Category Archives: NFL

NFL Season Wrap-Up

By Kevin York

Well, that’s it. The NFL season is over – 512 regular season games, 10 playoff games and then the Super Bowl. We were along for the entire ride, from predicting the records for all 32 teams to a series of posts leading up to and following the Super Bowl. Now it’s time to lay this football season to rest.

This doesn’t mean we’re going to stop talking football until August. That’s just not possible since it’s the favorite sport of a majority of The Couchletes; in fact, this week Ryan will be publishing a post on the under appreciation of Frank Gore. Laying the season to rest just means we won’t be talking about it quite as much as we now move on to focus more on sports like basketball, baseball and even golf and soccer…at least until we start talking about the NFL Draft (and until I start talking about all the changes the Packers need to make next year, a post that will probably come sooner rather than later).

To officially wrap up this season, I thought I’d highlight some of our favorite posts from this past football season, along with a few original editor’s comments. Enjoy!

Dear Kevin (September 11, 2012)
One of the few posts that Rahul has written, this one led to a vicious and angry response from me. What can I say? I don’t really take Packers losses well. Or the trash talk that comes from friends after a Packers loss.

Dear Roger Goodell (September 25, 2012)
A classic. The post that single handedly brought back the ‘real’ refs. At least I’ll continue to tell myself that for years. This post also happens to be The Couchletes’ all time most viewed post.

The Seattle Seahawks: Top of the League or Overrated? (October 17, 2012)
Well…turns out I was wrong on this one. The Seahawks ended up being one of the top teams in the league. In my defense, I was still bitter about the loss win loss the Packers suffered in Seattle when I wrote the post.

Are We Seeing the Real Jim Harbaugh Emerge? (November 27, 2012)
I got some healthy criticism for this one, largely from my fellow Couchletes. Yes, I’m pretty critical of Jim Harbaugh, but I’ve been hearing more and more that others aren’t fans of his either. I think I just got there sooner than others.

The Evolution of the NFL Cornerback (January 11, 2013)
A good post by Ryan about a subject that seems to be overlooked by many. The best way to combat some of these high powered passing offenses is to ‘grow’ cornerbacks in a different way. Pun intended (you’ll get the pun after you read the post).

And in case you missed any of them, here are the awards we handed out recognizing the top players and coaches of the NFL season:

  • The “official” Couchletes’ awards. Our choices for MVP, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Offensive Rookie of the Year, Defensive Rookie of the Year and Coach of the Year.
  • A division by division analysis of the top players of the year and preview to the Couchletes’ awards.
  • My 2012 All Pro team

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york
You can contact Kevin at

In Case You Missed It: The Couchletes on the Super Bowl

By Kevin York

The Super Bowl is over and I never wrote much in the aftermath of the game. Nothing about my thoughts on the game or my reaction to play calling. I decided to leave that to the Niner fans on staff here. I’m not going to write a recap of the game now, but as I thought about it, I realized we had some good posts leading up to the game, and also a couple following it, so I decided to compile all of them in one place. Just in case you missed any. To give you something new, I’m including a few editor’s thoughts on each post.

The Ray Lewis Double Standard – The Ray-Ray
Ok, so this one wasn’t posted directly before the Super Bowl. To be honest, I didn’t think the Ravens had a snowball’s chance in hell of getting there (past both Denver and New England) so I posted it earlier to make sure it was up before Baltimore got eliminated. I was wrong on that. But, as the Ravens went deeper into the playoffs, more of the mainstream media followed my lead and started bringing up Lewis’ shadowy past. They saw my post, obviously.

Super Bowl XLVII Prop Bets
Matt’s first post on The Couchletes was a good one. As he shared in a later follow-up post, he ended up going one for four on his prop bets. I have a feeling a lot of people lost out on those this year though given how crazy the game played out.

The Best Offensive Line Story of the Year: The Up and Down Tale of Bryant McKinnie
McKinnie had a solid game, helping keep Joe Flacco pretty clean for the duration of the Super Bowl, except for that one play where McKinnie got caught looking inside helping on a double team and Ahmed Brooks ran right outside of him and sacked Flacco for a considerable loss. Other than that, he had a pretty good game.

The Passing of the Torch?
I ended this post saying Willis isn’t performing in Ray Lewis territory at this stage of his career; but in the Super Bowl, although his Niners lost, Willis outplayed Lewis.

The Couchletes’ Super Bowl Picks
Mark and I both correctly picked the Ravens to win the game, although neither of us got the final score, but I was close  in picking a three point win. Got the margin right at least. I was dead wrong on my MPV though picking Ray Rice. Big miss. I over thought it. Mark was correct in choosing Joe Flacco though. Kind of…

Super Bowl Media Day (Next year we’ll be there)
I stand by my statement. Next year we’ll be there.

Super Regrets
Monday was a tough day for San Francisco fans and Matt pretty accurately captured the thoughts that I heard from most Niner fans the day after a rough loss.

So God made an Ad Man.
A hilarious post from Mark telling the story of him watching the Super Bowl for the commercials and providing his thoughts on the best and worst.

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york
You can contact Kevin at

The Future of the National Football League

By Alton Beermann

It was clear from watching the NFL this season that certain trends and league norms were popping up and changing the way the league operates and functions. From the new type of quarterback who can run and throw, the explosion of talent in the NFC West, to the extreme number of passing attempts per game, and ridiculous fines for violent hits, the NFL is evolving yet again.

Trend 1: There’s a new breed of NFL QB
They’re young, they’re fast, and they have the innate ability to be great on-field decision-makers. Between RG3, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton, these guys all have HUGE arms. Not only that, but they have an incredible ability to extend the play and find the open man by deftly dodging defenders while they stretch for the first down or end zone. In NFL history there have never been so many young prolific quarterbacks who are quickly becoming the league staple for greatness, scratching and clawing to reach the levels of a Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. Clearly, they’re not at the elite level yet, but they are definitely changing the scope of the game.

Photo Credit: (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Photo Credit: (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The way that current trends are going, your typical pocket passers may be a thing of the past. Many people say that this new QB prototype is a fad that can and will be figured out. Well, I think not. The originator of this type of quarterback is Hall of Famer Steve Young. He was clearly in the pocket much more than all of these young guns but he made defenders miss and what would look like a sack would turn into a 30-yard gain.

What these players have in common and what separates them from someone like a Mike Vick is their pass first, run second mentality and their solid decision-making even while being so new to the league. Cam is the only one who hasn’t laced up in the playoffs and, while he does throw a lot of interceptions, he has made himself known as an exciting player around the league. Those of you who’ve had him on your fantasy football team know this to be true.

One could bring up the point that Joe Flacco did just take over the playoffs on his way to becoming Super Bowl MVP; however, the NFL is changing and I’m not too certain players like him are going to be looked at the same way in future drafts. Although these new quarterbacks are taking the league by storm there have been some other QBs of late who almost fit this speed and gunslinger mold. The Steeler’s Ben Roethlisberger may not have the blazing speed but he does extend plays and escapes pressure unlike a lot of players out there. Andrew luck is right there with him and I legitimately think he is Big Ben reincarnated. Luck and Roethlisberger are the new pocket passers, while RG3, Cam, Wilson and Kap are an entirely new breed of passer.

This quarterback type is widely hated on and is disputed as being a “fad” or just engaging in a “trendy” style of play because of the pistol formation and read options they run. When you have a guy who can run by you and throw over you, why not employ the read option? The NFL is an ever-evolving creature and this is part of the process. So five years from now when everyone is trying to get quarterbacks like this new breed and your standard Dan Marino pocket passer is fading out you can refer to this article and thank me for letting you know ahead of time. I’m not saying pocket passers will ever go away completely, but you will see more and more Kaepernicking, RG3ing and Superman in the future.

Trend 2: The NFC West will be the best
Watch out NFL, there’s a new division in town. Maybe consistently losing teams and high first round picks do pay off? With the exception of the Cardinals’ run four years ago with old man Warner, the NFC West had been a joke for the better part of a decade. Now the Niners, “Seagulls,” and Ram’s could all make the playoffs next year. With defense and good coaching being a strong suit in this division, look for the NFC West to dominate in coming years.

Trend 3: Pass first. Run never
Largely to do with rule changes and horrendous secondary play (See Rahim Moore and Chris Culliver this playoffs), the NFL is developing into a pass only league. The teams that were more balanced did have more success deeper into the season, but when quarterbacks like Stafford and Brees are having 50-plus attempt games on a regular basis, and are successful, it’s hard to argue with passing the ball a lot. Running for those teams consists of dumping the ball off to a back coming out of the backfield or employing a screen play. Fullbacks are for the most part, a completely extinct beast and it was almost an anomaly to see two great fullbacks who essentially only block out of the backfield play in this year’s Super Bowl. Look for Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster to get their carries but I don’t see many teams changing as long as quarterbacks and receivers have the advantages over pass defenders.

Trend 4: Eventually we’re going to be watching flag football
With big hits being limited, it’s compromising the epically violent sport. In boxing, competitors hit each other in the head, face and body repeatedly and yet people turn a blind eye to it. Extreme sport athletes break limbs and risk their lives for their sport. These NFL athletes have trained their bodies to give and accept big hits. I think the NFL is becoming over-zealous with fines and suspensions on some players. I am all about player safety and protection against concussions, but there comes a point in time when these players know the risks and dangers they face. I don’t mean to sound insensitive but these guys are making millions of dollars. Let them play. How would Ronnie Lott and Lawrence Taylor feel about getting fined for making big plays and dominating their opponents so much that they were feared? I can’t shake the feeling that preaching better technology and tackling is what the NFL needs, not fines and suspensions.

Photo Credit: (Jared Wickerham / Getty Images)

Photo Credit: (Jared Wickerham / Getty Images)

Trend 5: America’s Sport
Football has clearly taken the place of baseball in the U.S., and that’s nothing new, but with your average fan thinking they are a football guru and ESPN’s year-round coverage of Tim Tebow, everyone from that homeless guy on the corner to your grandma can now call themselves a fan at one level or another. My point is everyone can find something to relate to in football and it is one of the bright parts in American society. The sport of football is transcendent and preaches hard work, dedication and a kind of showmanship and confidence, which essentially are the values of this country. Football is on an extreme national stage and has such great storylines that it benefits both those who play the game and the fans who love it. Our economy might plummet off the face of the earth but the sport of football won’t.

By Alton Beermann
Follow Alton on Twitter at @altonbeermann
You can contact Alton at

So God made an Ad Man.

By Mark Gaspar

While many of you sat in a sweaty and overcrowded living room to watch the Super Bowl with your friends, I – clothed in my favorite shark skin suit – sat aloft on the 52nd floor of a Madison Avenue office building. While sipping a 12 year-old scotch, I looked down from my perch – both literally and figuratively –on all the plebian mouth breathers with disdain, and a little bit of pity.

“Yes, I pity them” I thought as I cozied up with my favorite albino cat in a cold, unfeeling mid-century modern chair. But I also love them, those out-of-shape puppets who are, this very moment covered in fried chicken grease, readily opening their feebile and facile minds to the corporate suggestions of the cabal with whom I currently sit. “My God” I whispered, “they make it all so easy. Like shooting fish in a barrel.” We all laughed our best and most full-throated laugh as we watched a wall of television screens and calmly snorted caviar off the stomachs of immaculately hairless models imported from Romania.

As the game began our notions were reinforced. Ball shots, large breasts, promises of adventure… the tried and true. There were a few hiccups. Those bastards at Audi gave us something comfortable yet subversive.

And GoDaddy actually presented something that was creative and strategic.

“Holy balls” cried one senior executive next to me “did they just do something that made sense?”

Those were but tiny bumps, for we could still forecast the USA Today top ten commercials. Surely Doritos’ “Goat” and the even more asinine “men dressing up” would be number one and two. Such stupidity. Such meaninglessness. This… THIS is what America wants… nay… NEEDS! Ah the beauty of crowdsourcing. Give these dunces enough rope and they’ll hang the whole populace.

But then something horrible happened. In the third quarter, just after we engineered the power outage (look we’re sorry, but we spent a ton of time on those CBS promos and we really thought you’d enjoy them) a television spot came on and it rocked me to my core.


I knew they couldn’t be trusted. I mean for God’s sake it made me… FEEL something. It made me THINK about something. Two of my brethren died out of shock. After all, if the mindless horde is taught to think, to feel, to laugh at more than a guy getting hit in the junk then they’ll start to rebel. They’ll start demanding more. We’ll have to work harder.

I went to steady myself with a long slug from my glass only to notice I was sweating. Sweating right through my impossibly tailored suit. Shit. Do you know how expensive it is to dry clean shark skin?

As my forehead dried I knew I had to do one of two things. I could change. I could push myself to come up with better material, respect my audience, and ignore the trapping of previous success. Or, I could ignore everything, turn on Netflix and watch “House of Cards.” And really, when I saw it like that… it all made so much sense.

Man that Kevin Spacey is a good actor.

Other winners and losers:



All of the Black Crown!

By Mark Gaspar.
Follow Mark on Twitter at @markgaspar
You can contact Mark at

Super Regrets

By Matt Ginn

I wanted to post something about the Super Bowl, the way a thing like sports can impact our lives so completely, can make me pulse with restrained frustration and excitement. But because of the adrenaline hangover I’m almost at a loss for words.

My team should be the Super Bowl champion right now. If I was told before the game that the 49ers would have four shots from inside the ten to take the lead with two minutes left, I would have been confident that Greg Roman would call a play that would succeed. It would have been nice to see a different call on third down, though the QB counter they called on the almost-delay-of-game sure looked like it would have been successful had they gotten the play off before the timeout/delay. It would have been nice to see the clear helmet to helmet hit on a defenseless Crabtree be called on third down, or the toss-up of a holding call on fourth down be called, but that’s just sour grapes because my team didn’t come through.

Ultimately, two years ago this team had worst-coach-ever Mike Singletary as its head coach, a completely ruined Alex Smith as the starting QB and an under-performing top 10 pick in Michael Crabtree. After watching Harbaugh and his staff run this team for two years, Alex Smith played the best football of his life and still has been significantly outplayed by a 25 year old who makes beautiful down field throws and can run 100MPH. Crabtree has blossomed into a guy with great moves, better than ever separation, and solid hands, hopefully destined to be a 1,000 yard receiver for years to come. The defense, long a bright spot on a mediocre team, has stayed consistently capable of performing at an elite level.

Things are looking up. Even if this game didn’t go their way, the 49ers are poised to be successful for a long time. Management has shown great ability at drafting well (AJ Jenkins aside) and they should be able to replace some of our aging starters over the next few years with smart picks. Our two coordinators will be around for another year at least, most of our starters are already signed and while the competition looks to be getting stronger in the NFC West, it’s hard to say the 49ers won’t still be the favorites next year.

Looking back at the last decade of my 49ers fandom, I know that they are in the best position to succeed since Eddie D was bribing Louisiana bureaucrats for riverboat gaming rights, but knowing that doesn’t make this sting any less.

Oh well, there’s always next year!

UPDATE: I went 1 out of 4 on my prop bets. I successfully picked the first quarter as the lowest scoring quarter, unfortunately I had bet on it to be the highest scoring quarter. Interesting to see that had I gone with my gut and bet the third quarter it would have won the bet. Flacco didn’t thank anybody during his MVP speech so that was a loss as well, and the 49ers did not cover the spread. The Ravens led by 22 at one point so my largest lead of the game prop bet paid.

Total Wagered $350

Total Payout (including stake) $215

Total won/lost ($135)

By Matt Ginn
Follow Matt on twitter at @mattginn

Super Bowl Media Day (Next year we’ll be there)

By Kevin York

Every year during the week leading up to the Super Bowl, one day is dedicated to media coverage of the game and the two teams participating in it. This day has come to be known as Media Day. On that day, media from around the world descend on the Super Bowl’s host city. Many of the reporters attending Media Day are from outlets that haven’t covered the NFL at all during the regular season or the preceding postseason games, which can lead to a circus of crazy antics and even crazier questions. That’s bound to happen when:

1. Reporters unknowledgeable on the two Super Bowl teams, heck, unknowledgeable on football in general, are assigned to cover the Super Bowl.


2. Bench players and role players, unaccustomed to media attention, find themselves suddenly with a microphone and camera in front of their face.

Unsurprisingly, Media Day typically generates its own wave of story angles (Chris Culliver, remember that time in 2013 when you outed yourself as a bigot?). I mean, that’s what happens when uninformed reporters are given a platform for asking stupid questions and when bench players are given a platform to finally be noticed for something.

Ryan and I were talking about Media Day earlier this week, wondering how the hell some of these “reporters” get passes for Media Day. Here’s a sampling of some of the questions that have been asked at Media Day over the years. Remember, this is just a small sampling of the dumbest, weirdest and most bizarre questions asked by these professional members of the media given a press pass.

  • At Super Bowl XLIII, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was asked, “Who has the better hair, you or Steelers safety Tony (sic) Polamalu?” Yes, that’s right. The Access Hollywood reporter called Troy Polamalu by the wrong first name.
  • At Super Bowl XXIII, San Francisco 49ers quarterback was asked, “So why do they call you Boomer?” Montana’s 49ers were playing the Cincinnati Bengals, quarterbacked by Boomer Esiason. A reporter actually mixed the two up, since they look so much alike. Wait, they actually look nothing alike. If, you know, you’ve watched any of their games and have actually seen them before.
  • At Super Bowl XXXIV, St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner was asked, “Do you believe in voodoo, and can I have a lock of your hair?”
  • At Super Bowl XXVII, Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith was asked, “What are you going to wear in the game Sunday?”
  • At Super Bowl XXXII, Denver Broncos fullback Detron Smith was asked, “What size panties do you think you’d wear?”
  • At Super Bowl XXXIV, St. Louis Rams offensive tackle Orlando Pace was asked, “After the game, in the shower, what’s your favorite bar of soap?”
  • At Super Bowl XXXIII, Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway was asked, “Are you going to listen to Stevie Wonder perform at halftime?”

Kind of astonishing, huh? Hard hitting journalism, right there. That’s what that is…

Given how much time and space these “reporters” waste on Media Day, Ryan asked, why can’t we go? Good question. Why couldn’t we? Our writing, our perspective, our football knowledge is better than at least half the people that receive passes to Media Day. It’s not just ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Fox and CBS there.

So we’ve made a goal. Next year The Couchletes will be at Media Day for Super Bowl XLVIII in New York/New Jersey. It’s going to happen.

All time dumbest Super Bowl questions sourced from Sports Illustrated.

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york
You can contact Kevin at

The Couchletes’ Super Bowl Picks

We’re just two days away from the big game, and while we’ve published some good posts earlier in the week to get ready, we think it’s time to get down to it now. Who do we think will win? We’re going to tell you, at least each of our “experts” individually will.

49ers, 31-24
“Dual threat Quarterback Colin Kapernick will have a big day through the air and on the ground but workhorse Frank Gore steals the show as the 49ers power over Ray Lewis and an Raven’s elderly defense.”
MVP: Frank “the inconvenient truth” Gore

49ers, 31-28
“Both defenses are going to limit the running game, with extra men on Kap. David Akers puts them ahead with a field goal to redeem his roller coaster of a season, but way early in the game cause I don’t think I can handle it if it’s down to the wire and we *ahem* and the Niners maintain their narrow lead to win; and buses will burn in the Mission District.”
MVP: Frank Gore. Michael Oher still known as “dude from that Sandra Bullock movie?” for one more year.

Ravens, 27-24
“Given how the Niners secondary has been exposed lately, conventional wisdom would say a Ravens win would mean Joe Flacco tore them apart a bit; however, while Flacco will get his opportunities through the air, the threat of his passing attack will open things up for the Baltimore run game, which leads to my MVP…”
MVP: Ray Rice

Ravens, 35-17
“The Ravens will have the edge due to their reliance on natural remedies. It will be close for the first half but when Ray Lewis passes out Deer Antler, Unicorn Blood, and Cat Paws during half-time it will give them the boost they need to keep the 49ers explosive offense in check.”
MVP: Blue Ivy Carter has her first nationally-televised performance. It brings down the house when she does a three way mashup of Beyonce’s “Survivior” Jay-Z’s “99 problems” and Dre’s “Bitches Ain’t Shit.”

I also think Joe Flacco will play quite well.

49ers, 31-24
“Harbaugh the younger and his coordinators craft an offensive game plan that is too much for Flacco, the Ravens and Harbaugh the elder to overcome. 49ers defense gives up a late touchdown to make the final score closer than the game actually was.”
MVP: Kaepernick 275 yards passing, 50 yards rushing 3 total TDs. (And hopefully thanks God during the speech)

49ers, 28-24
“Look for the Smith brothers to knock Flacco out of this elite conversation.”
MVP: Colin Kaepernick

49ers, 27-17
“The Ravens will be banking on the read option being a main go-to, but Kaepernick is going to pick apart a secondary that’s cheating up with its safties. And when the Ravens are looking pass, Frank Gore is going to run well enough to open up the pass. The name of the game is keeping the Ravens honest and the Niners will do just that in a tight game at the half that they open up in the late third quarter.”
MVP: Colin Kaepernick

So the Niners fans pick the Niners to win and the two non-Niners fans pick the Ravens…

The Passing of the Torch?

By Kevin York

Photo Credit: (Cary Edmondson/USA Today Sports)

Photo Credit: (Cary Edmondson/USA Today Sports)

The past two weeks have been full of Super Bowl story angles on the Harbaughs, Ravens, 49ers and various members of each team. Lost amid all the hype surrounding Ray Lewis’ impending retirement and the crowning of wonderkind of the moment, Colin Kaepernick, as the league’s next great quarterback is a story that, frankly, I’m surprised I haven’t heard much about. It’s the story of the meeting of two inside linebackers, one already established as a Hall of Fame shoo in, potentially the best linebacker of all time, and the other, a promising, young player that reminds many of the former.

I’m talking about Ray Lewis and Patrick Willis.

As Lewis’ career winds to an end in the Super Bowl, Willis has put himself in a position to take over the mantle as the premier inside linebacker in the game. Over the first few years of Willis’ career, we heard this Lewis-Willis comparison many times. The way Willis approached the game, the way he played it, his body, it all reminded us of Ray Lewis. So why haven’t we heard about this passing of the torch the past two weeks?

Perhaps because the workman-like, no frills, stoic approach Willis takes isn’t something that makes a lot of waves among the other showier stories that emerge during Super Bowl week (Chris Culliver anyone?). Or maybe it’s because his 49ers have finally had some other stars emerge, stars that want the attention (looking at you Kaepernick). Or maybe it’s because Willis’ counterpart on the inside of the San Francisco linebacking corps, NaVorro Bowman, also emerged as a prime time player this year.

I don’t have the answer as to why, but in my eyes, the comparison still sticks. So I decided to take it a step further than the eyeball test. Over the first six years of each of their careers, Ray Lewis and Patrick Willis have played the exact same number of games. They each only missed four total games over that span (maybe they have the same deer antler spray guy). It sets things up perfectly to compare the two head to head. Is Willis really deserving of the comparison? How does he stack up to the future Hall of Famer? Can we say that this is a passing of the torch situation?

Total Tackles
Lewis (875) vs. Willis (812)

Solo Tackles
Lewis (698) vs. Willis (621)

Lewis (19.5) vs. Willis (17.5)

Lewis (12) vs. Willis (7)

While Willis’ numbers are good, they don’t quite stack up to those that Lewis put together over his first six seasons. Of course, we’re looking at these numbers in a vacuum, which for some reason, people tend to do a lot when they look at sports stats. One could easily argue that Lewis had much better defensive tackles lining up in front of him over his first six seasons, absorbing blockers, freeing Lewis to make more plays. In fact, this has long been an argument made against Lewis by the Ray-Ray haters. Nonetheless, the fact that Lewis’ numbers are better across the board, make quite a statement.

Given these numbers, I think we can reasonably say that although Willis is a good player, it’s unfair to compare him to Lewis. After six seasons, Lewis had already established himself as the type of player that could be called generational. Willis isn’t at that point, and at this point in his career, about halfway through, I think he’d have to increase his production a bit to reach that status by the end of his career. What could make that even harder is that over the previous two seasons, we’ve started to see his counterpart on the interior of San Francisco’s linebacking corps, NaVorro Bowman, emerge as just as good of a linebacker as Willis himself, possibly even better. In my opinion, Bowman had the better 2012 campaign.

Not quite a passing of the torch situation, but on Sunday we’re in for a treat watching two defenses anchored by stellar, Pro Bowl caliber (at least until the past two seasons in Lewis’ case) inside linebackers. These two solid defenses have been overshadowed a bit by their offenses leading up to the game, but come Sunday, I have a feeling we may be in for a defensive battle.

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york
You can contact Kevin at

The Best Offensive Line Story of the Year: The Up and Down Tale of Bryant McKinnie

By Kevin York

Photo Credit: (Jake Roth/ US Presswire)

Photo Credit: (Jake Roth/ US Presswire)

As people look forward to Sundays Super Bowl, there’s been plenty of talk about the skill position players. Joe Flacco. Colin Kaepernick. Ray Rice. Frank Gore. Michael Crabtree. And of course, Ray Lewis’ retirement. There’s a big storyline that many people are missing though, and it’s one that casual fans may not notice.

This Super Bowl matchup features two really, really good offensive lines.

The big guys in the trenches often get overlooked because they don’t score and they don’t tackle. There aren’t a lot of stats to measure them by, at least none that someone watching a game on tv instead of from the press box can keep track of easily.

San Francisco has one of the three best offensive lines in the game, maybe even the best. They’ve largely built it from the ground up through the draft, which is exactly the way I’d do it if I were running a team. I always advocate building a team from the inside out, starting with two strong lines. A good offensive line can make an average quarterback or running back good or a below average quarterback or running back average. Everything starts with the offensive line. You can’t run or pass with any effectiveness unless the big uglies up front are winning their battles.

Photo Credit: (Paul Sakuma)

Photo Credit: (Paul Sakuma)

The 49ers’ Mike Iupati is probably the best guard in the league. Joe Staley is a top five tackle and the other tackle, Anthony Davis, is a top ten tackle. They drafted all three along with Iupati’s counterpart opposite him on the right side of the line, Alex Boone. Only center, eleven year veteran Jonathan Goodwin, was not drafted by the 49ers.

Baltimore’s offensive line is not quite as good as San Francisco’s, and wasn’t as built through the draft, but is also a top ten unit. I don’t know the last time we’ve seen two lines this good in the Super Bowl. We didn’t get it last year. New England and New York deployed solid lines, but they weren’t in the same league as this year’s group. The Packers and Steelers started two injury plagued lines the year prior.

It really is a great story, but the matchup of these two great offensive lines isn’t the story I’m referring to in the title of this post. That story belongs to just one member of the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive line.

When people think about the Ravens’ offensive line, the first name that usually pops in their head is Michael Oher, the big tackle that the book and movie, The Blind Side, were based on. Next is probably guard Marshal Yanda. I mentioned earlier that San Francisco’s Iupati is probably the best guard in the league; Yanda is the other guard in that conversation. Both made my All-Pro team. Once you get past Oher and Yanda, the next name to come up is center Matt Birk, the veteran who was close to retiring last year, but came back another year for a shot to win the big one.

The name that probably doesn’t come up as often is the Ravens’ other tackle, Bryant McKinnie, and for good reason. He reported late to camp, out of shape and overweight. The team cut his salary and he sulked his way through bad practices. He wasn’t a starter at the beginning of the year; he wasn’t even a starter at the end of the year. McKinnie didn’t become a starter for this year’s Ravens team until the wild card round playoff game against the Colts.

What did he do in that game, his first start of the season? McKinnie held Colts pass rusher Dwight Freeney to not only zero sacks, but no tackles at all. None.

Bryant McKinnie began his college football career at Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he moved from his high school position of defensive end to offensive tackle. After two years at this junior college, he transferred to the University of Miami for his junior and senior year. As a Hurricane, he was an All-American his junior year and was unanimously selected for the honor again as a senior. He also received the Outland Trophy as the nation’s best interior lineman, was selected as Sports Illustrated’s Player of the Year and finished eighth in the Heisman voting as a senior. That 2001 Miami team also won the national championship.

Photo Credit: (Doug Pensinger/Allsport)

Photo Credit: (Doug Pensinger/Allsport)

McKinnie was drafted in the first round of the 2002 NFL draft as a 6’9″ 335 pound senior by the Minnesota Vikings with the seventh overall pick. For the next eight years, the giant tackle was a mainstay on the Vikings’ offensive line, even making the Pro Bowl in 2009. From 2003-2007, McKinnie started every game and had a streak of 80 straight games started. He was a solid NFL tackle and for the most part, lived up to the hype surrounding him coming out of Miami.

In the summer of 2011, his fortunes went south, and due to his own doing. He reported to training camp weighing over 400 pounds; this coming after he finished the previous season at 360 pounds and promised coaches he would get in shape over the summer and drop some weight.

After he was cut by the Vikings, McKinnie was signed by the Baltimore Ravens, largely due to former Miami teammate Ed Reed speaking on his behalf to Baltimore management and vouching for him. He started all 16 games for Baltimore that year, but then at the beginning of 2012, McKinnie’s fortunes again changed as I described earlier with reporting to camp overweight and having his salary cut.

So how did we get to this point? How did McKinnie regain his starting job, in the playoffs no less, and dominate a great pass rusher like Dwight Freeney?

Bryant McKinnie worked his butt off, for one thing. In addition, a string of other things happened along Baltimore’s offensive line that eventually put McKinnie back in a place to step back into a starting role. Ironically, turns out Michael Oher was not as astute at protecting Joe Flacco’s blind side as the movie based on him would seem to indicate. He’s much better playing at the right tackle spot where he can run block. However, during the regular season, the Ravens played Oher at left tackle and rookie Jah Reid at right tackle since McKinnie reported to camp out of shape. When Reid suffered a toe injury, and McKinnie had put together several really good weeks of practice, it led coach John Harbaugh to move Oher back to right tackle, where he played in previous seasons, and start McKinnie at left tackle.

The lineup change ended up paying off for Harbaugh, McKinnie and Baltimore. The big tackle has played well throughout the playoffs and done his part to give Joe Flacco plenty of time to throw the ball downfield, which is exactly what he’s done.

While this matchup of offensive lines is certainly impressive, what’s more impressive is the up and down story of Bryant McKinnie and how he’s worked himself back into a job and helped lead his team to a Super Bowl appearance.

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york
You can contact Kevin at

Super Bowl XLVII Prop Bets

By Matt Ginn

While the spectacle and majesty of sport in general is of course my primary reason for following along with my favorite teams, life is always a little more interesting when you have money on the line. It is in that spirit that I’ve selected Super Bowl Prop bets to be my initial foray into The Couchletes.

I’d love to be able to adapt in-depth game analysis to search for value comparing odds on various bets, but I suck at in-depth pregame analysis and analysis done after the fact isn’t very helpful when you have to place the bets ahead of time. So I’ll just take a look at a sampling of the props compelling to me.

SUPER BOWL XLVII SPECIALS – Highest Scoring Quarter

1st Quarter 4/1

2nd Quarter 8/5

3rd Quarter 3/1

4th Quarter 2/1

My initial thought on seeing this bet was to bet the 3rd quarter. Being a 49ers fan I’ve seen most of their games and feel that they’ve been an occasionally slow starting team that likes deferring when they win the opening kick, are great at in-game adjustments and possess an explosive offense. After minimal research I found that the 3rd quarter hasn’t been significantly higher scoring for either the 49ers or their opponents for the majority of the season and that this is just a narrative I created, probably due to being more intoxicated as the game went on. However, I did notice a few high scoring 4th quarters while digging through this season’s box scores and started leaning towards betting the 4th even though the odds are fairly low. The flip side to that argument (that I had with myself in my head) is that the Ravens have been a successful team going deep, the 49ers’ safeties have been susceptible to being beat by the deep ball in recent weeks and that both teams are going to want to get out to a fast start. So, I’m leaning towards the 1st quarter for those reasons and because the payout is the best. I’m nothing if not a sucker for an underdog. $40 on 1st.

SUPER BOWL XLVII SPECIALS – Who will the Super Bowl MVP of the Game thank first?

Teammates 5/4

God 5/2

Coach 12/1

Family 12/1

Owner 15/1

Does Not Thank Anyone 9/4

A couple of interesting plays here. If the Ravens win, barring a huge game by either of the Rays (Lewis or Rice), we’re probably looking at an MVP for Flacco. I don’t know Flacco’s personal religious beliefs but he seems cut from the same no-nonsense, no-interesting-quote cloth as Brady, Rodgers and the Manning boys, Eli’s love of pranks aside, and would most likely thank his teammates, coach, owner and then God for “really putting it all on the line” and “winning one for Ray (Lewis)”. Pretty much any Raven will feel inclined to mention Ray Lewis first if they win the MVP, so teammates seems like a fairly safe bet if you’re counting on a Ravens win and don’t have much confidence in a washed-up alleged murderer who hasn’t played his best football in 3+ years stealing the MVP trophy based on sentimentality. If Lewis wins the MVP he’ll thank God, and wouldn’t we all if we beat a murder rap without serving any jail time?

But if you like the 49ers, and I do, then you have to assume it’ll be Kaepernick taking home the trophy. Kaep has also come across as a professional, handling the media well and not making waves for anything out of the ordinary, but he’s also an outspoken Christian who has multiple tattoos referencing bible passages and seems inclined to praise God first in any hypothetical MVP speech he’s giving. I’m putting $50 on teammates and $40 on God, hoping one of them comes through for a small profit.

SUPER BOWL XLVII – The largest points lead of the game by either team will be

Over/Under 13 (-115)

I’m taking the over. 49ers have been behind by 17 and been ahead by 21 in their two playoff games this year, but just look at the scoring progression in the SF – Falcons game and you’ll see my rationale. 17-0 Falcons, 14 straight by SF, another TD for the falcons on a two minute drill and then 14 straight for the 49ers again. Granted, the only time the lead was greater than the 13 points we’re looking for here was the 17-0 start, but the 49ers have shown a tendency in the last few weeks to both score in bunches and allow scoring in bunches. Largest leads (for either side) going back to week 15 from the NFC Championship game, 17 Falcons, 21 GB (Hi Kevin!), 21 Arizona, 36 Seattle (I don’t want to talk about it) and 28 New England (Hi Amy!).

What about Baltimore though, how did the scoring progress in their games? I’ll use their last 6 games, though I think the team has changed a bit since being blown out by Denver in week 15, I want to use the same length of time that I did for the 49ers. Largest lead (for either side) going back to week 15 from the AFC Championship game, 15 New England, 7 Denver, 15 Indianapolis, 9 Cincinnati, 26 NYG and 28 Denver.

In games played by either of these teams over the past 6 weeks the 13 number has been surpassed in 9 of the 11 games competed. I could easily see this game starting out 14-0 or 21-7 before turning into the hair-pulling, nail-biting tight game it’s destined to be. $115 on the over.


For my last Super Bowl bet, I’m just betting the spread. After opening at SF -4.5 in most places the number has started creeping toward the Ravens. At the time of this writing (one week before the Super Bowl) the current line is SF -4 (-105). If you aren’t familiar with point spreads this means the 49ers would have to win by four or more points to payoff a bet on them, the -105 accounts for the casino’s portion of your bet, or the vig. A $105 bet on the 49ers to cover would only pay $100 if you won in addition to the stake (amount bet). If you were to bet on Baltimore you would need them to win outright or to lose by less than four. A four point 49ers win would result in a push and no bets winning or losing. As I’ve said (repeatedly) I’m a 49ers fan and I would rather get the apocalypse inducing super-flu for a month than bet against my team in the Super Bowl. $105 on the 49ers to win and cover 31-24.

A small caveat on this post – Don’t actually trust me for betting advice. For one, betting is illegal in most places in the United States and on top of that I’m not a professional gambler. As I said at the top life is just a little more interesting when you have some money on the line.

By Matt Ginn
Follow Matt on Twitter at @mattginn