Column: Super Bowl looks competitive |

Column: Super Bowl looks competitive

by Roger Ellison

Because college’s New Years’s Day bowl games landed on a Saturday this year, the National Football League pushed back its playoff schedule one week and eliminated the extra week of preparation for Super Bowl XXXIV. With all the hoopla surrounding pro football’s championship, the situation must be a nightmare for the coaches and players, especially with the unseasonably freezing weather in Atlanta, but either St. Louis or Tennessee will realize its dream Sunday of being the world champion. Many people are a little disappointed with the match-up, a rematch of the Titans 24-21 victory at home back on Halloween, but it should be a competitive contest that will keep fans tuned in at least until the second half, unlike some Super Bowls past.

It wouldn’t be too far-fetched to say that the Rams are lucky to be here. In last week’s final minute with Tampa Bay driving for a possible winning touchdown, the officials ruled no catch on a play that would have left the Buccaneers with a third and 10 rather than a subsequently unattained third and 23. Since when does a player have the ball cradled in both arms, both knees hit the turf and then an elbow, and the throw is ruled incomplete? I say since someone thought St. Louis would make a much more attractive Super Bowl contestant than Tampa Bay, that’s when. But that’s just my opinion.

Still, that game proved to me that the Rams aren’t as good as I thought they were. Tampa Bay really beat St. Louis up and turned the game into a war. Also, when you look back at the regular season, the Rams played a weaker schedule than Tennessee. In the playoffs the Rams have beaten Minnesota, a team with no defense, and Tampa Bay, a team with no offense. Tennessee is a much more well-rounded team that has already been severely tested.

For more than 10 years during the 1980s and 1990s, the NFC dominated the Super Bowl and regular season, but now the balance of power has shifted to the AFC. The AFC has won the last two championships, and by my accounts, won the inter-conference battles this year with 38 victories to the NFC’s 22.

Even though Tennessee now plays on grass, they’re used to playing on turf and have won all their turf games this year. Yancey Thigpen would be a small loss because the Titans have plenty of wide receivers, and safety Marcus Robertson is out and could be a considerable loss, but it’s one I feel Tennessee will overcome. Any special teams advantage that St. Louis has with its return game, I feel, is nullified with the lingering injury to kicker Jeff Wilkins.

Prediction: Before the playoffs started, I picked St. Louis to beat Tennessee. This could be a mistake, but now I’m changing my mind. Tennessee has come on strong and covered seven consecutive games. Tennessee +7. I don’t like the over/under.

Prop bets: Out of the numerous proposition bets available, I like only three – Tennessee +3 1/2 (+130), Tennessee money line (+190) and Tennessee – 3 1/2 (+325).

Note: Pay attention to the actions and quotes of players over the next two days. Events such as Eugene Robinson’s ill-fated attempt to solicit a prostitute last Super Bowl Eve will destroy a team’s chances.

— Miller Lite commercials have posted the question of who the best Super Bowl team ever is. If the commercial means over the course of the history of the Super Bowl, the best team ever is Dallas with eight appearances (the next closest team has six) and five victories. Second is San Francisco with five appearances and five victories. Pittsburgh is third with four wins in five attempts.

Some people might think that the 49ers are the best ever, but that thinking is totally ignorant. It’s much better to come in second place than to flounder in the depths of mediocrity or last place finishes. If you want a tie-breaker, look at head-to-head championship games: Dallas 4, San Francisco 2.

If the commercial means the best Super Bowl team ever in one particular year, people can argue about that until the cows come home and still not come up with an answer. With all apologies to the other great championship teams I’ve seen, the most dominant team I ever saw was the 1985 Chicago Bears.

Note: Catch me on the second half of Sportstalk with the Pearl which begins at 9:00 p.m. on Channel 10.