The Superb Owl

Sorry about that title, I just couldn’t resist. It’s not that I’m above the occasional terrible, well-worn pun – proper blog titles are the domain of compensated professionals, not understimulated poseurs such as myself – it’s that there’s been a lot of football news lately, and all of it has made it very difficult to get hyped not just for this year’s Super Bowl, but for anything this stupid fucking league says or does. The game itself seems extremely likely to become a blowout, too, which isn’t helping anything.

That said, I don’t feel that I have too much to say about Brian Flores’ discrimination lawsuit against the NFL that hasn’t already been said. His suit is pointing out what has been abundantly clear for a long time – the NFL is a racist league of racist owners who run the shop like a good ol’ boys’ club, and the Rooney Rule has done nothing except give the veneer of plausible deniability to the ongoing, widespread employment discrimination in both coaching staff and front office hirings. I hope that this suit leads to some kind of actual consequences for the league and the owners, but I highly doubt it will. The league will pay out a huge (or at least, huge sounding) settlement and go right back to being their shitty selves. It sucks extra to know that Flores will never get a coaching job in the NFL again. I hope this works out for him, in one way or another.

As a card-carrying Vikings fan, I am also compelled to weigh in on the Vikings’ decision not to hire Jim Harbaugh as head coach. Frankly, I’m fine with it. It would’ve been nothing if not entertaining had he been hired, but I see no reason to be actually disappointed he wasn’t hired. Harbaugh was brought into do an actual interview, and the actual interview convinced the Wilfs and new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah that he wasn’t the right fit. That is well and good. This is the goal. Interviews are meant to determine these things, and if it wasn’t going to work out it wasn’t going to work out.

Furthermore, Harbaugh would’ve been a weird fit; bringing him aboard would have meant trying to win again immediately, and I just don’t see how the Vikings are in any position to do so. I can’t think of a single position group that isn’t in need of patching up. I guess they’re set at running back for the time being, and while this is a deeply weird thing to say given how the last decade of Vikings football has gone, they might be set at tackle, too. That’s about it. The interior offensive line is a shambles, the receiving corps still lacks depth, and every defensive position group is hurting in one way or another. I don’t advocate tanking under any circumstances, but I do think the team would be wise to view next year as a season of evaluation, so that they can figure out what the next version of the team actually looks like, especially at quarterback. If the new braintrust views Kirk Cousins as the future, I will be most put out.

As for presumed new coach Kevin O’Connell, he seems fine. I said last month that I’d be fine with any coach this side of Josh McDaniels (here let us take a moment of silence for those poor, poor Raiders fans out there), and I stand by that. It’s hard to have strong opinions; all that matters is how he does once he’s actually coaching the team. We’ll see. Kwesi seems like a smart, cool guy, and for the time being, I’m choosing to trust the process. It feels like the only emotionally healthy course of action.

Also, there’s a game on Sunday. I should get to it, huh?

Conference Championship Stats

Playoff Pool Points Accrued: 15

Playoff Pool Points Missed: 18

Differential: -3

Record Against the Spread: 1-1

Playoff Stats Through Conference Championship

Playoff Pool Points Accrued: 77

Playoff Pool Points Missed: 74

Differential: +3

Record Against the Spread: 5-7

All lines pulled from MyBookie at 11:55 AM Eastern Time on Thursday, February 10th, 2022.

My pick for each game, and the relevant spread, is always listed first. Home teams are displayed in bold.

Los Angeles Rams (-4.5) vs. Cincinnati Bengals*

With all apologies to any Bengals fans out there, this game really, really should be a horrific blowout, one that recalls the NFC-led Super Bowl shitkickings of my youth. I know I said that the Bengals would get their asses kicked last time, and uh…the time before that, but this time I mean it for real. It is still unspeakably bizarre to me that the Bengals somehow won the entire damn AFC; had you told me in August that the Bengals would find themselves in the Super Bowl, I would have assumed that half of the conference had been involved in multiple, deadly plane crashes. It makes no rational sense that they’re here, even though I just saw them win three playoff games.

This, however, is the end of the line. It is impossible to envision how any combination of Bengals offensive lineman can block Aaron Donald. It is even more impossible to envision how any of their rank can block Donald, Von Miller, and Leonard Floyd simultaneously. It is impossible to envision Eli Apple locking down Odell Beckham Jr., or even Van Jefferson. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to envision Joe Burrow getting the ball to Ja’Marr Chase all that often with Jalen Ramsey attached to him most snaps. And, even granting that Sean McVay is prone to having bad days as a game day coach and playcaller, it is impossible to envision Zac Taylor, a man who remains determined to get Burrow killed, winning the coaching battle. These playoffs have demonstrated that Matthew Stafford can get it done in a tight game, even if the tightness of said game is partially his own doing. The Rams will lose if they fail to show up for the game entirely, and if they fail to take the Bengals seriously. They will win under all other circumstances, and if they show up at full force, the game will be over by halftime.

*Yes, technically the Bengals are the home team, even though the Rams are playing their actual home stadium.

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