Well, it’s finally here.
Seems like it was only yesterday when the Hall of Fame game was being canceled because of a shoddy turf in Canton. Then we fast-forwarded through a host of storylines, from Tony Romo’s injury to the Packers’ late-season rise into the postseason.
And after all that nonsense, we’re now left with the Patriots taking on the Falcons in Super Bowl LI. Who saw that matchup coming before Week 1?
Anyway, Sunday is a special day for Mr. Saraf. This will be the first Super Bowl Sunday in more than a decade that won’t require me to spend all day in a grim office, hunched over a computer.
I’m actually having a Super Bowl party! And I’m catering it via Costco. Can’t wait.
Before we get to the game, let’s break down some of the more amusing prop bets for this year.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
PROP ME UP
How many times will “deflate” or “Deflategate’ be said on TV during live broadcast?
The over/under is at 1.5. I’m going over on this one. I feel we’ll be in the 2-3 mentions area.
How many times will Gisele Bundchen be shown on TV during the broadcast?
Again, the over/under is at 1.5. I’m going to go with the under here. She’ll definitely be shown once, but that’s it. There are so many things for the cameras to focus on at the Super Bowl that Fox won’t waste time going back to her.
Which song will Lady Gaga play first during the halftime show?
Here’s what you can choose from: “Born this Way,” “Bad Romance,” “Edge of Glory,” “Poker Face” and “Just Dance.” You can also choose “any other song” at 11/10 odds.
Personally, I have no idea what’s going to happen. I heard she’s climbing to the roof of NRG Stadium on Sunday to do some stunt. I’m hoping she simply survives.
However, I would love it if she led with “Alejandro.”
Will Malcolm Butler intercept a pass?
I hope he doesn’t. If he does, I’ll have to watch my wife the Seahawks fan have a PTSD nightmare.
First touchdown scorer
I love this one. I’m going with LeGarrette Blount at 8/1 because of how I feel the beginning of the game will unfold.
I believe the Patriots will win the toss, take the ball like they did in the AFC title game and try and set the tone. And with all the attention being paid to Tom Brady and the Patriots’ dynamic passing attack, I feel Bill Belichick will pound the ball with the running game.
You’re hearing it here first: The Patriots will begin the Super Bowl with a 10-plus play drive that will end with Blount barreling into the end zone.
Will I watch Lady Gaga? Yes, I will. My wife will be at my Super Bowl party and so will at least 2-3 of her friends. The mute button will not be used.
Don’t care. Never have cared. I feel companies buy Super Bowl ad time just to show off how much money they make.
“You’re saying it’s $5 million for a 30-second spot? Sure, buy 12 spots. There’s way more where that came from (lights a cigar)!”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Taylor Gabriel, WR, Falcons
We all know what the Patriots try and do on defense. They figure out what you do best and take that away from you. So, expect blanket coverage around Julio Jones and his bad toe all day.
That’s exactly what Belichick and Co. did to the Steelers by taking away Antonio Brown. And when called upon, receivers like Sammie Coates and Cobi Hamilton let the team down with dropped passes in key situations.
So, Gabriel will need to take advantage of the opportunities he’s sure to get. The Falcons need to make sure his confidence is sky high and that he doesn’t feel overly jittery in the early going. At one point, he’s going to get very open and he’ll have to make a big grab to either keep a drive going or to score a touchdown. It’s players like Gabriel who can be the difference between a Super Bowl ring and being an also-ran.
Dwight Freeney, Falcons DE
Hard to believe he’s 36-years-old and it still going strong, as his performance in the NFC title game shows. Speaking of which, when Freeney entered the NFL in 2002, his fellow Falcons pass-rusher Vic Beasley was 9-years-old. Seriously.
Atlanta needs to pressure Tom Brady. Everyone knows that. Freeney can’t afford to spend all game with his face in the dirt, like James Harrison (another aging pass-rusher) did for the Steelers in the AFC title game.
If Freeney and Beasley can move fast and get up in Brady’s grill, they’ve got a shot at knocking him off his game. If they get blocked easily, Tommy Boy is going to pick that young secondary apart.
LeGarrette Blount, RB, Patriots
Like I said early, I feel New England is going to try and pound the rock early to get the Falcons off balance. That means we could see a 25-carry game for Blount and if he does his thing and uses his size to wear the Falcons’ front seven down, those safeties are going to start peeking up a bit.
And that’s exactly when the Patriots will blow Atlanta out of the water with play-action and the intermediate passing game.
Malcolm Butler, CB, Patriots
Will he get matched up against Julio Jones all game? My guess is the Patriots will vary whom they put on Jones, but whoever it is will definitely have help over the top.
The last time Butler was in the Super Bowl, he won it for the Patriots with a clutch interception. He may very well be called on to do something like that again.
SO, WHO TAKES IT?
Here we are. My final prediction of the season. Let me just take a moment to thank the people who made all of this possible, starting with …. what’s that? I should just STFU and make my pick already?
Sometimes, I feel experience is overrated. A team can very well win a Super Bowl in its first visit, especially when they’re a team that has nothing to lose and feature a bunch of young players who don’t know enough to know they should be nervous.
This is the part where I usually argue against myself and then chicken out and pick the Patriots.
But I’m not going to do it. In a move that I’m sure will please the fine people of Baltimore, I’m picking the Falcons to pull off the upset of the hated Patriots and for Matty Ice to join Joe Flacco in the “elite” status of NFL quarterbacks.
I’ll even give you a final score: Falcons 31, Patriots 26.
Thank you all for a great season! Be back soon.
Currently a Mobile Editor at Yahoo, Saraf spent 5.5 years (Oct. 2010 – Feb. 2016) working for FOX Sports as an NFL Editor and Writer. Prior to that, Saraf worked for CBS Interactive for 4.5 years (May 2006 – Oct. 2010) as a Staff Editor.