BY: ZACHARY KRUEGER
I missed out on last week's rundown, so I've had a little bit of extra time to stew on the Super Bowl LI matchup we will be forced to watch next week between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots.
But why should a matchup between two elite quarterbacks, explosive offenses and defenses that will likely both yield 30+ points be one that is loathed?
To put it simply, it's just boring.
To be fair, the game itself probably won't be boring. It could be a high-scoring affair that comes down to the wire, and we could see big numbers put up by both offenses. Something like a 34-31 finish wouldn't be absurd to see, and next Sunday could certainly develop into a really exciting matchup.
What is boring is the teams playing on Sunday.
This year the Super Bowl feels more like a game you would watch because it's the Super Bowl, and that's it. You don't really care about either team involved, unless you're a fan. The Patriots have been here too many times, and you really just hope that they'll lose because you're so sick of seeing them win.
Then there's the Falcons, who have a humdrum fan base within their own state (15th in home game attendance in 2016), and carry very little clout among fans nation wide, despite boasting one of the league's best quarterbacks, receivers and running backs (Ryan/Jones/Freeman).
In general, the Super Bowl tends to be two teams that somehow still appeal even to the casual football fan. You know, the guys who watch three or four games a year, but somehow know who Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Tom Brady are.
It wouldn't even be shocking to find a casual fan who knows Dak and Zeke over the aforementioned players above. And of course almost everybody can re-call how they hate Richard Sherman because he yelled into a camera once. Anybody who is aware that the NFL is even a thing knows those guys.
But that won't be the case next weekend.
Instead, it will be during Super Bowl LI that the casual fan finds out that Matt Ryan is a quarterback for the Falcons, and they will sit around shocked at the fact that they didn't know who he was, and that he is likely the league's MVP this year.
Julio Jones will make several fantastic plays during the game, and the casual fan will be asking the "sports guy" in the room how long Jones has been in the league for, and likely follow that question up with something like, "Is he a new guy? I've never heard of him."
I'm already curious to see how the ratings for this game turn out, mostly because of how uninteresting the narrative is. Will the West Coast even tune in for this matchup?
Unless I'm completely out of tune with society, I have to think that the reason most people will tune in will either be doing so to see Brady and the Patriots lose, or Goodell hand the Lombardi Trophy to Brady following their year and a half long battle over Deflategate.
I like the exciting storylines that bring myself and everybody to the game. Richard Sherman talking about Peyton Manning prior to Super Bowl XLVIII was great. Same with Marshawn Lynch's refusal to talk to the media. Even something as stupid as that made people want to see what that was all about.
That being said, you're going to be hard-pressed to find Julio Jones talking about Malcolm Butler prior to Sunday's game. And I highly doubt Vic Beasley, Rob Ninkovich, or a member of either of these teams will be doing much trash-talking about one another.
Instead of the exciting narratives that we are so used to coming with a championship football game, we will simply be left to talk about the potential of two top offenses squaring off against one another, and predicting what the outcome of that will be.
Not bad for football heads like myself, or perhaps the fan reading this. But for everybody else, sorry.
Ravens' Brandon Williams No Player to Break the Bank Over
Defensive tackle Brandon Williams will be hitting the open market this season, and now re-signing the four-year veteran has become a top priority for the Ravens this offseason.
The re-signing of Williams is fine, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves when crying for the need to bring back a defensive tackle.
This isn't Haloti Ngata we're talking about here. Ngata, who spent nine seasons in Baltimore, was sent to five Pro Bowls, and twice was voted as a First-Team All-Pro.
Even Ngata, despite his incredible tenure in Baltimore, isn't a player worth breaking the bank over. By that standard, I can't support a massive amount of spending on a player like Brandon Williams, if I wouldn't have done so for one of the best defensive tackles in Ravens history.
Since being drafted in the third round by the Ravens in 2013, Williams has been a widely talked about player, who has received massive amounts of praise for his athleticism (mostly for his ability to walk on his hands and lift port-o-potties single-handedly).
If you need to make a case for why Williams shouldn't be a huge free agent priority, we can start with the fact that I was more familiar with those stories than I was his NFL production. I actually had to check to see how many Pro Bowls Williams had been voted to thus far, only to confirm my initial belief that he has yet to be voted to one.
Through 55 career games, Williams has notched a total of 156 tackles, and 4.5 sacks.
Williams is a bonafide run-stopper in a league that calls for lineman who can get to the quarterback. While Williams' run-stopping ability is a valued asset to what the Ravens do on defense, let's not pretend that talented run-stoppers can't be found for:
1. Less money on the open market.
2. In the draft.
3. Already on your roster.
The Ravens are already stuck in a few bad contracts as it is. If you refuse to believe that Flacco's is one of them, then I apologize. But it is.
The last thing the Ravens can do right now is unload a majority of free cap space on a defensive lineman who doesn't touch the ball, and plays little to know effect on the outcome of the game.
Teams need to stop investing unreasonable amounts of cap into players who don't account for points on the field. It's even more imperative in an offensive driven league that the Ravens get this one right.
Having a high-priced, talented defensive tackle seldom correlates to team success. Checkout the highest paid lineman from last season, and how few of them saw their team reach the postseason.
The Ravens can bring Williams back at their own risk, and at their own cost, but they shouldn't expect much in the way of him leading them back to the playoffs in 2017.
Everybody Else Posts Super Bowl Predictions, Why Not Me?
Everybody likes predictions, but they tend to carry a bit more weight when they involve a Super Bowl. Here are my predictions for Sunday's matchup.
- Matt Ryan goes 26-for-41 passing with 337 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
- Tom Brady follows similar suit with a 345/2/0 performance.
- Julio Jones catches 11 passes for 141 yards and one touchdown.
- Vic Beasley sacks Brady twice.
- Dion Lewis out-carries Legarrette Blount 11-8, but Blount finishes with a touchdown.
- Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman both rush for 50+ yards.
- Matt Lengel will score a touchdown in the Super Bowl. Then everybody will go to Google to find out who he is. If they didn't do it after reading this.
- Roger Goodell and Tom Brady create the most awkward moment of 2017 when Goodell hands Brady the Lombardi Trophy.
- Patriots win 33-31.
- On a safety.
A Singluar Thought on the 2017 Pro Bowl
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