Super Bowl LI
February 9th, 2017
With the AFC and NFC Championships now behind us, NFL fans have the mixed feelings of anticipation and impending grief; anticipation for the fifty-first edition of the Super Bowl, and grief at the loss of football until September 7.
Super Bowl LI (51 for those of us not fluent in Roman numerals) is set to go in Houston, Texas on Sunday, February 5 between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons. The Patriots crushed the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-17 in the AFC Championship last weekend, and the Falcons stomped all over the Green Bay Packers 44-21 to win the NFC.
Matt Ryan, quarterback for Atlanta, may finally have earned his place in the annals of great quarterbacks after his performance against the Packers. He completed 27 of his 38 passes for 392 yards and four touchdowns; that’s 10.31 yards per attempt, while the average across the league for this season was 7.24.
Tom Brady’s stats against the Steelers, whose defence was far better than Green Bay’s, were 32 of 42 for 384 yards and three touchdowns. Those stats differences won’t matter to many though, as the Patriots are already three-point favourites in most sports betting books, in a game where the over/under for total score is set at a record-high 60 in some.
The real story for football fans, aside from the obvious one of who will win the Lombardi Trophy, is the Patriots dynasty and their relationship to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Goodell has been on a mission to punish the Patriots at every turn since NE head coach Bill Belichick was caught in 2007 illegally filming the New York Jets’ coaching signals (Spygate). This led to the four-game suspension of Tom Brady at the beginning of this season, allegedly for his use of footballs with insufficient air (Deflategate). That suspension has almost unanimously been accepted by NFL commentators and writers as an attempt by Goodell to get back at Belichick, Brady, and Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
The relationship between the New England organization and Goodell is one of the most entertaining things about the NFL right now, whether you’re a Pats fan or not. I’m a Miami Dolphins fan, so this pains me on a number of levels to say, but I want the New England Patriots to win the Super Bowl. I want to see Goodell have to hand the Lombardi Trophy to the Patriots, who will undoubtedly grab it from him with looks of joy in their eyes at having won and at having taken a great big shot at their greatest critic.
Goodell has created an environment in the NFL that is completely different from anything it’s ever been in the 97 seasons since it began, and that’s colloquially become known as the No Fun League. Joe Horn, former NFL receiver and proponent of the touchdown celebration, said in a 2016 interview with Sports Illustrated, “Goodell is like the Vladimir f****** Putin of the NFL,” adding for good measure, “You quote me on that shit.”
With that statement in mind, Goodell handing Belichick the Lombardi Trophy would be as uncomfortable and embarrassing for the commissioner as handing Hillary Clinton the keys to the FSB would be for Putin, and I want to see it.