that have been crushed in Super Bowls. Remember the Patriots vs. the Bears? The Chargers vs. the 49ers? They're a 14-2 team and have earned the right to be here through a remarkable consistency and mental toughness.
The best reason to bet against Denver: They were actually outgained at home by the Jets. Aided by six turnovers, and a recovered kickoff, they only managed 23 points. Compare that to Atlanta overcoming a ten point fourth quarter deficit in the Metrodome against a team that would probably have been favored in this game.
The best reason to bet against Atlanta: They will be thrilled at what they've accomplished even if they lose. There's no question they want to win, but the parade down Peachtree won't feel like a consolation prize to them if they lose, this was a great season whatever the result Sunday. In the same vein, the victory over the Vikings was a great win for them, and it depended on a missed FG by Gary Anderson…the football gods smiled on them once, will they do it again?
So there you are. I've been wrestling with it for two weeks. The Falcons shut down the "unstoppable" Viking offense in the second half and overtime, holding them to 7 points over that stretch. Chandler had a miserable second half yet still had it when he needed it on that game-tying final drive. On the other hand, we have the Broncos experience, a defense which effectively hasn't given up a touchdown in the postseason, and makes the big plays when they have to. The Broncos also have the best player, Terrell Davis, a man who single-handedly destroyed the Packers last year, playing on his preferred surface.
A voice within me has been telling me to bet on Atlanta. Gamblers prefer to not hear those voices, prefer to have rational justification for putting their money on a team. But I just can't get rid of the feeling (and I get 7 1/2 points, too)…
Atlanta 24, Denver 23