1.1: Super Bowl preview:
It is only 5 days away from the Super Bowl/Harbowl/Super Baugh/Harbaughcalypse and I think this will end up being one of the better Super Bowls in recent memory. I am not just saying that as a 49ers fan but as a football fan in general. You have two evenly matched teams(well I personally think the 49ers have more all around talent and depth but the Ravens match up very well) being coached by a Harbaugh brother. Who better to know the strengths and weakness of the other coach than his brother.
Ok so you are tired of hearing about that? I’m not but I will assume that you are and I will bring up this being the last game of one of the greatest linebackers in the game Ray Lewis. This guy has brought it week in and week out so it’s currently the feel good story of the week(past murder charge and recent allegation of banned substance use not withstanding). People are even saying there is an Elway feel to this week.
Ok so people are tired of hearing that too? Ok I will bring up the Young QBs in this Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers and Joe Flacco of the Ravens. Colin is in just his 10th start and it’s a doozey of a game. Joe Flacco has been taken for granted the past few years and in a contract year has led his team to consecutive road wins against Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Both coaches have been vindicated in a way be the QBs they put their trust in. John Harbaugh less so for Flacco because he was a high pick and expected to be the team’s starter for years.
Thing is Flacco didn’t exactly earn accolades despite a really good start to a career. I can’t remember a QB who in his first 5 years in the league made it to the playoffs every single year as the starter in all of those years. And perhaps more impressively 3 of those 5 years the Ravens reached the AFC Conference Championship game or better. And even then the Ravens still haven’t given him an extension even as he is about to wrap up the last year on his rookie deal. While he may have hurt himself from a PR standpoint by saying a cold weather Super Bowl is “retarded” I think it is “retarded” that he hasn’t gotten his contract extended yet.
On the other side of the field you have the result of probably one of the gutsiest calls by a Head Coach this season. This is a decision that if the 49ers win will be compared to DeBerg/Montana, Gilliam/Bradshaw, and Bledsoe/Brady for years. A lot of people expected the 49ers to falter in the post-season after benching starting QB Alex Smith(who if he had 6 more passes would have been the league leader in passer rating) in favor of second year QB Colin Kaepernick after how well Kaepernick played in relief of Alex Smith when he suffered a concussion after a game against the Rams.
Going into the game against Green Bay no one expected Colin Kaepernick to come out on top. Most of the focus was on Aaron Rodgers and how he was going to be the one who made the difference in this game. It was looking even worse when Kaepernick threw a pick six on the first offensive drive of the game. But 181 rushing yards, 444 total yards, and 4 passing TDs later Kaepernick proved all doubters wrong. Then he brought his team from being down 17 points a week later on the road against Atlanta to punch the ticket to the Super Bowl.
After bringing their respective teams to the Super Bowl Joe Flacco is now taken much more seriously and Colin Kaepernick has become a budding star to the point where his jersey has been the top selling jersey for the past month.
Why I’d lean 49ers: Very deep and well coached team, Strong running game and stingy defense, business-like vibe from the team.
Why I’d lean Ravens: Has the kind of defense that has given the 49ers problems, also very well coached team, Ray Lewis last game stigma
While most of the talk has been centered around Ray Lewis and trying to end his career with a Super Bowl ring there are other players who seem to be lost in the talk as far as players deserving of a win.
First one that comes to mind is Randy Moss. The man has had by far one of the best careers as a Wide Receiver second only to Jerry Rice. The only thing Randy Moss is lacking is a Super Bowl win. He came very close when he was in New England but they ended up losing to the eventual champion New York Giants. The 14 year vet is probably one of the most deserving to get the Super Bowl to end a career and he has been a model teammate as a role player so far.
Another player that comes to mind is Ravens Safety Ed Reed. For a long time the top playmaker in the Safety position who may also be playing his last game. Fans of Defense would love to see him get a ring to cap a hall of fame career even if Ray Lewis is getting most of the attention.
Justin Smith is another name who is a veteran defensive player and possibly the best 3-4 defensive lineman in the NFL. How valuable he is to the 49ers is evidenced by how the team plays with and without him on defense. Before suffering a partially torn tricep in week 15 vs New England he hadn’t missed a start since his rookie season in 2001. He is a true throwback in this league and even after 11 seasons he still has the best motor of any defensive player in the league.
Most likely facing Justin Smith directly is Center Matt Birk of the Ravens. He was a former 6th round pick by the Minnesota Vikings in 1998. Now the 14 year veteran who could be retiring after this season is playing for his first Super Bowl. You won’t hear his name mentioned a lot this week but he has had a spectacular career and is another sure fire hall of famer.
One player who it has been said is making the rest of the team play hard for him and around him is 49ers RB Frank Gore. Drafted in 2005 he has rushed for the most yards and touchdowns in 49ers history. But the first 5 years of his career were wasted on losing teams and finally after 7 years of high quality play he is rewarded with a trip to the Super Bowl.
Now that I went through the stories that interested me I guess it’s time to pick a winner. This is such an evenly matched game in terms of talent, coaching, momentum, trends, streaks. It is hard to pick a winner in this but here is my pick:
My tie breaker for this is going to be team mentality coming into the game. Both teams have been saying the right things during media day but the Ravens had a rally before the flight where they acted as if they already won the Super Bowl while the 49ers skipped a rally and flew right to New Orleans not even taking pictures of the sights and keeping the focus on winning one more to cap off the 2012 campaign.
49ers: 24 Ravens: 21 via a David Akers game winning FG.
1.2: Darrelle Revis trade rumors heating up.
Recent reports are surfacing that Jets owner Woody Johnson wants to trade All-Pro CB Darrelle Revis this offseason. Well considering he is one of the few true shut down corners in this league you can expect 31 teams are giving new Jets GM John Idzik a call to discuss trading for Revis.
In all actuality unless the Jets lower their asking price of 1 first rounder and 1 second rounder for Revis it’s unlikely many of those 31 teams actually try to trade for him. He is one of the best corners in the league yes but he is also coming off an ACL tear too. And while you say “Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles did well coming off an ACL tear” AP is just a physical freak in his case. And Charles tore his early in the season. Had more time to heal. But typically you aren’t as fast a year after the injury so Revis might not look worth the investment if you are trading for him to have the one year rental.
The other reason it is unlikely is due to the current value of NFL draft picks. With the way the current CBA is worded where players have to wait longer than usual to get that second contract it means they will be getting these talented players on the cheap for longer than they used to. Teams were reluctant enough about trade picks before the new CBA was ratified now you would have to pry them from the GMs cold dead hands in most cases.
But let’s say the Jets are so willing to clear Revis off the books and trade him this season.
Teams I’d cross off right now are St. Louis and Seattle because they already have fantastic young secondaries and would rather keep them together. The Rams have Cortland Finnegan who is a top level CB and Janoris Jenkins who to me was the best CB in the draft and he is already showing that. And I doubt the Seahawks break up the “Legion of Boom” or alter it.
As much as I’d like to see it as a fan I doubt the 49ers trade for him too. While it would be nice and likened to when Deion Sanders went to SF for a year I don’t see them paying that much when they have a capable enough secondary.
Dallas is another team I doubt makes the move seeing as they recently signed Brandon Carr to a contract and drafted Claiborne last year. Washington could use him but they traded their only good ammo to go up and get RG3 so that is a case of high interest but not enough assets to get him.
I could see Kansas City going for it but I doubt they trade the first overall pick of this draft for him. I think probably a 2 this year and a 1 next year. Even then they probably miss out on the future QB they sorely need this year so they would probably have to get creative with the package they would send the Jets.
Denver is a big time possibility to trade for him. They had a team that had the best record in the AFC and really don’t have so much use for first round picks as the team is built now. I also am hearing that Elway might press the owner to allow him to make the trade to get Revis in Denver for 2013 and possibly beyond. Just picturing Revis and Bailey as a secondary is not only scary but is sure to make them a Super Bowl favorite.
Oakland is another team I’d eliminate seeing as GM Reggie McKenzie has gone on record that the days of the Raiders trading away high draft picks is over. But of course Darrelle Revis wasn’t thought to be on the market at the time either. I am sure McKenzie could think about it if it could get him Revis. But I am for now going to go by what he said.
All things considered I will go and just say that the most likely landing spot for Revis is Denver as of right now.
1.3: Dwight Howard on the Lakers…
So the early half of this season of the 2012-2013 NBA season is almost wrapped up and so far this is ample time to sound off on the trade that sent Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers from the Orlando Magic.
Early on the team was looking like a train wreck that a lot of people had been hoping it would be and you kinda couldn’t blame them with the antics Dwight Howard pulled with Orlando. For the past few years I had had praise for Dwight and was scathing towards LeBron James after the decision. But eventually I changed my tune when it was pointed out that other than that LeBron is typically a good teammate and wouldn’t handcuff an organization. Howard on the other hand was whiny about it and twisted the arm of the Magic to get out of town. He even had done that after agreeing not to void the last year of his deal which prevented him from being a free agent.
The Lakers were completely out of sync, Howard’s back was acting up, he almost got into a fight with Kobe which is as good of an idea as being a player in another sport and punching the friend of LeBron James.
At one point the Lakers fired their coach and replaced him with Mike D’Antoni and even then it appeared there were growing pains. But at some point they found their identity and this might not sit well with a lot of people but this Lakers team could end up being better than most of D’Antoni’s Suns teams.
Those Suns teams were very much all flare on offense but in a way they had to be because the defense was so bad that all you had to do was limit the offense and you were almost guaranteed victory. The problem with the offense D’Antoni typically runs is guys who are better in the paint defenders aren’t usually as good of a fit in his offense.
This year though he has Dwight Howard who is athletic enough to work on offense and is a much better defender in the paint than D’Antoni has ever seen on the Suns or Nets. He already had Steve Nash who while he is older now he is also perfect to play PG on a D’Antoni team. I am not even mentioning Kobe who is an all time great. This could end up working wonders in Los Angeles but only time will tell.
But so far it is much better than the train wreck the team was to start the season.
1.4: More Steroids in MLB….
It’s a new year and also a new time for more steroid allegations in the world of Baseball. This time Miami steroid dealer Anthony Bosch was arrested and the list of clients include some well known players with ties to the Miami area. It also includes one really big name who has fought allegations in the past.
That really big name is none other than Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez.
I believed him a few years ago when he had said he only took them because of the pressure surrounding his mega deal that he had signed with the Texas Rangers. It was a very believable story since he hadn’t really gained a lot of size between the minors and majors. But even if you gave him a pass that time it is hard to deny these new allegations and much harder to believe whatever story he will trot out as his excuse or his eventual denial.
The problem with steroids in baseball is it is even tainting the clean players. Mike Piazza for example one of the best Catchers of all time but it might take him awhile to make the Hall Of Fame because of the mere fact that he played during the steroid era and while there was no proof he actually roided up there also isn’t proof saying he didn’t(I think he was clean).
That is the problem with the whole situation. Voters are taking the “Everyone should have the stink of the steroid era” stance but that really shouldn’t be true. Piazza for example was just as great a player as say Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera were. But I highly doubt they get snubbed. Then again those two weren’t really power guys and Rivera found his hard to hit pitch by accident(one that almost led to corrective surgery).
Another player who will probably be hurt is Frank Thomas. He is another guy who has long been considered clean but with his HR totals chances are it will take a lot of convincing that he deserves a spot in Cooperstown without the asterisk next to his name due to playing in the steroid era.
The fact that players felt they even needed to take steroids is disappointing especially in regards to Barry Bonds. Before he started using Barry Bonds was considered the best player in MLB and a five tool player. He had one of his better seasons in 1998 which was the same year as the McGwire/Sosa madness.
The same thing is now happening to A-Rod. He was considered one of the best players around before he was caught the first time. He took a bit of a hit but still was regarded as one of the best but now with this he is sure to have his career tainted.
I am gonna stop myself going on a “I hate that great players are doing something so dumb that it tarnishes their careers.” rant because they are doing that and for players like Bonds or A-Rod they didn’t have to. They were good enough to be thought of as being some of the all time best in Baseball before taking steroids.
I have no clue how to end this column so I will just say see you guys after the Super Bowl.