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No Better Place

Five oddly interesting potential Super Bowl matchups

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

By Ryan Decker of Now On Deck

The Super Bowl is the largest annual sporting event in the world.

It is the most watch, the most anticipated, and most analyzed, as well.

It’s so big that corporations will pay millions of dollars for a 15-30 second ad to run during timeouts.

Although plenty of people do watch the Super Bowl for the commercials, the majority of people watch it for the game on the field.

Each Super Bowl has storylines galore that help build the hype.

Below are five potential Super Bowl matchups that would be oddly interesting for these reasons.

* Note: All matchups only include teams with winning records / teams that can actually make the playoffs

New England Patriots vs. Minnesota Vikings

I know I just lost half the reading audience by starting off with everyone’s favorite cheaters – I mean team –, the New England Patriots. Stay with me, though, Tom Brady haters, this one’s for you.

A New England / Minnesota Super Bowl matchup would mark the seventh time in the last 21 seasons that the Patriots were in the SB.

It would also be very reminiscent of Super Bowl XLII (42) when the Patriots took on the New York Giants. Tom Brady – the crème of the crop when it comes to quarterbacks – taking on a non-elite QB carried by a great defense.

Could you imagine social media if Sam Bradford takes down Brady? Heck, imagine the National Football League’s reaction if Bradford and company take down Tommy Terrific.

Dallas Cowboys vs. Oakland Raiders

Not only is this game interesting for long-time NFL fans, but it would also be extremely interesting for new-age NFL fans.

Right off the bat you’ve got two preseason candidates for Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year in Ezekiel Elliott and Karl Joseph. You’ve also got the story of the quarterback battle in Dallas.

If Tony Romo is the starting QB, can he finally end the Cowboys’ Super Bowl drought? Or, if Dak Prescott is still the starter, can a rookie really lead Dallas to a championship when Tony Romo and multiple others have tried.

Of course, that would also entail either Prescott or Romo getting past the NFC Championship game, which has been a problem all in its own for the ‘Boys over the last two decades.

Switching sides, you’ve got another team filled with young, upcoming talent in Oakland.

And what happens to the plans of moving to Las Vegas if the Raiders win a ring in Oakland?

Houston Texans vs. Anyone

First off, this Super Bowl would mean that Brock Osweiler will have lead two different teams to the Super Bowl in back-to-back seasons, something that has never been done before.

Secondly, Super Bowl LI (51) is scheduled to be played at NRG Stadium in Houston, which is the home stadium of the Texans. It would mark the first time in Super Bowl history that a team would play the game in their home stadium.

Add in the off chance that the Texans could bring All-Pro defensive lineman J.J. Watt off IR for the playoff, and you’ve got another story line.

Maybe an ideal matchup featuring Houston would be Houston vs. Atlanta, given the fact that both teams already play in domes, so neither team would have an advantage in that regard.

Indianapolis Colts vs. Washington Redskins

You could nickname this Super Bowl the “Battle of the 2012 NFL Draft.”

Indianapolis obviously has Andrew Luck, the first pick of the 2012 draft. Washington got to the playoffs that season with the help of the No. 2 overall pick in Robert Griffin III, and then reached the postseason last year with Kirk Cousins – a 2012 fourth-round pick – leading the way.

(Osweiler and Russell Wilson were also selected in the 2012 draft, so a Houston/Seattle SB would also fit this title.)

Getting back to Indy and the Redskins, though, this Super Bowl could help out (and hurt) both teams.

Let’s start with Washington. If Cousins reaches the Super Bowl, it would validate the team giving him the franchise tag this past offseason. However, it would also create another drawn out contract dispute this coming offseason, in which Dan Snyder could be forced to way overpay, a la Joe Flacco and the Ravens.

Indianapolis is already married to Luck for six more years. But the Colts need to start getting something out of the highest-paid player in NFL history. The jury is starting to comeback with a ruling that Luck isn’t all he’s cracked up to be.

He needs to change that for his and his franchise’s own good.

Plus, no matter the outcome, it adds to the novel of comparisons between Luck and his Colts predecessor, Peyton Manning.

Philadelphia Eagles OR Minnesota Vikings vs. Buffalo Bills

If we’re going to nickname Super Bowls, you can call this one the “Someone Has to win this One, Right?” Super Bowl.

All three of these teams have been around since the inception of the Super Bowl.

Buffalo and Minnesota have each played in the final game of the postseason four times, and are a combined 0-8. Philadelphia has played in two, and takes the total record to 0-10.

One team has to win this game, right?

Either of these matchups would end on of the longest Super Bowl droughts in the NFL. (Six franchises, including these three, have been around since the beginning of the Super Bowl Era and have yet to win one.)

And not that this needs to be said, but could you imagine Rex Ryan at the Super Bowl? Two weeks of NFL coverage divided right down the middle between the NFC representative and Rex Ryan.

Press conferences would get historic.

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What if Aroldis Chapman was a Dodger?

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The National League Championship Series is nearing its climax.

The Chicago Cubs are up 3-2 in the seven game series over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Cubs have had a historic run this season, finishing with an MLB-best 103 wins, five runs per game (third in MLB) and a 3.15 team ERA (first in MLB).

The Cubs entered the postseason as the favorite in the NL to make it to the World Series and have not disappointed so far.

However, coming into the season, the Cubs’ biggest weakness was their bullpen. In 2015, their bullpen ERA was 3.38 and in 2016 it was 3.56; both years they ranked eighth in MLB.

Specifically entering 2016, their closer role was up in the air. In 2015 the Cubs had 19 blown saves and before the 2016 July trade deadline they had 10 blown saves.

During this year and a half, Hector Rondon was the Cubs closer and was not effective enough, blowing to many saves.

Then in July, the Cubs made a trade for one of the elite closers in MLB, Aroldis Chapman from the New York Yankees. In the second half of the season, Champan only blew two saves for the Cubs and solidified their bullpen.

The Dodgers had a chance to acquire Chapman from the Cincinnati Reds at the beginning of the 2016 season but the deal fell through after some domestic violence issues. 

Even though the deal fell through the Dodgers finished with the best bullpen in MLB (3.35 ERA), they could have been even better than they already are with Chapman. This is because the Dodgers blew 22 saves in 2016, which was 10th most in MLB. Even though, on paper, the Dodgers bullpen looked good with the best ERA in baseball, the back end of their bullpen would have greatly improved with Chapman.

The Cubs finished with 12 more wins than the Dodgers in 2016. It is possible that Chapman going to the Dodgers could have given the Dodgers a better record than the Cubs but one player probably would not have that big of a regular season swing. However, this move would have allowed the Dodgers to use their bullpen similar to the Cleveland Indians are this season. In 2016 Chapman’s overall WAR was 2.5 and could have been even higher being used similarly to Miller who had a 1.6 WAR only in August and September with the Indians.

The Indians are the American Leagues representative in the World Series and have gotten there by their bullpen. In the postseason they have a 1.67 postseason ERA.

Andrew Miller is the biggest reason why the bullpen has been so good; 11.2 innings pitched and 21 strikeouts in the postseason. Indians manager, Terry Francona, uses Miller in critical situations, to get them out of jams or face the heart of the opposition’s lineup, not just in a closer’s role.

If Chapman was a Dodger, he could be used in a similar fashion.; getting the Dodgers out of jams and not letting games get out of hand could have helped them in the series against the Cubs. In Games 1, 4, and 5 the Cubs scored at least eight runs a game. With Chapman, the Dodgers could have stopped the bleeding and he would have kept the Dodgers in the game.

So far in the series, Chapman has allowed two earned runs in three innings for the Cubs and got the win in Game 1. He has not had much of an impact for the Cubs, but as a Dodger he could have the team up 3-2 and on the brink of going to the World Series.

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Is Packers-Bears still a relevant rivalry?

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers met for the 192nd time Thursday Night. The Packers ended up pulling away from the Bears, winning 26-10.

The Packers-Bears rivalry is the oldest rivalry in the NFL, but has it lost some luster? Is it still a relevant rivalry?

The rivalry dates back to 1921 when the Bears beat the Packers, 20-0. A Packers-Bears game used to be must-watch television, even for those who are not fans of either team. That excitement that has seemed to diminish in recent years.

There’s no surprise why this feeling exists. For a rivalry to be heated, both teams need to be competitive. Since 1921, the rivalry has been competitive with the Bears leading 94-92-6. However, the Packers have defeated the Bears 12 times in their last 15 meetings. Those games weren’t usually close either. The Packers outscored the Bears 394 points to 245 points in those 15 games.

This is nothing new with the Packers-Bears rivalry though. There have been plenty of times where there were stretches of domination by one of the two. The Packers dominated in the 1960’s going 15-5. The Bears dominated the 1950’s and 1940’s going 14-5-1 and 16-4-1, respectively.

There have been some incredible games between these two teams in the past. In 2011 the Bears had the chance to eliminate the Packers from playoff contention in week 17. Green Bay ended up winning 10-3. Losing that game came back to bite the Bears as both teams met again a few weeks later in the NFC Championship Game where the Packers prevailed 21-14 to move on to the Super Bowl.

To the average NFL fan, it may feel like the rivalry is not what it used to be, but fans of either team know that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The tension between those from Illinois and those from Wisconsin runs deep.

As someone who used to live in Wisconsin I can tell you that gamedays between the Packers and Bears are always the ones marked down on either team's schedules. Both fanbases are pretty polite when they come across each other, but sometimes you will get the evil eye if you are wearing your team's gear.

The games also seem to mean more to the players and coaches as well. The games tend to be a little more rough and there’s a little more back and forth between the teams than a normal NFL game. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy even said before facing the Bears last season that the Packers were going to “kick Chicago’s ass”.

Is the Packers-Bears rivalry still relevant? Absolutely, if even only to the two fanbases. The rivalry has lasted the test of time. When there exists a rivalry that has been around for almost 100 years, there is bound to be times where it’s one sided. This is just one of those times. 

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