The Big Game

11 bold Super Bowl predictions

What's next for Tom Brady? Elsa/Getty Images

1. The Rams win the toss and take the ball

Most teams defer to the second half but the boy genius will take the ball and try to steal early momentum. Their offense is their best unit and if they lose the toss they will be on the field first and my guess is McVay pulls a fast one and has the offense ready to get after it. The Rams didn't take the ball once this season when they won the toss. That changes Sunday.

2. The first commercial after kickoff will be a car commercial

We just won't know it until halfway through. Car commercials are often too basic or try too hard. This year feels like a try too hard moment for car companies. Funny from car companies is safe, too. Can't be too risque in 2019 as a car company.

3. Todd Gurley is dominant on the first drive

The Rams star back hasn't been anywhere near himself recently. He claims he is healthy but what we see doesn't show it. They have to prove he is going to be a threat so feeding Gurley is the only option. A couple of passes and slamming the rock with Gurley will set a tone for the Rams that Gurley is healthy. I don't know if he can hold up the whole game but making the Patriots account for him is a must.

4. James White has a better first half than second half

The same theory about Gurley applies to White. He is one of the most important players on the Patriots and he will have to be good in shaking loose fast. Aaron Donald is the most prolific pass rusher up the middle in all of football. White has to be the quick outlet. If Brady is getting hit the Patriots are going to lose. The safety valve is White and after the Patriots wear the Rams down they turn to their hammer back Sony Michel.

5. Brandin Cooks has one of the worst games of his season

If the Rams are going to beat the Patriots they will have to find other playmakers outside of their deep threat pass catcher. Cooks was very good during the regular season. He did a lot of the heavy lifting for the offense but not a lot of the scoring. Taking him away will force the rest of the Rams to show up. He's a former Patriots player going against the best unit on the opposing defense. He's in for a long day.

6. Maroon 5 will put on the worst Super Bowl halftime show since 2011

The pressure is getting to them. They canceled their media availability this week. They couldn't get in front of the microphone and answer questions? While I am thrilled for Travis Scott to be on this show Maroon 5 doesn't do it for anyone right now. Their songs are annoyingly repetitive and they don't have any surefire bangers. Short of Outkast showing up they are doomed and could be the worst halftime show in years.

7. Aaron Donald gets his lone sack in the first drive of the second half

Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia is a wizard. He and his linemen somehow held the best defense in the league for sacking the quarterback to zero sacks in the AFC championship game. In fact, the last time Brady was sacked more than once was early December against the Dolphins. I'm not foolish enough to believe they can keep Donald off Brady but I am confident they can keep Brady standing.

8. The refs let them play

The NFL will really be under the microscope if the officials aren't calling this one good. They can't miss any big calls and one of the ways to make sure they don't miss a big one is to not call soft penalties. Don't get me wrong, if Nickell Robey-Coleman blows someone else up there will be laundry. Small stuff would lead to a big play being marred by a penalty so it is best to let the game be physical.

9. The best and worst commercial will both be beer

If Bud Light is sticking with the knight and the medieval theme they could take last place. Budweiser is always good for a commercial that pulls at the heart strings. There are plenty of other beers trying to sneak into contention this year and they could easily fall flat compared to the market powerhouse of Bud. It is dangerous to try to pry the beer commercial crown away so it could end up awesome or terrible for another company.

10. A non-quarterback wins the MVP award

Obviously Tom Brady and Jared Goff are the huge favorites. But lets say the Patriots have a two score lead late in the second half, it could be Sony Michel time. If you believe the Rams are going to win you would think Todd Gurley would have a big day or maybe even C.J. Anderson. Von Miller had two forced fumbles and two and half sacks when he won. It doesn't seem crazy Donald could compile that if the Rams are having a great day. What if Stephon Gilmore made a huge play early and deflected a couple more passes? It is hard but it is doable.

11. Tom Brady nor Rob Gronkowski retire after the game

I am totally positive about Brady. Despite his skills diminishing a bit he still plays a high level and the team is still good. They might take a couple of weird losses in the regular season but in the postseason they're still a really tough out. Brady is getting a first round offensive lineman back (Isaiah Wynn was lost to injury in August), they have six picks in the top three rounds, and no really significant free agents outside of Trey Flowers. Gronk is beat down but with just one year left on his contract and some management of his snaps in the regular season it isn't too hard to see him grinding out just one more year.

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The Rockets may be the smartest guys in the room. Or the cheapest

The Rockets have their new head coach. Composite photo by Brandon Strange

On Wednesday afternoon, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news that the Rockets' coaching search had come to an end finally. The front office tabbed Mavericks assistant Stephen Silas as the successor to Mike D'Antoni, beating out former Rockets head coach Jeff Van Gundy and current Rockets assistant John Lucas.

Knee jerk reaction?

I'm not mad at it. I expected Jeff Van Gundy to be the next hire, but maybe that was just nostalgia clouding my judgment. Either way, the Silas hire should be viewed optimistically. He's been highly regarded for some time around the league as an inventive mind that comes from basketball pedigree and has worked with big-name guards in prior stops around the league. If the Rockets didn't grab him, it was only a matter of time before another team gave him a shot.

Now there are two very distinct ways to look at this hire:

The first is that the Rockets, in spite of being one of the last teams to fill their coaching vacancy, are the smartest kids in the room. Every team is looking for the next version of what the Celtics found in their current head coach, Brad Stevens; a young brilliant coach that just needed a team to give him a shot. Hired at 37 from the college ranks, Stevens endured one losing season (his first) and has since guided the Celtics to six playoff appearances, to include three conference finals appearances. Not bad, considering he was up against LeBron James for most of those.

That is what it looks like the Rockets are trying to go for. Now at 47, Silas probably won't be mistaken for a wunderkind, but compared to 69-year-old D'Antoni, he might as well be announcing his hire on Tik Tok. If it works out, the Rockets will have once again been one step ahead of the league with the hiring of their innovative new coach.

The other way to look at the Silas hire is a little less rosy.

While Silas is only 47, he's also been an assistant in the league since he was 27. The positive spin on his resume is that he's worked with star players the likes of Kemba Walker, LeBron James, and Stephen Curry. The reality is that he worked with them while they were very young in their careers, and worked on teams like the Cavaliers, Bobcats/Hornets, Wizards, and Warriors (when they were bad). Until the last two seasons working with Luka Doncic on the Mavericks, there hasn't been a lot of success following Silas. That's not necessarily an indictment since he was an assistant, but it's not exactly a sparkling pedigree.

So while this could be a brilliant hire, at the moment, it has all of the markings of the cheaper hire. As I've mentioned before, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has been quite vocal about the financial impact that COVID-19 has had on his portfolio. Clips and quotes moaning and groaning about losing money are not typically precursors to an owner gearing up to make a big financial investment in the front office of a sports team that he can't sell tickets for anyone to come see. If in fact, money factored in more than fit, it would make sense that the Rockets would forego a coach like Van Gundy, whose previous head coaching experience would automatically command a higher starting price. We'll, of course, have to wait and see what the actual contract figures are once released.

It could be one. It could be the other. It could be both. Hopefully it translates into wins either way.

One thing that's for certain though is that Silas needs to take some pointers from Russell Westbrook and James Harden before he steps out courtside in any more of those TJ Maxx suits, circa 2000. Big boy job means big boy suits.

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