By Elizabeth Nelson and Eddie Pepitone
SOME INITIAL OBSERVATIONS:
How does one really quantify the 2015 NFL season? Was it good? Sure! It had Brady, Brees, Beckham, Blake Bortles, and that’s just the B’s. It had the C’s as well: Charles Johnson and Charles Woodson, a small amount of Jamaal Charles, Cam and Carolina, and so very many Concussions. D is for Department of Defense funded flyovers. E Is for…Eli. Whatever. We’re not doing the whole alphabet.
Was it bad? Yeah! God, it was a fucking nightmare! The 2015 NFL season was a fathomless reservoir of un-reconcilable sadness. Anyone not thoroughly and comprehensively scarred by their childhood would need only to indulge this season as a second set of parents to birth wholesale traumas anew. Consider a random sampling: Blaine Gabbert became a starter again, Tom Coughlin was put out to pasture, the Miami Dolphins were manic depressive, the San Diego Chargers don’t exist anymore. Jesus. What does it all even mean? Who can live like this?
That’s the NFL. So sensationally atavistic, such a reckless miasma of brain pickling self-destruction. So very useful in papering over the intolerable, gnawing emptiness of late-period capitalism, as it ravenously sucks the very last marrow from the bones of our ruined dreams. In our hearts we wonder: who will throw the Hail Mary that snatches victory from the teeth of our awful culpability in world events? Who will stage the last minute drive against the embarrassing charade of democracy we are asked to endure every election cycle? Aaron Rodgers? Obviously. Still we carry on.
Our season recap and Super Bowl L preview starts here, division breakdown first, and playoff highlights and big game prediction to follow.
Washington Team: Any campaign that culminates with board certified asshole Dan Snyder’s team winning a division title should promptly and obviously be called into question (and one of us even roots for this franchise). Nevertheless, it was an unvarnished triumph for the NFL’s most overtly racist organization, improving their win total by five games and settling on corn-fed everyman Kirk Cousins as their QB of the future. This bubble can’t burst quick enough (and one of us actually roots for this franchise).
Philadelphia Eagles: Frightful. Whatever the future holds, it has been patently clear for some time that Chip Kelly is a transparent psychotic. As an NFL coach, that may or may not work in his favor going forward. Regardless, the 2015 season represents the full flowering of his Kurtz-like madness – seizing the personnel reins, trading away the bulk of a winning roster and replacing it with an arbitrary mélange of random detritus.
New York Giants: From their Week One collapse against the Cowboys, to the Dickensian clawhand of Jason Pierre-Paul, to the Last-Days-Of-Douglas-MacArthur misery of Tom Coughlin’s firing, there is very little that was not despairing about the 2015 New York Giants. Clearly the best squad in a blighted NFC East, this is a team which consistently parlayed their inherent advantages into nightmare scenarios. From the befuddling flummox of Tony Romo in the opener, to the sad defensive display against Drew Brees in New Orleans, to the eventual playoff knockout punch in Carolina, this was always a dynamic and dangerous group on the verge of flourishing. Can new coach Ben McAdoo bring them to new heights, despite sounding like a children’s cereal? I guess that’s why we play the games.
Dallas Cowboys: The wobbly fourth leg of a very shitty NFC East table, the Cowboys responded to the early loss of star QB Tony Romo by essentially shrugging off the season and milling aimlessly through their schedule as if doped to the tits on high grade opium. Apologists will bemoan the bad luck in losing Romo – a good to great player for certain – but this ignores the fact that Pittsburgh, Denver, Houston and Cincinnati all made the postseason starting multiple quarterbacks and Washington made the postseason starting Kirk Cousins. Further troubling the waters was the controversial signing of former Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, who having verifiably beaten the ever loving hell out of his ex-girlfriend, could not seem to stop protesting on social media that no one got HIS side of the assault. Because sometimes a 260-pound psychotic just gets so FRUSTRATED with his 110-pound sig-o. We’ve all been there – we know. In sum, not a good season in Jerry-world, plus which the window for the Romo era appears to be closing. The Cowboys’ leader is turning 36 and possesses a clavicle that snaps like a saltine every time a large man lands on it. This might be a very bad team for a very long time.
Minnesota Vikings: Under second-year coach Mike Zimmer the Vikes continued there successful rebuilding effort, with rising star Teddy Bridgewater and questionable disciplinarian Adrian Peterson forming the cornerstone of a surprise division champion. That led to a home playoff game against the Seahawks, the sort of casualty-laden, zero-sum, Russian Front conflict that can happen only in the NFL’s Great Lake states. Bless the Vikings for moving outdoors again, and fuck the Lions for looking askance at their natural geographic advantage. The Vikes eventually succumbed to Seattle only after kicker Blair Walsh narrowly missed a chip shot field goal, but ultimately both teams were destroyed by the exertion. In their next game, a week later, the Seahawks would be down 31-0 at half. Consider Minnesota contenders in 2016.
Green Bay Packers: One of the league’s flagship franchises and still one of its better teams, one day Hall-Of-Famer Aaron Rodgers and company struggled through an injury-plagued, roller coaster of a season and still ended up only an overtime loss away from the NFC Championship game. The takeaways were various – Jordy Nelson is difficult to replace, the “Eddie Lacy Diet” is not a great idea, and Rodgers can throw a Hail Mary on just about any play he chooses. They’ll be a factor for as long the quarterback remains the best run/pass threat North of Cam Newton.
Detroit Lions: It is difficult not to feel some sympathy for this team, playing in their bankrupt American wasteland and unable to manage even one championship during the Super Bowl era. Also, something about the franchise seems to make their best players retire: first Barry Sanders and now Calvin Johnson, arguably the two best Lions, walked away within shouting distance of their prime. Not everything here is terrible: coach Jim Caldwell is accomplished and respected, the defense is loaded with pass rushers and Matt Stafford is an appealingly swashbuckling field general. And yet everything here feels like an occasion to weep. Maybe it’s all of the lead in the air.
Chicago Bears: Now almost a full decade into his career as one of the NFL’s true unrepentant heels, Jay Cutler spent the 2015 season pouting and shrugging through his usual combination of stellar performances and inexplicable no-shows. The Bears were similarly all over the map, managing road wins against the formidable Chiefs and Packers, while simply saying “fuck it” in home losses to the woeful 49ers and the merely adequate Raiders. By some statistical metrics, Cutler had his best season to date, but at a certain point it has become clear that true greatness may be within his grasp, but isn’t really all that interesting to him. Coulda been Bill Hicks, ended up Norm MacDonald.
Carolina Panthers: The Panthers’ 2015 transformation from middling afterthought to thundering Leningrad-like industrial power has justifiably inspired horror and awe around the world. Cam Newton and his cohorts have mashed and blended their way through the league with mechanical efficiency, light on filigree but vested with a brutalist beauty all its own. All of their games should be played in Düsseldorf and scored by Wagner.
Atlanta Falcons: The 5-0 mirage that began Dan Quinn’s first year as head coach was largely attributable to the solid leadership of Matt Ryan at QB and the otherworldly talent of Julio Jones at WR. It took manchild offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan the first month of the season to figure out how to screw up a pretty good offense with a watered down version of his father’s scheme. America is built on nepotism – indeed it is the foundational lodestar of all we hold sacred – and nowhere is that ethic better reflected than in the NFL. Even still, the idea that Kyle Shanahan continues to come up in conversations as potential head coaching candidate is occult-like crazy.
New Orleans Saints: The Saints weren’t good this year, and a lot of times they weren’t even competitive, but they were rarely boring. Consider the alleged football game they staged against the Giants where Drew Brees threw for seven touchdowns and Eli Manning threw for six: it was like watching twenty-two guys play Frisbee golf following a steady week of binge-drinking absinthe – pure slapstick. The level of disinterest the Saints show in playing defense feels almost revolutionary. It’s possible they may not fully understand the rules of the sport. They intrigue.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tampa is a strange place in a strange state with a strange football franchise. Despite meaningful improvement on both sides of the ball and an impressive debut campaign from franchise QB Jameis Winston, the Bucs’ ownership elected to fire proven commodity Lovie Smith as head coach and turn the team over to a guy named Dirk. That’s outside-the-box thinking to be certain, if not the plot of a future Adam Sandler film. We’ll see how it turns out.
Arizona Cardinals: The best team in the league for long stretches of time during the 2015 season, the Cards ultimately proved a desert mirage when they evaporated in the playoffs against Carolina – and that’s a metaphor. It can be difficult to remember that Carson Palmer was the first pick in the draft all the way back in 2005, which makes him appreciably geriatric in NFL terms. But post-season jitters aside, he is essentially performing brilliantly long after his expiration date. Suffice it to say that this was the best, most balanced, most qualified team to win the big prize this year, and they are now sitting back in Scottsdale awaiting the result. (Jealous.)
Seattle Seahawks: After last year, we assumed that Russell Wilson and crew would appear in the championship game every year, like the 60’s UCLA Bruins, the 70’s Montreal Canadians, the 90’s Atlanta Braves, and the Clintons in perpetuity. And, despite a disappointing divisional playoff road loss to Carolina, that scenario feels no less far-fetched now than twelve months previous. What was technically a down year for these Puget Sound bruisers may well turn out to be the pivotal season in which they realized how good Russell Wilson can be. Faced in the stretch run with injuries to key skill position players Marshawn Lynch and Jimmy Graham, Wilson channeled his inner Joe Montana by throwing 19 touchdowns and zero interceptions in the final five regular season games. Like music in the 90’s, the NFL’s future runs through the Pacific Northwest. (Ugh.)
St. Louis/LA Rams: The Rams’ final season in St. Louis was a curious one. A team seemingly stacked with talent won a few impressive outings, including a sweep of divisional rival Seattle, but also failed to make the playoffs for the 11th consecutive year. It’s now again time to wonder if well-liked and highly-respected Rams head coach Jeff Fisher is actually good at his job. Everything about his comfortable affect and workmanlike mustache seems to suggest the team is in good hands- and yet with rare exception his leadership disappoints. Fisher’s first year as coach back in LA will be a telling one: failing in gentile St. Louis is one thing; fuck up in LA and you might just face the wrath of Lou Diamond Philips (?).
San Francisco 49ers: You might think Jim Harbaugh is a bag of dicks, and you may well be right. But firing great coaches is never a good idea, no matter how abrasive they might be, as evidenced by such retreads as George Allen, Tom Coughlin and Bill Belichick. When the Super Bowl-contending Niners ran off their head coach in a fit of pique following the 2014 season, and replaced him with a good-natured special teams coach in Jim Tomsula, they must have felt extremely good for about one second. Then the terror sets in: what have we done? Well, dudes, you fucked everything up sideways. Without Harbaugh’s guidance, one-time wunderkind Colin Kapernick was rendered a shell of his former self, and an offense high-powered under Harbaugh became eye-blistering to witness. It will be curious to see if deposed and mortified egomaniac Chip Kelly is able to patch this once potent offense back together. At least there is a new egomaniac in town.
New England Patriots: Brady and Belichick’s weird 2015 title defense really began in 2014, as the fallout from “Deflategate” dogged them through the offseason and added yet more fuel to the staggering rage and paranoia that has characterized their implacable dynasty. To be clear, “Deflategate” was absurd on its face, made the more asinine and moronic because it likely obscured far more meaningful and legitimate acts of malfeasance executed by the franchise. For example, who would be surprised if Bill Belichick his very own self had created the conditions for global warming in order to create a favorable microclimate around Gillette Stadium? What if owner Robert Kraft had singlehandedly set into motion the mortgage crisis of 2008, in order to punish the Giants, and indeed all mankind, for ruining their undefeated season? Would anyone be surprised? And yet, we discuss balls. So insane. Anyway, they lost this year, but you’d be a shade crazy to think they won’t eventually be getting “one for the thumb.” (Ugh.)
New York Jets: Long-time defensive coordinator and first time head coach Todd Bowles made the most of his initial year at the helm, turning Gang Green into a 10-win team with a formidable defense and an opportunistic offense, led by hirsute journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick. Though it required an esoteric trick of mathematics to actually miss the playoffs, this was a smart, disciplined team, whose consistent stewardship portends rare long term stability for a Jets franchise which has long been one of the NFL’s significant bipolar cases. To wit…
Buffalo Bills: When the Jets fired Rex Ryan after the 2014 season following five tumultuous years of modest triumph and frequent mortification, they couldn’t have assumed he would immediately bring his crazy town act to the divisional rival upstate. But that’s just what he did, and per specs this shit was nuts. Ryan is a solid defensive mind, a savvy media interlocutor and a middling personality cult – what remains unclear through all of the bluster and gastric bypass surgery is if he can actually coach. Nothing in 2015’s befuddling 7-9 campaign clarified this last point, as the team alternated between world beaters and also-rans, sometimes within the course of one half. While Tyrod Taylor may have emerged as a long-term solution at quarterback, all of the hyper-aggressive scheming on defense actually made them worse, and the offseason hiring of his constantly fired twin brother Rob as defensive coordinator cannot possibly portend good things. Going forward, they won’t be boring, but then again neither was the typhoid epidemic at Jamestown. Get inoculated, folks.
Miami Dolphins: Another team freighted with preseason hype, the atrocious Dolphins neglected to even do us the service of being interesting. With erstwhile franchise quarterback Ryan Tannehill expected to break out with a game-changing fourth season, the Dolphins instead the shit the bed in every conceivable way (which if you think about it, is a lot). Abandoning the running game and asking Tannehill to air it out, resulting in a first half start equal to the task of getting coach Joe Philbin fired. Interim coach Dan Campbell then lit a fire under the group and proceeded to run off some wins with a more physical approach, until that got boring too and the season just kind of fizzled out. Who could get excited about this team? Not even Don Shula. Not even actual dolphins, if there’s any of those left.
Cincinnati Bengals: With each passing year of regular season excellence and ensuing post-season catastrophe, it becomes more and more difficult to imagine the Bengals ever getting their playoff meds right in time to manage an actual Super Bowl run. This year, they had the Steelers packed and ready for elimination, only to indulge in an inexplicable, last minute penalty-filled crime spree, allowing their beaten rivals to magic the ball down the field for the winning kick. This franchise is a puzzle: they possess one of the league’s deepest and most talented rosters, and one of its best head coaches, but seem to be locked into cycle of self-negation reminiscent of your average Promise Keeper.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Make what you will of their Droog-like fan base, whose fearfully churlish Sunday descent on every sports bar from Albuquerque to Zanzibar chills the hearts of even slightly more well-adjusted NFL spectators – this was yet another impressive year for a franchise rightfully esteemed throughout the sporting world. The notion that the Steelers have had only three head coaches since 1969 – all of whom have won Super Bowls and appeared on multiple occasions – is perhaps the most impressive statistic in all of professional sports. Consider that board certified asshole Dan Snyder has cycled through EIGHT coaches in just a decade and a half and you get the gist of what makes one team consistently competitive and another darkly comedic. Coach Mike Tomlin, backed by a replenished defense, and arguably the league’s most dangerous QB/WR combo in Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, knocked on the door of another Super Bowl appearance in 2015, ultimately falling just short on the road at Denver. They appear primed to make the 2016-17 season their year.
Baltimore Ravens: Ozzie Newsome may be the league’s finest GM, and there is little doubt this team will shake off a screwy 2015 and be competitive again as soon as next season. That said, are you REALLY “Wacko For Flacco?” Honestly?
Cleveland Browns: It’s so easy to mock the Browns, and also pleasant to do so, since we are right to mock them. They are the NFL’s silly boy, always outdoing themselves in their comical one-team race to irrelevance. Other organizations wax and wane, flourish and flame out. No organization in football has managed to be so persistently befuddled as our plain-helmeted stepchild. Whether firing Bill Belichick or drafting Johnny Manziel in the first round, the folly is continuous.
Houston Texans: The nominal class of the AFC South sure didn’t look good for much of the season. A lot of that had to do with their situation under center, where competent journeyman Brian Hoyer battled for weeks against sinister greaser Ryan Mallet for control of the QB position. It was an epic test of wills, which Hoyer eventually prevailed in when Mallet started forgetting to actually fly to the games. That’s your division champ, right there. Still, this is a team with a good deal of talent and the best defensive player in the league in JJ Watt, who for obvious reasons is confined to a cage on non-game days. Side note: Star running back Arian Foster made a big public display of his atheism before the season, and promptly suffered a season-ending Achilles tear. On your knees, boys, on your knees.
Indianapolis Colts: Popular preseason favorites to reach the Super Bowl, the Colts were done in by injuries to their star quarterback Andrew Luck, who may also be their only truly good player. Laudably crazy team owner Jim Irsay presumably suggested something like purchasing one of Jeff Beck’s old guitars and starting it under center but instead they went with 40-something year-old Matt Hasslebeck. He played better than one would assume, but not well enough for the Colts to eke into the postseason. The point is: there is really nothing to do in Indianapolis. They should really give everyone their own prescription for soma or something.
Jacksonville Jaguars: That the 6-10 finish for the Jags feels like a notable triumph is testament to just how moribund this blighted miasma of an organization is. Blake Bortles slings the ball around with moxie, and any number of their several receivers named Allen or Alan or Allun provided pressure on the edges and gave opposing defenses something to think about for the first time since the shooting star that was David Garrard. So all and all, one solid step forward for Coach Gus Bradley and one solid step for mankind. But is there anything to do in Jacksonville? Well, it’s not exactly the Left Bank in 1920s, but the golf is good and just about everyone actually does have a prescription for something.
Tennessee Titans: They were 3-13, fired their coach mid-season and eventually garnered the league’s worst record and #1 overall draft choice. That sounds like a bad campaign, but context is everything. For example – what if we were to tell you that this team was entirely composed of emotionally compromised volunteer firemen who had never so much as touched a sports ball in any capacity until this year, because they preferred firefighting and crafts? Then you’d have to say this was a hell of a season these guys put together. One HELL of a season. Nice job, Titans.
Denver Broncos: Suffice it to say, there was real intrigue in watching this team piece together a conference champion out of defense, guile, and Peyton Manning’s papier-mâché arm. It is difficult to quantify exactly how old Peyton Manning is in football years, but league insiders whisper that he has not drawn an actual breath since Prince’s halftime show at Super Bowl XLI. But that’s true of a lot of us. We shall see.
Kansas City Chiefs: Tremendous outing for Andy Reid’s Chiefs, who started the season a hard luck 1-5, rallied to win their last ten regular season games before violating the Texans in the wildcard round and losing a competitive effort to the Patriots in the divisional playoffs. Reid has now been an officially great coach for two decades in the NFL, and never once managed to bring home the big prize. There are countless explanations for this phenomenon, mainly revolving around his time management and his mustache. The more likely explanation is the most discomfiting one: the emptiness is endless and cold as the clay. There is no rest for the ones god blessed. Everyone disappears, no matter who loves them. Still, we expect big things from the Chiefs next year!
Oakland/Vegas/LA Raiders: Freewheeling as ever, the Raiders don’t know where they’ll play next season and seem to be treating this as a casual detail, rather than something that probably requires some manner of prompt resolution. That’s cool, as is the roster assembled by the NFL’s most high profile indigents: David Carr, Amari Cooper, Khalil Mack and the others comprising their young core seem primed to do something big in the coming years, wherever that might be. Tex-Arkana? Delacroix? Tangiers? Keep ’em guessing Raiders, and ride on back to glory.
San Diego Chargers: This franchise seems intent on wasting the genius of Philip Rivers, who is certainly the best quarterback of the last twenty years with the least to show for it. Seemingly throwing 70 times a game to Danny Woodhead, Keenan Allen and a visibly fatigued Antonio Gates, Rivers managed to keep the team close in many games during their 4-12 campaign, an act of ostensible bravery that mirrored the senselessness of late period Viet Nam. This is a bad team, heading towards a lame duck year in a city that doesn’t really care whether they move to LA or not. Who wouldn’t pine for a situation like that? Fear not Chargers: soon the dancing will be over and we’ll all be dead.
The following playoff game communiqués between E. Pepitone & E. Nelson were secretly recorded by a surveillance apparatus bent on interdicting free expression. We publish them here for the first time, in the interests of promoting a more transparent future.
January 16, 2016: Excerpts from Pepitone and Nelson’s dialog during the New England/Kansas City divisional playoff.
Pepitone: I am rooting with my heart. I hate the Pats. Their reign has gone on too long!
Nelson: If Belichick loses his grip over the NFL, though, his next move will be to establish a 500-year caliphate in Syria.
Pepitone: Belichick could turn Syria around.
Nelson: Special replay official Mike Carey’s perception of reality is roughly equivalent to that of your average serious acidhead. He is almost never right.
Pepitone: I know, Mike Carey is pathetic. I picture Mike Carey doodling in a goth coloring book in between plays.
Nelson: I picture him asking, “Now which side is the end zone?” every three minutes. He seems very, very unfamiliar with the baseline tenets of the game of American football. Do you ever feel like casting Andy Reid: The Musical with David Crosby in the lead? Maybe I’ll pitch it to FX.
Pepitone: Great thought. Make sure there’s plenty of violence and you’re in.
30 Minutes Later
Pepitone: What a horrible fumble for the Chiefs. Might be the game.
Nelson: Yeah, that was bad.
Pepitone: Let’s see what Mike Carey has to say – if he’s not peaking.
Nelson: He’ll call high-sticking.
(Later the Chiefs score a touchdown and do not elect to go for a two-point conversion)
Pepitone: Should’ve gone for two! Dumb. David Crosby would have.
Nelson: He totally would have. And then he would have said, “I’ll also take two of whatever Mike Carey is having.”
Pepitone: Graham Nash would have settled for one.
January 16, 2016: Green Bay/Arizona Divisional Playoffs. Over text, Pepitone & Nelson parse the final quarter of the Packers-Cardinals classic division playoff matchup. Both parties are largely incoherent owing to “outside factors” and life stresses.
Pepitone: Did you just see what happened in this nuts game?
Nelson: Yeah, WTF? Can Rogers take this? Is Mike McCarthy the Eugene Landy of the Packers?
Pepitone: Speaking of Landy, did you see Love and Mercy?
Nelson: Yes, and I loved it!
Pepitone: I have to see it. Is it on Netflix?
Nelson: We paid $1.99 to watch it on Amazon. It’s –
(Aaron Rodgers throws Hail Mary to Jeff Janis for a touchdown in the final seconds of the game and forces overtime)
THAT WAS THE BEST PLAY IN THE HISTORY OF NFL FOOTBALL
Pepitone: I don’t believe what I saw. This is unfucking real.
Nelson: Bring in Mike Carey, I guess.
Pepitone: Carey just committed suicide.
January 24, 2016: NE Patriots vs. The Denver Broncos. Nelson favors the Patriots, Pepitone the Broncos:
Pepitone: Let the games begin!
(Owen Daniels scores a touchdown for Denver)
Pepitone: That was too easy.
Nelson: This must be “deflating” for New England. I still think the Patriots can do this!
Pepitone: Absolutely. So early. Belichick is IBM’s Watson of the NFL.
Nelson: I would like to see Belichick make a record with Bob Dylan.
Pepitone: Sidelines would be the title. The hit singles include: “Down by the Water Cooler”, “Where’s My Tight End” and “Concussion Blues”.
Pepitone: Peyton throws more floaters than a carny.
Nelson: Watching Manning play at this point is like watching late career Muhammad Ali except that Manning is in no way inspiring.
Pepitone: Brady getting hit all day!
Nelson: Yeah, what is going on with him? Is he no longer handsome?
Pepitone: I know he changed soaps recently!
Nelson: That’s probably it. What do you think Eli Manning is up to today?
Pepitone: Begging for offensive and defensive help in Grand Central Station.
Nelson: Watching Peyton scramble was like seeing a hobo on cough medicine break into a light jog.
Pepitone: Watching Peyton get sacked is like watching my 82-year-old dad trying to make it up the stairs! By the way, the Denver defense has neutralized Edelman and Amendola all day!
Nelson: Yeah, Denver has those guys locked down. But they shouldn’t hit them in the head with their helmets.
Pepitone: Oh, you old softie.
(The Games Ends Sometime Later)
January 24, 2016: Excerpts from Pepitone and Nelson’s dialog during the first half of Carolina’s demolition of Arizona during the NFC Championship Game. Nelson is rooting hard for the Cardinals to win and Pepitone is convinced the Panthers have it nailed shut.
Nelson: I think you’re insane for gainsaying the sun-dappled retirement communities of Scottsdale. Carson Palmer is going to be living in one of them soon, but first: victory.
Pepitone: He might be “retired” by the Panthers tonight.
Nelson: Bruce Arians has the insouciant lawlessness of an aging beatnik.
Pepitone: Carson Palmer looks like Eva Gardner’s last days.
Nelson: Arians has more tricks in his bag than a Coney Island gypsy. Carolina is not prepared.
Pepitone: Panthers D is a nasty bit of work. Cam’s going to give a lot of balls to a lot of kids tonight.
Nelson: That seems right. The Panthers are bullies. Extremism in the face of tyranny is no vice. Do you think that Cardinals fans briefly pondered calling themselves “Arians Nation”?
Pepitone: I’m sure that group exists.
Nelson: In Scottsdale? Most assuredly.
Pepitone: Scottsdale’s indie theatre is still showing Gunga Din. Their John Wayne festival hasn’t stopped running since the McCarthy hearings.
(Cam Newton runs in a touchdown and gives the football to a child in the stands)
Pepitone: Arians is going to have to read the team Ginsberg’s “Howl” at the half.
Nelson: Mike Carey will be tripping face during that reading.
A Man’s Will And Testimony: The Last Confessions of E. Pepitone before Super Bowl L. (As told to E. Nelson):
Okay, now, yeah, of course, well one thing about the Super Bowl – I hate that it’s two weeks to the Super Bowl after the divisional playoffs. I just hate it because the media stuff is all just awful. I guess they do it for economic reasons – they make a lot of money I would imagine, the host city and just the NFL in general. But it’s pure, utter fluff. I only turn on the TV at kickoff on the day of the Super Bowl. I hate all the hype. It never lives up to the buildup. That said, the Super Bowls seem to have gotten better. Last year was unbelievable the way the fucking Seahawks blew that game. That was an unbelievable move by Pete Carroll not to run Marshawn Lynch.
For Super Bowl L, I think Carolina is a big favorite in my head. What’s the line? My guess is the line is Carolina by at least 3.5. I have to say I was impressed by the way Denver got to Brady, and I didn’t expect it because Brady is such the master of getting rid of the ball but they fucking batted him around. But I think if you go Newton against Manning, I gotta like Newton. Peyton doesn’t seem to move as well, as we talked about. His movement is a bit lumbering.
But that said, he also impressed me with some of the drives he did against the Patriots – he didn’t play a terrible game, right? I was like, “oh, okay!” Because I always get excited about the new young guys – I thought the new Denver guy Brock Osweiler looked really good. But I would say that Manning does look pretty good!
But to me Carolina’s defense is pretty badass. But Denver’s D is good. But Carolina’s offense is better by at least a head. I think they’re gonna win. There’s a potential blowout there, but Denver’s D is good – I think it’s gonna at least be a touchdown – I was thinking about if I was gonna bet on this… what the hell would I bet? I know I would lose.
I always root for the underdog. I’m rooting for Denver. I would love Denver to win. I find that teams that everyone is rooting against always play really good. I think Demaryius Thomas might have a big game. He didn’t look too good against New England, so he might have a big game.
I hope Peyton retires if he wins. It would be cool to see him go out with the Super Bowl.
My favorite Super Bowl had to be when the Giants won their first one, which was against Buffalo, I believe, and the Scott Norwood miss. I’ll never forget it – I was living in Astoria and I had a roommate and we smoked so much marijuana during that game. That was their first Super Bowl right?[1. Ed. note: No.]
Jeff Hosteteler won that Super Bowl for Phil Simms, who was injured. Mike Carey was just a young kid during that Super Bowl.
My emotions short-circuited. I didn’t feel anything after that championship. And then it kind of slowly set in. I think one of the great things about your team winning the championship is reading all of the coverage the day after. I save the headlines of the New York Post and the Daily News – I always have tears in my eyes. It’s like getting a rose on The Bachelor.
SUPER BOWL L PREDICTIONS:
NELSON: Carolina: 36; Denver: 10; America: A trillion; Mike Carey: Ice cream emoji
PEPITONE: I like the Broncos in a big upset, 23-20, as Newton falls apart due to a relentless pass rush and Ron Rivera has a couple of brain locks going for it on 4th and 23 a couple of times! Mike Carey will join the Shining Path Guerillas in the mountains of Peru overturning the latest coup!
Elizabeth fronts the acclaimed rock band the Paranoid Style. Her writing has also appeared in Stereogum, NPR, the Stranger, the Washington Post and a whole bunch of others she is currently omitting for the sake of convenience.
Eddie is a stand up comedian, actor and writer suffering from trying to change the world through dark socially conscious comedy who lets the man have it right between the eyes. Unfortunately he’s addicted to the world of bread and circuses: sports. Seen on many TV shows and movies. Just look it up, peasants.