With fall rolling into winter, sports fans are increasingly pointing their attention in one direction: the Super Bowl. Following a pretty tumultuous 2020, all eyes will be on this sporting mega event for a little escapism.
As the Super Bowl attracts increasingly bigger half-time acts, debuts of film and video game trailers and hours and hours of media speculation, it’s come to transcend sports to become a cultural event in its own right.
Super Bowl LIV saw AFC champs the Kansas City Chiefs take down the NFC’s San Francisco 49ers by 31 – 20, bringing home the silverware for the first time since Super Bowl IV all the way back in 1970.
The game saw Chiefs quarterback named Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Award after he saw through 26 of 42 passes, gaining 286 yards, and bag two touchdowns and two intercepts, not to mention his electrifying 29 yard rush to put another touchdown on the Chief’s side of the scoreboard.
For those less interested in the game and more in it for the spectacle, half time saw epic performances from global superstars Shakira and Jennifer Lopez. From the chaos of late 2020, the game already looks like halcyon days.
– A different Super Bowl for 2021
Expect Super Bowl LV to have a very different feel and significance for many spectators. It will no doubt be a high point for many after a turbulent year.
The game will be played at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. It had been planned for Los Angeles, but the game was awarded for Tampa when LA’s game was moved from 2021 to 2022.
The Weeknd will perform the half time show – a change of pace for the mid-show entertainment. The whole thing will be broadcast by CBS, as well as streamed through the network’s All Access app (it was originally going to be shown on NBC, but the networks swapped years so that the latter could have both the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics in the same year.
Inevitably, with the NFL season more than half done, attention is beginning to turn to the Super Bowl odds.
Last year’s winners the Kansas City Chiefs are widely picked as the favorites, attracting odds of 7-1. The runners up, the San Francisco 49ers, aren’t too far behind them, though, with 8-1 odds.
Those two teams’ prospects are well understood, however. Let’s take a dive on some of the other teams in with a solid chance of pulling a Super Bowl win out of the hat.
– Mounting pressure
In the AFC, the Baltimore Ravens will be feeling the pressure ratchet up. Outside last year’s finalist teams, they’re one of the favourites for making it to the big game, if not for taking a win.
The Baltimore Ravens are just not built like their competitors. They have an incredibly strong defense, and an overall roster that’s been invigorated by incoming players such as Calais Campbell and, of course, Lamar Jackson.
They’ll be an interesting team to watch, however, because Jackson really is the axis around which the Ravens’ Super Bowl hopes revolve. They need him to be that double threat, not just running but also throwing, inside and outside the pocket.
The team hasn’t been running well, and Jackson has work to do on throwing the ball down the field. With Ronnie Stanley down for the count for the rest of the season they’re without one of the best left tackles in the NFL.
That’s a lot of pressure being brought to bear on the running game and Lamar Jackson.
So the Ravens still have a strong shot at making the Super Bowl, but their window to capitalize on it is closing.
Another strong contender on the AFC side is the Pittsburgh Steelers. They had an incredible streak of wins through the first half of the season. If they can fend off the Ravens in the (now postponed) upcoming game, they have a very real shot at going all the way.
On the NFC side of the equation, the New Orleans Saints are one to watch as the Super Bowl creeps closer. They’ve got an older quarterback in Drew Brees and pundits are questioning where they’ll go when he finally taps out.
This could be Brees’ last hurrah, and with speculation that there’s trouble brewing down in New Orleans he’ll be looking to prove the naysayers wrong and go out on a high.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are looking interesting, too. They have Tom Brady; they have Antonio Brown in for a year or two and looking to make a splash. They’re a balanced team, working well on either side of the ball, and bringing in Brown signals that they’re deadly serious about a big run on the Super Bowl.
The Buccaneers aren’t attracting the strongest odds, but for fans looking for a slightly more outsider bet they’re worth a look.
Of course, with all the best analysis and punditry in the world, if 2020 has shown the world anything it’s that they should expect the unexpected. There’s still time in this season for a wild card or three, and no-one should be counting their chickens yet.