Super Bowl LI

super-bowl

Is there a better a week in sports than Super Bowl week? And while we are at that, is there a better DAY in sports than Super Bowl Sunday? Of course, game seven of the NBA, MLB and NHL finals are all great, but the Super Bowl has a magic of its own. However, I figure that if you’re not a sports fan, you’ll never understand. But enough with dramatic (sort of) opening paragraphs and let’s talk about how the teams that will make sports fans happy all over the world this Sunday got to the biggest stage.

When the Patriots with Bellichick and Brady play a playoff game in Foxboro 100% focused it’s really hard to even think that they won’t beat anyone. After beating the Texans kind of going through the motions and raising some suspicions, they didn’t have any trouble beating the Steelers (okay, Bell’s injury was decisive to make things easier but even so…) and headed to their seventh Super Bowl since Brady and Bellichick joined them.

Everybody and their mother knew that Falcons and Packers was a game perfect for a shootout. What nobody expected was a single-sided shootout! There was only Matt Ryan playing against a nonexistent Packers defense and Aaron Rodgers having to deal with an offense plagued by injuries and Jordy Nelson playing with a broken rib. There was no contention and Atlanta easily smashed Green Bay.

Given the proper introductions, let’s talk about the main event.

SUPER BOWL LI: NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS VS. ATLANTA FALCONS

There’s no shortage of people saying that we’re in for one of the greatest Super Bowl ever. That remains to be seen (remember how Seahawks and Broncos turned out?) but we certainly have all the ingredients for that to be confirmed.

The Patriots defense will face a huge test. Atlanta’s offense is firing on all cylinders and although underrated, Matt Ryan is a serious candidate for season MVP (despite what happened in the NFC final I still cast my vote to Aaron Rodgers). And as I said in my Conference finals post, they have the world’s greatest wide receiver in Julio Jones.

Having said that, let’s not forget that Bill Belichick is a defensive genius (he stopped Jim Kelly, Andre Reed and Thurman Thomas in Super Bowl XXV while defensive coordinator for the Giants) and didn’t give Antonio Brown any chance in the AFC final. I think he will use the cornerback and the safety to try and do the same with Julio Jones opening more space to Sanu and Gabriel, as if he was saying: “okay, let’s see if THEY can win the game for you.” The problem with that is: he did the same the two times he faced the Giants in the Super Bowl and it didn’t work out. That’s one of the things to keep an eye on this Sunday.

At the other side of the ball, Atlanta’s defense who was great against Seattle and Green Bay (the injuries notwithstanding) will face one of the greatest QBs of all time (if not the greatest) with a lot of experience in the greatest stage of all. And Hogan, Amendola and Edelman are playing great helped by a dangerous running game with Blount. Will experience make all the difference in the world? Who knows, that’s what we gonna find out.

This one is pretty difficult to predict, but as a Saints fan and somebody who thinks Boston is the greatest place in the Universe, I’m going with my heart: Patriots 35-33.

I’m counting the hours till Sunday, and obviously putting some craft beer in the freezer. Good game to you all!

Current playlist:

Listening:

The Outlaws – Playin’ to Win

Lou Gramm – Ready or Not

Union – Strike

Rough Diamond – s/t

City Boy – City Boy Book Early

Highway Chile – Rockarama

Heart – Live At the Royal Albert Hall w/ The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Watching:

Heart – Live At the Royal Albert Hall w/ The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

The Accountant

Westworld – Season 1

Reading

The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower – Stephen King

You Can’t Make This Up – Al Michaels

Be sure to check out my book “Straight and Lethal”

You can contact me at: carloantico666@gmail.com

Add me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/carlo.antico

Follow me on twittter: @CarloAntico

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NFL Conference Finals

falcons_vs_packers

patriots-vs-steelers

The race to the Super Bowl is tightening and although in the Divisional Series we had two run-away victories and a rather tough, fought and not that interesting game (Steelers@Chiefs), what happened in Dallas was an instant classic and worth all playoff games. What a great game with a breathtaking finish! It reminds us all why we love football.

The Patriots disappointed a little but as everybody expected, as soon as they woke up, they didn’t have much trouble. Falcons offense dominated the Earl Thomas-less Seahawks defense and Andy Reid’s team again failed in the playoffs (and before anyone asks: it was heartbreaking, but the referee was right. It was a holding).

Anyway, let’s try predicting the Conference Finals.

NFC

Atlanta Falcons vs. Green Bay Packers: As I said in the divisional round post, Matt Ryan is a serious contender for MVP. He has great receivers and running backs and the Falcons defense showed last Saturday that it’s improving. There’s only one problem though: they are going against Aaron Rodgers. It doesn’t matter that the Packers have a lot of injuries. The same thing I said about the game against Dallas remains true now: I can’t see any team stopping him. He is doing magic and the O-line is protecting him greatly. The last performances are putting him in discussions about being the best EVER. Honestly, I don’t know about that, we’ll have to wait when he retires and we can assess his whole career, but right now, no one can beat him. I’m expecting a shootout. Packers 42-38.

AFC

New England Patriots vs. Pittsburgh Steelers:  I just wrote that the Pats disappointed a little, unnecessarily struggling against a team they were clearly light years better. It was clear to me that they took the field thinking the game would be easy and then had to refocus during the football game. If they take the field against the Steelers like that, they can get in trouble (although I refuse to believe that a Bill Belichick coached team will commit this same mistake) due to the way Pittsburgh defense and the killer B’s (augmented by Chris Boswell now, he scored all their points against the Chiefs) are playing. However, New England’s defense is spectacular this year and when it’s all said and done the Steelers are facing Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in Boston in a postseason game. I don’t think they can handle it. Patriots 30-22.

Had the time finally come for us to witness maybe the greatest quarterback battle in the history of the Super Bowl, Brady vs. Rodgers? Let’s turn on our TVs this Sunday a find out. Good games to you all!

Current playlist:

Listening:

Starship – Greatest Hits (Ten years And Change 1979-1991)

John Mayall Bluesbreakers – Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton

The Cult – Electric

Watching:

The Warriors – The Director’s cut DVD

 

Be sure to check out my book “Straight and Lethal”

You can contact me at: carloantico666@gmail.com

Add me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/carlo.antico

Follow me on twittter: @CarloAntico

 

 

 

 

NFL Divisonal Playoffs

nfl-divisional

Yes, ladies and Gentlemen the greatest weekend of the year for football fans is upon us and of course I couldn’t help but make my predictions. I couldn’t do it for the Wild Card weekend because I was as usual spending my New Year’s holidays in my beloved New Orleans, but I’m not letting the Divisional Series slip away.

Therefore, let’s get down to the brass tacks.

NFC

Atlanta Falcons vs. Seattle Seahawks:  As a Saints fan, I obviously don’t have a lot of sympathy for the Falcons, but I do agree that Matt Ryan is being underrated when we talk about MVP candidates. He had a terrific season and has a brilliant receiver in Julio Jones. Seattle is probably the most driven team in the league and they are in high spirits after beating Detroit with relative ease. The defense still makes the offenses scared, although Earl Thomas is a huge miss. The Seahawks are tough and determined but let’s not forget that if not for a huge zebra mistake, the Falcons would have beaten them at Century Link in the regular season. It will probably be a great game and I will root for Seattle, but my guess is that the Falcons will win. Falcons 32 -28.

Dallas Cowboys vs. Green Bay Packers: Not only this is a classic going back more than fifty years, this one specific has all the ingredients to be the greatest game of the Divisional Playoffs, if not the entire postseason. I mean, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott against Aaron Rogers and… well any receiver you can think of because this guy is on a roll and he’s hitting them with Hail Marys as if it were 5 yards passes. Yes, that will be the challenge for the Cowboys defense. How can you stop the – in my humble opinion, anyway – league MVP? Of course, in the regular season Dallas smashed Green Bay at Lambeau, but that was a different Packers team, it was before they ran the table. Green Bay had a lot of difficult in the first half against the Giants but was benefited by a harmless Giants offense. Dallas offense is much better than New York’s and if the Packers are slow again to get in the game they might get in trouble. However, I don’t see how any team can stop Aaron Rodgers right now. Packers 35-32.

AFC

New England Patriots vs. Houston Texans: This one will probably be the most boring game in the history of playoffs. I don’t even have much to say. The Texans had trouble to win the Wild Card at home against a Raiders team playing with their THIRD quarterback. Can you imagine what will happen against the Patriots in Foxboro? Against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick? If the Texans win, I will never write a word about football again. Patriots 45-3.

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Pittsburgh Steelers:  Now we’re talking about a real playoff game. Again in my humble opinion, Travis Kelce was the best Tight End of the season and he’s been catching all kinds of passes. Justin Houston is having limited participation in practices and if he comes back that would be huge asset for the Chiefs. I still don’t think Alex Smith is that reliable and there is the question of Andy Reid results in the playoffs (ask any Eagles fan). On the other side, Mike Tomlin has a good retrospect in the playoffs, Big Ben is a clutch player and a fierce competitor, Le’Veon Bell is serious running back and Antonio Brown had to be in the conversation for one of the best wide receivers in the league. This is probably the most leveled of all games and being in Kansas City makes it hard to choose the Steelers without blinking. But I’ll trust BBB and go for it. Steelers 25-22.

What matters most is: a full weekend of great football. Have fun! I know I’ll certainly will.

Current playlist:

Reading:

Song of Susannah: The Dark Tower VI – Stephen King

Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis – Anne Rice

Best Little Stories from the Civil War – C.Brian Kelly and Ingrid Smyer

Listening:

Blackberry Smoke – Like an Arrow

The Rides – Can’t Get Enough

Watching

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years – Double Disc Blu-Ray

Heart: Live At The Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – DVD

Be sure to check out my book “Straight and Lethal”

You can contact me at: carloantico666@gmail.com

Add me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/carlo.antico

Follow me on twittter: @CarloAntico

 

 

Hall of Idols # 50: Sean Payton

Sean-Payton

Fiftieth installment in a series exploring very important people in my life.

Let me start explaining how this will work: I listed 65 idols of mine. Every Friday (with the exception of those reserved for the Rock Chain posts) I’ll draw one of the names (following a system that it’s really not important to be explained here) and talk about it.

Therefore, the order in which the names will appear doesn’t necessarily shows where they rank in my preference.

As a final introductory note, this is also not a biography article. I’ll just write how I feel about people represented in it, their talent and their importance in my life.

You can’t overstate the importance of a head-coach in a football team. He’s not only the technical leader; he must lead also a large group of men including the coaching staff and even the front office.

But if you got an organization used to win and with endless financial resources, everything tends to go smoothly. When you have to face a team used to be the laughing stock of the NFL and its home town just endured a hurricane and a flood, it’s another story. And that’s exactly what Sean Payton had to face.

Patrick Sean Payton was born December 29, 1963 in San Mateo, California. When he was seven, the family moved to Newton Square, Pennsylvania where he attended grade school and middle school. In high-school the family moved to Naperville, Illinois where at the Naperville Central High he was starting quarterback in his senior year. He managed to obtain a football scholarship and went on to be successful playing for the Eastern Illinois University.

Payton was not drafted and his professional career developed in the Arena Football League, the Canadian Football League and even in the UK Football league.

Upon returning home, he began his coaching career as offensive assistant at San Diego State University. He then landed positions as assistant coach at Indiana State University, Miami Ohio and Illinois, before going to the Philadelphia Eagles as quarterback coach.

He was then offensive coordinator at the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, before getting the invitation to a head-coaching job at the New Orleans Saints.

Now, of course, for a guy that was always an assistant a head-coaching job is a dream come true, but think about it for a second: he was going to a devastated city, to a team that had just coming out of a 3-13 season getting a quarterback that heard from a lot of doctors he would probably never play again. Not exactly football Shangri-la, is it?

He even had a discussion with his wife about it. It’s all thoroughly and deliciously explained in his great book: Home Team: Caching the Saints and New Orleans Back to Life.

The effects of the Brees-Payton partnership were already felt in its first year. First, with the historical blocked punt by Steve Gleason against the Atlanta Falcons on the day the Superdome reopened his doors after being destroyed by Katrina. The play was ordered by Payton and today is immortalized in a statue in front of the stadium; then, with the Saints going to their first NFC championship, but losing to the Chicago Bears in a miserable Windy City cold.

After making some improvements on the roster (the story about managing to get Reggie Bush he tells in his book is great), in 2009 the Saints had a 13-3 regular season and after a thrilling game against the Vikings at home, they won the NFC and went on to the Super Bowl.

In the Super Bowl against the heavy favorite Indianapolis Colts and losing 10-0 at the half, Sean opened the second half with an ONSIDE KICK! How many coaches would have the guts to do that? This play turned the game around and the Saints won. But it was not only that, in his book he tells everything that went behind the curtains (including giving prizes even to the player’s wives!) to build a championship team. And these things were all instrumental in Saints victory.

I know the last few years people (myself included) had been critical of some of Payton’s play calling and other things, but this cannot take out the brilliance of his achievement. He won a SUPER BOWL with the New Orleans Saints! This is huge and eternal and makes him always a hero to me.

Therefore, Sean, come marching in to the Hall of Idols.

Current playlist:

Reading:

Salem’s lot – Stephen King

Watching:

Breaking Bad – Season V

Be sure to check out my book “Straight and Lethal” winner of the NABE Pinnacle Awards 2014 Fall edition.

NewPinnacleAward3D2 (1)

You can contact me at: carloantico666@gmail.com

Add me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/carlo.antico

Follow me on twittter: @CarloAntico