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

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

 

 

NFL Conference Finals

NFL Conference Finals

One was expected, one was unbelievable, one had a late but not enough come back and one a fatal fumble. That’s how I would sum up the Divisional Playoffs last weekend.

The Patriots had a little trouble when they relaxed in the end of the game, but nothing to worry about. The Packers-Cardinals game was one more for the list of unbelievable games this year. I mean, again, the game was over. And Aaron Rodgers gets a Hail Mary to work out, AGAIN? And the coin doesn’t flip in the overtime toss? Afterwards the Packers defense made an unforgivable mistake letting Larry Fitzgerald run like that on overtime.

In my humble opinion, the Seahawks seemed a little startled with the Panthers intensity in the beginning of the game. Add to that a touchdown on the first drive and it proved to be fatal. When they noticed what was happening the game was gone. Not to take anything out of the Panthers, especially Newton and Kuechly who are playing wonderfully, but if the Seahawks had awakened earlier, they might have had a shot. Broncos-Steelers was an even game. Unfortunately for the rookie Fitzgerald Toussaint his fumble was decisive. Kudos to the Broncos defense that was great on that last drive and let’s hear it for the Steelers and Mike Tomiln who played great with an injured quarterback, rookies for running backs and without their main wide receiver.

All in all, I’m 7-1 in the playoffs – and much because I really wanted the Seahawks to beat the Panthers, but that’s no excuse. Let’s see how my record in gonna get with the Conference Finals.

AFC

Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots: Yet again another chapter in the Manning-Brady rivalry. Two of the all-time very best and we must relish the opportunity to watch then every time they take on the field. Unlike other decisive duels between them, this one will be on Manning’s home field. That can be a factor. However, I’m not sure Payton is 100% healthy. On the other side of the ball I’m positive Brady is 100% and Gronk, Amendola and Edelman are assets that cannot be overestimate as the game against the Chiefs showed. Of course, the Broncos defense can show up like they did on that Steelers last drive yesterday throughout the whole game and that would make things rather complicated for the Pats, but I’m seeing New England heading back to the Super Bowl for the second year in a row. Patriots 32-24.

NFC

Carolina Panthers vs. Arizona Cardinals: This one is much, much, tougher to predict. As I said above, Cam Newton is playing at MVP level and Kuechly is powerhouse on defense, but the way they suffer when Seattle started playing well in the end made me scratch my head. And the boost of morale that Arizona got after finishing the game against the Packers the way they did, cannot be underestimated. However, if Eddie Lacy, as almost the only running threat the Packers had, ran through Arizona defense the way he did, what can we expect from Cam Newton and Jonathan Stewart? And if they allowed a Hail Mary with zero seconds on the clock what can Greg Olsen and Ted Ginn do? But, if the Cardinals start the game matching Carolina intensity (something Seattle didn’t do), who knows what may happen? This one is really tough but okay, I’ll leave my Saints fan bias at bay and say that we’ll have a rematch of Super Bowl XXXVII. Panthers 36-24

The hardest thing will be waiting until Sunday.

Current playlist:

Watching:

The Beatles – 1+ (double Blu-Ray)

Reading:

Eight Man Out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series – Eliot Asinof

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