Five far too early Superbowl 50 predictions

It all comes down to this. A fortnight from now a champion will be crowned. In what promises to be a scintillating outing fans will be treated to the first Superbowl between two #1 pick Quarterbacks and the first Superbowl where players drafted #1 and #2  in the same year have both taken the field. With the narratives forming, what better time is there to take a look at some far too early predictions?

Both Quarterbacks will throw an interception – Only once this decade have both teams thrown an interception in the Superbowl (last year). The good news is that the odds of it happening again seem to be low, the bad news for both fan bases is they have men susceptible to throwing an interception under centre. The bad news for Broncos fans is that Ted-Ginn-drops-wide-open-pass-from-Cam-Newton-e1442167857281Peyton Manning has thrown an interception in each of his Superbowl appearances (four in three games) and that is something that will be niggling at him over the next fortnight. Cam Newton has shown Panthers fans the excitement he demonstrated on his way to winning the Heisman. The further the Panthers have advanced, the more Newton has tried a little too hard. It’s not new information that Newton likes the deep ball, but his interception in the NFC Championship game is the perfect example of him putting a little too much on the ball, something the Broncos will try to goad him into in two weeks time.

The Broncos will run and run often – Throughout generations the best Manning teams have had the balance of a run/pass diet. For Peyton, who is going to be the oldest player to start in a Superbowl, it’s crucial that the weight of responsibility to move the chains is shared with Anderson and Hillman. The Broncos averaged 3.3 yards per carry in the AFC title game against the Patriots, out-rushing the defending champions by 55 yards on the day. The Panthers rushed for 152 yards, with Johnathan Stewart finishing with 83 yards, 16 less than the entire Broncos effort.

The Panthers are going to score and score often so it’s imperative the Broncos rush not only to gain traction but to keep the ball away from Newton and Co. for as long as possible.

The Broncos defensive efforts will falter – Breathtaking, dazzling, stunning, wondrous and splendid. They are just a few of the words that spring to mind when thinking about the defensive effort against the Patriots. Can they replicate that form two games in a row? Without a doubt. Will it be enough to get another ring for the Mile High City? The jury’s out. During the regular season Carolina ranked first in points per game, second in rushing yards per game, fourth in first downs and eleventh in total yards per game (averaging 15 yards more than the Broncos in the process).

There’s no arguing with the evidence – the Broncos have the means to stop a high-octane attack such as the Panthers. It might only consecutive series or a quarter but the Panthers will have their way with the Broncos. Stopping the attack and wrestling back momentum will decide who gets to life the Lombardi Trophy.

Ted Ginn Jr. is going to step up yet again – The Ohio State alumni is somewhat of an enigma. Now in his ninth year after being drafted by the Dolphins, Ginn Jr. has never lived up to the lofty expectations bestowed upon him as a one-time High School and College All-American. In Carolina he has found his sort of person, with his career high rushing and receiving averages a testament to the player he has become under Ron Rivera.

There will be no shortage of players telling the media this is the game that they were born to play. Ginn Jr. has always thought of himself as an elite level footballer and when he’s given his stage he will demonstrate why.

The halftime show will be at best, mediocre –  Not really a “far too early” prediction given that Coldplay were announced with Beyoncé and Bruno Mars last year. The halftime show is about hype and for all the commercial success in the world, that’s not something Coldplay are known for.

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Why Australian sport can’t match the Superbowl

So the Superbowl is over for another year. For American Football fans that means 6 months while they look out the window and wait for preseason to start. In the meantime though, I believe it’s time for both Australian’s and the Australian media to think about why the Superbowl (and American sports in general) is something which will never be matched here.

Sport is great. Australian sport is great. North American sport is great. But they are different. From the way they are covered to the passions that you see coming from the fans. The similarities for mine start and finish with the fact that one team is trying to beat the other.petecarrolcelebrate

The biggest difference between sport in the two continents is the way that sport is covered, and how that coverage can bring a city together to support their team. The perfect example of this is Melbourne newspaper The Age. The Age have a great AFL coverage, but that coverage is split amongst the following teams – Western Bulldogs, Essendon, North Melbourne, Melbourne, Carlton, Collingwood, Richmond, St Kilda and Hawthorn. Regardless of how good the coverage is, the paper has nine teams to cover. How is that coverage meant to unite a city? Pure and simple, It can’t. I think that part of the problem the Australian media face in covering sport, the national competitions that we are running are far too condensed. Take the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as an example of one of many organisations in North America who have the job of covering one team. When the Pittsburgh Pirates run out at the start of April, one thing is for sure – the Post-Gazette will let people know that it’s time to raise the Jolly Roger as the Pirates hunt for their first World Championship since 1979.

When you have a media who are charged with the role of devoting everything that have towards one team in one sport, the results you get are a city who live and die by the performance of their team. You get a city who are united for a single cause, a city that when you are there you can’t help but be sucked into the vortex that is a one-team town in professional sport.

Yes, there are American cities with two teams, but often the lines in the sand are drawn from which side of the city you are born on (Chicago with the Cubs and White Sox is the best example of this).

This is something I had the opportunity to discuss with a good friend of mine, Myles Harris on the most recent episode of Chatter Up on Hewitt Sports Network.

Myles and I have very different sporting backgrounds, but as you can hear in our discussion, this is one of many points that we agree on, and I think it’s certainly something we’ll both discuss at length in the future.

Both Seattle and Denver were at a standstill today, but where is that in the AFL? Even when Fremantle were playing Hawthorn in the 2013 decider, neither Melbourne or Perth came to a standstill, why? Because there are other teams in that city, and fans of those teams would give anything to see their rivals lose.

So how does this relate to the Superbowl? I’m not going to use the halftime show from this year as my landmark, because even though Bruno Mars is a good artist, he isn’t my cup of tea. In 2009 the Superbowl entertainment was Bruce Springsteen. In 2011 the AFL managed to recruit an out of shape, out of date and well off-key Meatloaf. Meatloaf VS Springsteen? Hardly a battle for the ages. Sure, you can say that money is the reason that the AFL couldn’t get someone like Springsteen in their wildest dreams, but that isn’t it. Sure, you can say that the AFL is a sport played in one country, but so is the NFL.

It’s about how you sell your product. Despite what Eddie McGuire says, they’re aren’t legions of 18-year-old males in America who are dreaming of playing for Collingwood. There are however at last count 28 Australian’s playing NCAA Football in Division One. You know what comes after that if you’re talented enough? The NFL.

I’ve been an AFL fan since I could walk, but the AFL are deluded  the way they currently act in the public eye. The product is safe, and as a result of that, it’s getting stale.

When I say safe, I don’t mean that’s it’s in a position to be around in 10 years. Of course it is. Safe in the sense means that they aren’t willing to try anything to get new fans, to grow the game globally, and to market themselves into a position the NFL has managed to do.

Yes, I’m a Melbourne fan, and I in one way or another watch my team every week. I long for the day that we win a title, I have had nothing but pain as a Melbourne supporter, but even a Grand Final victory isn’t going to cloud what I can so clearly see.

The NFL have done such a solid job that there are countless people in Australia who only watch the Superbowl. I know Australian’s who don’t watch Grand Final day, some of whom can be added to that list when their own is playing.

Why is this? The NFL and their clubs make fans feel wanted. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, content that is driven from the organisation rather than the local media. Why is this model working? Because people aren’t willing to sit around and wait for content. Everyone want’s something yesterday, and that’s what isn’t happening in Australian sport.

North American finds a happy medium to ensure they cover all bases. Australia ensures that very few fans are left feeling like they belong.

Just do something AFL. Make the clubs the main source of media. Get the passion going. Make something happen, because at the current rate, they are going to get left behind, because everyday it’s getting easier to watch sport from somewhere else in the world. With our foreign loves making it easier than ever to connect with what they are doing, that is where the passion that many once had for you is going abroad.

A family affair

Monday morning will see the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49er’s go at it for the ultimate prize in American sports, and while it is set to be a cracker game, I don’t feel the excitement that I have in the previous years.

If it wasn’t for the John and Jim Harbaugh factor, I don’t think I could be remotely excited about this game, and for me this is the biggest storyline there is.

Forget Ray Lewis playing in his last ever game, forget the fact the Niners have never lost on the biggest stage.

Why ?

Because Ray Lewis would probably be serving 25 to life if he wasn’t a footballer and the Niners are a team who I have grown up with a dislike of (never mind what Colin Kaepernick did to Boise St. while he was at Nevada).

Rather than looking from the perspective of teams, I’m seeing the best attack vs the best defence in the league and a game which will be won by the team that can assert themselves early.

The Ravens have looked good in coming from behind the last two weeks, and while the Niners did the same against the Falcons in Atlanta, I was less impressed as I watched Matt Ryan continue to be one of the worst performing playoff QB’s in recent memory (Ryan is 1-4 in five playoff appearances).

It’s all about two brothers. Every kid does it in the backyard, coaching or playing against your sibling to win a title and Monday morning will see the fantasy come to life.

Jim and John know the other inside out, know what makes the other tick and  the situations they are likely to take risks in.

I feel the risk factor is bigger than any other, because there will be a point in the game where one side is going to need to risk it and I am almost certain the opposition sideline will have the perfect counter planned.

This could be the best Superbowl of the last decade, because who knows you better than family ?