Categories
Sports

Colour Commentary: Wrapping up the 2021-22 NFL season

An unorthodox Super Bowl matchup, and Tom Brady ends his chokehold on the rest of the NFL

The epic conclusion to the 2021-22 NFL season will feature a matchup between the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams. 

The matchup everyone saw coming heading into the season, right? Here are my thoughts ahead of the Feb. 13 championship game.

Super Bowl LVI Prediction

The Rams will be hosting the Super Bowl in their home stadium, only the second time that’s happened in the league’s history (oddly enough, the first occurrence was last year’s championship game, where the Buccaneers prevailed at home). 

On paper, the matchup against the Bengals just isn’t fair. Los Angeles has spent the last few seasons trading away first-round picks in the draft to upgrade their roster through superstar acquisitions. Their list of talent on both sides of the ball is something pulled straight out of a video game. 

They have a young, transcending coach in Sean McVay, who has already been handed the torch by his football peers and the media for his unique offensive mind. They also traded for a veteran quarterback in Matthew Stafford, who probably deserves a ring more than anyone else in the league. Finally, they arguably have the best player in football by the name of Aaron Donald. 

On the other hand, the Bengals have had their backs against the wall for the entire postseason. They already overachieved in the regular season, winning the AFC North division in Joe Burrow’s third season. Frankly, it was impossible to predict this outcome for Cincinnati, considering Burrow was coming off of a torn ACL in 2020, one of the most difficult injuries to manage and fully recover from in sports. 

Suddenly, the Bengals are one win away from cementing themselves in NFL history as champions. Entering the playoffs, Cincinnati seemed to be a year or two away from true contention, but proved me wrong every step of the way. The Bengals are well ahead of schedule, considering the team will have plenty of cap space to work with in the coming seasons, with Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase still on rookie deals. 

Most people without a dog in this race want the Bengals to win. It’s hard not to root for this build of a team, one which carries themselves with youthful swagger. Even their rookie kicker Evan McPherson is hitting game-winning field goals in the playoffs with ice in his veins. 

I’m going with the Bengals in this one, simply because they’ve already made it this far and they’ve done the improbable in back-to-back rounds against the Titans and Chiefs. I worry about the Bengals pass protection, as they’ve been overwhelmed in the past and won’t get any breaks against the likes of Von Miller, Leonard Floyd and the aforementioned Donald. Lastly, I expect an entertaining back-and-forth contest, seeing as both teams have struggled to play consistently for four quarters this postseason (especially the Rams, who turned the ball over at an alarming rate against the Buccaneers, and were begging Tom Brady to add to his comeback resume).

Speaking of Mr. Brady…

The end of the Brady era

On Tuesday, Brady announced his retirement from football on social media. The 44 year-old played in the NFL for 22 seasons and redefined longevity in a physical sport that typically sees its superstars only don their uniforms for half of that time. Brady continued to spearhead a potent Buccaneers offence while ranking among the league’s best passers. It’s crazy to think, but he could have easily pressed on. Instead, he chose to move on after dedicating half of his life to the NFL (literally). 

Brady’s G.O.A.T. case is unassailable. He appeared in 10 Super Bowls, won seven of them, and was the MVP for his team in five instances. He owns so many records but those aforementioned numbers are all that matter. Football is the ultimate team sport, with so many moving parts in the salary cap era that make it extremely difficult to win titles, let alone multiple. 

Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player ever, but there are players who can conceivably fight for his throne. Wayne Gretzky might never be beat from a statistical standpoint, but I can’t rule out the possibility of another hockey player joining the conversation. In baseball, Babe Ruth was a trendsetter who paved the way, but there are wildly unique players in today’s game that are bringing new elements to the table. 

Brady will always be the greatest football player ever. I truly believe there’s no one that can reach the success he was able to achieve. I was never a huge fan of his, but I am an admirer of greatness in sports, and I’m grateful to have witnessed history unfold firsthand.  

 

Graphic by Madeline Schmidt

Categories
Sports

Colour Commentary: 2021-22 NFL season predictions

The NFL returned on Sept. 9 with an expanded 17-game schedule

With Week 1 of the 2021-22 NFL schedule already under wraps, here are some of my thoughts about the season and what it has in store for fans. 

How will this year’s 17-game season be remembered? 

On one end, more football means fans get to bathe in America’s sport for an extra week. More games will also mean less variance in the standings. 

But the NFL already struggles with annual injuries, and the addition of a highly-competitive game to the schedule certainly won’t help that cause. 

An additional game will leave plenty of room for records pertaining to totals to be broken: things like team wins/losses and individual statistics will inflate this year for better or worse. This is just something to keep in mind when Week 18 rolls around and the term “historic” is being thrown around sports media circles left and right.

Who will be the overachievers/underachievers?

As a disclaimer, I’m looking at teams that aren’t getting enough attention that can potentially make the leap from good to great, or bad to unfathomable. 

The Cleveland Browns have been getting hyped up for years, but have failed to produce meaningful results in the postseason. Last year, they took their first baby steps in advancing to the divisional round and giving the AFC’s Super Bowl representatives, the Kansas City Chiefs, a real run for their money. 

If the Browns were stacked from a personnel standpoint in 2020, now they’re a full-course meal. Injuries and quarterback Baker Mayfield’s ability to get his skill guys the ball reliably are the only concerns for this team in their second year under head coach Kevin Stefanski.

If the Browns have known nothing but mediocrity for over a decade, the Pittsburgh Steelers are their polar opposite: under head coach Mike Tomlin since 2007, the team has never posted a losing record in the regular season.

That can all change this year with aging franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger entering the twilight of the twilight of his career and into a young and unproven offensive line. On the other hand, this team should still boast a strong defensive game, and drafted a promising running back this year in Najee Harris.

There’s potential upside here, but I would bet against it. 

Wait, Tom Brady is 44 years-old? This is it, right? 

Guess again.

Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers retained nearly every significant player from their championship run in February, a notion that seemed impossible six months ago. This team won a Super Bowl in Brady’s first year with the team (and made it look easy), so another offseason under their belt as a group should instill fear league-wide.

Until proven otherwise, this is Brady’s world and we’re all just living in it.

Categories
Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the Super Bowl LV champions

Tom Brady wins his seventh title as the Buccaneers dominate the Chiefs

Following an entertaining Conference Championship weekend, the National Football League (NFL) couldn’t have asked for a better Super Bowl matchup outcome on Feb. 7, as defending champions Kansas City Chiefs faced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

What was a highly touted competitive matchup on paper ended up being a one-sided affair, as the Buccaneers won the franchise’s second Super Bowl title in a seemingly effortless 31-9 victory over the favoured Chiefs.

Tampa Bay’s quarterback Tom Brady threw for 209 yards and three touchdowns in an MVP performance that will be immortalized alongside his countless other career accolades. In winning his seventh Super Bowl, the superstar further cemented himself as the most accomplished player to ever grace the sport.

Brady’s seventh ring gives him more titles than any NFL franchise. His previous six were with the New England Patriots, who remain tied for first with the Pittsburgh Steelers with six championships.

Meanwhile, the NFL’s undisputed quarterback of the future Patrick Mahomes struggled all night, throwing for 270 yards and a couple of interceptions. More notably, Mahomes was sacked three times and was held to zero touchdowns for the first time in the 2020–21 season.

Brady will get most of the attention for winning the game for his team as quarterbacks typically do — and rightfully so. However, it was Tampa Bay’s defence, orchestrated by defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, that set the tone of the game early.

Throughout the 2020–21 regular season and playoffs, the Buccaneers struggled at times on offence, but had the benefit of playing alongside a consistent and authoritative defence. As growing pains eventually settled as the weeks went by, everything emphatically culminated on Sunday in their dominating two-way performance against the offensively inclined Chiefs.

The game began and ended at the line of scrimmage, as Kansas City’s offensive line was unquestionably the weakest link in the team’s otherwise potent attack throughout the season. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, one of the Chiefs’ starting guards, was the first player to opt out of the 2020 NFL season due to COVID-19 concerns. Additional injuries to Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz forced the Chiefs to heavily rely on backups and late-season waiver wire acquisitions to protect Mahomes.

On the other end of the field, the Buccaneers’ defence was able to employ a simple yet effective strategy that took the most influential players on the Chiefs’ roster out of the game.

Bowles and the Buccaneers rarely blitzed Mahomes, realizing that the team’s pass rushers and tackles alone could generate pressure with their inherent mismatch. The Buccaneers also had at least two safeties deep downfield for much of the game, making it problematic for Mahomes to connect with his ludicrously fast wide receiver Tyreek Hill while he was constantly showered with double-teams.

On paper, superstars Hill and tight end Travis Kelce ended the game with decent counting statistics, but failed to make their emblematic game-breaking plays.

Despite the somewhat disappointing lack of competition on the field, Super Bowl LV will go down in history for dispelling out-dated American sports standards and breaking barriers.

Kansas City’s assistant defensive line coach Lori Locust and assistant strength and conditioning coach Maral Javadifar became the first women to win Super Bowl rings as part of a coaching staff. Meanwhile, no other team in the league has more than one woman coach.

NFL official Sarah Thomas also became the first woman to referee a Super Bowl. On Sunday, the league took a significant step in the right direction towards gender diversity and inclusivity.

In addition, the Weeknd made his fair share of history by becoming the first solo Canadian artist to headline the Super Bowl halftime show. The Toronto-native, sporting his signature red blazer, performed songs spanning his entire career, ranging from “House of Balloons” from his 2011 debut mixtape, to his 2020 hit, “Blinding Lights.”

Despite several COVID-19-related setbacks, the Weeknd achieved Super Bowl greatness in his memorable and flamboyant performance alongside Thomas, Javadifar, Locust, and the Buccaneers.

Amidst a shower of confetti, Brady was asked during the post-game celebration if he would be returning next season following another unprecedented championship. The 43-year-old, coming off his most lopsided Super Bowl win to date, kept his answer short and sweet.

“I’m coming back, you already know that,” Brady said.

 

Graphic by Taylor Reddam

Categories
Sports

The last stretch of the NFL playoffs

The NFL playoffs have offered fans all kinds of results so far

With the National Football League (NFL) playoffs currently at the Conference Championship stage, we’re quickly approaching Super Bowl LV, which will be held at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida on Feb. 7.

It didn’t take long this year to have some surprising — or, in other words, disappointing — playoff exits.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, one of the favourite teams to win the Super Bowl entering the playoffs, faced their rivals the Cleveland Browns in the wild card round. Contrary to what many expected, the Browns delivered an almost perfect first half, even establishing a new record in NFL history with 28 points in the first quarter.

It was the Browns’ first win in Pittsburgh since 2003, and the team’s first playoff victory since 1994. Unfortunately for them, they lost 22-17 to the defending champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, in the divisional round.

An exciting divisional round matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints sent the latter of the two teams out of the Super Bowl picture. The Saints, 12-4 in the season, lost 30-20 in what was a game full of turnarounds and key plays.

Less surprisingly, the Baltimore Ravens offered a disappointing performance against the Buffalo Bills. After beating the Tennessee Titans by a touchdown in their wild card game, the Ravens scored just three points against the Bills and lost 17-3.

The conference championship matchups also offered exciting battles between teams that haven’t disappointed so far. All four teams were looking to continue on their good winning streak, but had one last challenge before punching their ticket to the Super Bowl.

The Buccaneers battled against the Green Bay Packers, who registered a better record than the Buccaneers in the regular season. Still, both teams were coming off important wins in the divisional round. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, Buccaneers’ and Packers’ quarterbacks respectively, are both among the NFL’s best players of all time. They were for sure going to give their best against the other. It’s been an exciting offensive game, but the Buccaneers had the best of the Packers 31-26.

On the other side, the Bills, perhaps the most improved team this season, played the Chiefs. Those two franchises have combined for only five losses in 32 games this season. Yet, one of them had to lose. It’s finally the Chiefs’ offence that had the final say, winning 38-24.

With a second consecutive appearance in the Super Bowl final, the Chiefs could be the first team since the 2004–05 Patriots to win back-to-back Super Bowl championships. For the Buccaneers, it will be their second championship game in franchise history. The first time happened to be just before the 2004–05 Patriots, as they won Super Bowl XXXVII.

 

Graphic by Rose-Marie Dion

Categories
Sports

Colour commentary: Previewing Super Bowl 53

Rams won’t stop Brady and will have to rely on offence

It’s pretty incredible to think quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick are taking the New England Patriots to Super Bowl 53, their ninth together.

Just like when they started together in 2001 and won three Super Bowls in four years, they’ll be playing in their third-straight title game when they take on the Los Angeles Rams in Atlanta on Feb. 3.

The 41-year-old Brady and the Patriots have had an underdog attitude all season. I would think they’re the favourites for this Super Bowl, even though the Rams’s 13-3 record is better than the Patriots’s 11-5 record from the regular season.

In the playoffs, and especially in one-and-done title games like this, experience plays a pivotal role. Brady is older than L.A.’s head coach, Sean McVay, who turned 33 on Jan. 24, and 17 years separates Brady and his quarterback counterpart, Jared Goff. Not to mention, Brady and the Patriots have won five championships together, while the Rams have two playoff wins since McVay took over as head coach in 2017.

The Rams proved those numbers mean nothing in the NFC Championship against the New Orleans Saints. Up against 40-year-old Drew Brees and Sean Payton, who also won a title together in 2009, the Rams delivered an upset on the roadalbeit a controversial one, but let’s not open that can of worms.

In last year’s Super Bowl, we saw how much the Philadelphia Eagles were underdogs against the Patriots. Even though Brady threw for over 500 yards and three touchdowns, the Eagles simply outscored them and won 41-33. If the Rams want to win this year, they just need to score a lot of points.

Even with a strong defence that features defensive linemen Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh, the Rams likely won’t stop Brady. If L.A. needs to rely on their defence, they won’t win this game.

Instead, Goff is going to have to step up and make big plays. McVay also has to use this season’s third-leading rusher, Todd Gurley, more than he did against the Saints and at the same time give touches to back-up running back C.J. Anderson, whose experience winning a Super Bowl in 2016 may be invaluable to a young team.

For the Patriots to win, they just have to stick to their game plan. They know whatever they do works, because it’s brought them to four Super Bowls in the past five years. The Patriots had the 11th-best run defence this season, so if they can shut down the Rams’s running game, Brady and Belichick will be collecting their sixth ring together.

Prediction: 31-27 New England Patriots. Eight people from our staff predicted the Patriots to win Super Bowl 53, with three choosing the Rams.

Categories
Sports

The Concordian staff previews Super Bowl 52

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick aim for their sixth championship together on Feb. 4

The number-one teams in the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC) are set to battle in this year’s Super Bowl in Minneapolis, Minn. The New England Patriots will aim to win a second-straight Super Bowl, and their third in the last four years. Their only roadblock is the Philadelphia Eagles. The Concordian staff previews the big game.

What the Patriots need to do to win

By Matthew Coyte, Assistant Sports Editor

The New England Patriots are back in the Super Bowl (shocker). After winning against the Tennessee Titans 34-14 without much difficulty, and then beating the Jacksonville Jaguars in a thrilling 24-20 AFC Championship game, the Patriots will look to capture the sixth title of quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick’s regime against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Patriots have been able to systematically beat every challenge tossed at them. No receivers to start the year? No problem. Brady getting 12 stitches on his throwing hand prior to the AFC Championship? He threw for 290 yards.

No matter the score, it seems when the fourth quarter hits, the Patriots hit another gear. Even with tight end Rob Gronkowski possibly injured, the team is finally healthy after struggling with injuries early in the season. You do not want to play against a healthy Patriots team. They also have the league’s best coach in Belichick. That doesn’t hurt.

The Eagles are a good team, but the Patriots are the Empire. Brady is Darth Vader, Belichick is the Emperor, but the Eagles are no Luke Skywalker. The Patriots will win as long as Brady doesn’t break both his arms and legs, and the reign of terror will continue.

What the Eagles need to do to win

By Nicholas Di Giovanni, Sports Editor

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles is not as bad as everyone thought. When their starter and potential MVP candidate Carson Wentz tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in week 14, nobody thought the Eagles had a chance.

However, Foles took over from Wentz and played as if nothing changed. In the two playoff games, he has a 77.8 per cent passing completion, and has thrown for nearly 600 yards with three touchdowns. Not to mention Foles completely tore apart the Minnesota Vikings defence in the Eagles 38-7 win in the NFC Championship.

Wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor personify the Eagles chant, “Fly Eagles Fly,” as they look like they fly on the field. With talented running backs in LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi, their offence is a two-headed monster that could do serious damage.

Even though their defence, led by defensive lineman Fletcher Cox, linebacker Mychal Kendricks and safety Malcolm Jenkins, is capable of stopping good offences, they won’t be able to stop Brady, the quarterback who can pick apart any defence. If the Eagles want to win, their offence will need to do most of the work.

Predictions
By Alexander Cole, Managing Editor

Okay, well we all know that no matter how close a team gets to beating the Patriots, they will inevitably choke and practically give the game away at the last minute. It happened at last year’s Super Bowl, so I’m convinced it will happen again. Will this be any different? It won’t be.

The Patriots will start with the ball, and Brady and his injured throwing hand will struggle out of the gate. The Eagles, who have played solid defence all season, will take advantage of this. After the first quarter, Foles will have made some nice throws, and will have thrown for a touchdown. The score: 10-0 Eagles.

Throughout the second quarter, the Patriots will continue to struggle, but so will the Eagles. Neither team will really get many scoring opportunities, and the first half will end 13-7 for the Eagles.

In the third quarter, the Eagles will get a touchdown, and with a quarter to play, it’s 20-7 for Philadelphia.

Then to the dismay of literally every football fan ever, Brady will wake up with 10 minutes to go, and score two unanswered touchdowns, including one with a minute left to play. He wins his sixth Super Bowl, and I cry myself to sleep.

Staff Predictions

Calvin Cashen: 26-21 Patriots

Alexander Cole: 21-20 Patriots

Matthew Coyte: 30-21 Patriots

Nicholas Di Giovanni: 27-25 Eagles

Orenzo Porporino: 24-17 Eagles

Candice Pye: 26-21 Patriots

Katya Teague: 21-20 Eagles

Main graphic by Zeze Le Lin.

Exit mobile version