In this week’s Around the Dorm, the “Ref,” Greg Oriolo, asks our panel three sports questions: who the best NFL teams from each conference are, whether the MLB’s two-team wild card system is beneficial for the league, and if aging tennis star Roger Federer has a better shot at winning a major than Tiger Woods does.
1. Who are the two NFL teams you feel will make it out of their respective conference and into the Super Bowl?
Chrissy: For this upcoming 2013 NFL season, I feel there are a lot of teams who will be in contention for the Super Bowl, many more than last year. For the AFC, the New England Patriots look as promising as ever, with Tom Brady still one of the league’s best quarterbacks. However, for this year, I’m going to have to pick Denver to go the distance in the AFC. Peyton Manning has to be desperate at this point to get this team to the Super Bowl and get them that ring. Despite getting beat by Baltimore in last year’s playoffs, I feel like this year they would be able to overcome Flacco. As for the NFC, I would have to choose Green Bay. I can’t see how a team this good wouldn’t make it to the Super Bowl. Aaron Rodgers is in the prime of his career right now and Clay Matthews literally cannot be stopped. I can see the Packers taking it all the way to the end this year.
Amy: My prediction is that the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks will play in Super Bowl XXXXVIII, with the Patriots coming out on top. Although they barely pulled out a win against the Bills on Sunday, overall they are a very talented team. Plus, the Pats will be extremely focused after the loss to the Ravens last season, making them my top pick for the AFC Championship. Many people see the Broncos as a leading team for the AFC. However, Peyton Manning doesn’t play well during cold weather. As many of us know, most playoff games are played during the cold, meaning the Broncos will have a good regular season, but will suffer during the playoffs. As for the NFC, Seattle has an edge over the Niners because of a better running game, although both teams are lacking a solid wide receiver. That lack will be the difference between the Pats and the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.
Gabe: After Peyton Manning threw for seven touchdowns in the Broncos opening night blowout win over the reigning champion Baltimore Ravens, I can’t help but pick them to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl this year. With a receiving corps featuring Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker and potential surprise breakout tight end Julius Thomas, Manning may be on his way to having one of the most prolific regular seasons in NFL history. If the Broncos can develop a somewhat reliable running game, Mother Nature may be the only thing capable of slowing Manning and the Broncos’ aerial attack. In the NFC, I like the San Francisco 49ers. Unlike Atlanta, New Orleans and Green Bay, there’s nothing they aren’t great at. Their defense is one of the best in the league. Their offensive line is second to none. Their rushing attack, led by Frank Gore, is very powerful. Colin Kaepernick is a complete quarterback with great awareness, a huge arm and the ability to run the ball. When teams try to stop the 49ers rushing attack, Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis will have a lot of room to roam. Furthermore, they are led by one of the best coaches, Jim Harbaugh.
Gabe wins for going over his picks’ depth, Amy gets 2 points for bringing up what can derail Denver, and Chrissy gets 1 point for talking about the Packers’ star power.
2. With several teams contending for a wild card spot in the MLB, do you feel that the two-team wild card system is good for the league?
Chrissy: The question of whether the 2-team wild card system is good for the league is definitely a good one. I feel like the wildcard spots are pretty much the underdog spots — the teams who didn’t think they stood a chance but were able to make it in right before the regular season ends. It’s definitely exciting when a wild card team gets into the World Series and is able to go all the way, but I can see how this is frustrating for the other teams who have gotten in based on the regular standings for the duration of the year. Those other teams played well enough to lead their divisions and were able to make it into the playoffs on good play. However, the wild card teams still have exhibited stellar play throughout the season and are able to keep their hopes up for that revered spot as the wild card. I feel like everyone likes a good redemption story in sports, and the wild card teams are able to provide that.
Amy: I dislike the second wild card. The idea behind it is to put the wild card winner at a disadvantage by forcing both wild card teams to use their best starters in the one-game playoff. However, the wild card winner would still be able to use its best starter as early as game three of the of the divisional series, meaning it’s not as big of a disadvantage as many people believe it is. In addition, a one-game playoff can lead to fluke plays and bad calls having too much influence on the result of the one-game series. A good example of this is the infield fly call in the Cardinals-Braves wild card game last season.
Gabe: The two-team wild card system is great for Major League Baseball. With 10 teams making the postseason, the MLB playoffs are still the most exclusive of the four major sports (NFL-12, NBA & NHL- 16). Given how long the MLB season is, it makes sense that more teams should have the chance to make the playoffs. Furthermore, it makes the regular season competitive for a longer period of time. The sudden death wild card game brings more buzz and excitement to a sport that, after a long regular season, could afford to start the postseason with a bang. Two teams putting their best pitcher forward for a do-or-die ball game will be a must-watch for baseball fans everywhere.
Amy wins for noting one call can have too much influence, Gabe gets 2 points for saying how it is still exclusive, and Chrissy gets 1 point for saying it is exciting to see a wild card win.
3. After struggling in his second straight major, do you feel that Roger Federer will ever win another major — and if so, does he have a better chance than his good friend, Tiger Woods?
Chrissy: I feel that even though Roger Federer has struggled in the previous two majors, he is not out of contention for the next one. Federer is still young and I definitely think he has it in him to get to the top again. One thing I feel like he definitely needs to worry about is the emergence of the younger players. Andy Murray has taken the world of tennis by storm, gathering an enormous fan base and collecting more trophies than anyone could have foreseen. However, I believe this will give Federer even more incentive to play harder and collect another major title. I believe Federer has a better chance at winning another major than his friend, Tiger Woods. I feel that the Tiger Woods era has come to an end. When looking at his stats, he hasn’t won any big events since 2009. However, Federer is still in his prime and I believe we will see much more from him soon.
Amy: Roger Federer just turned 32. In the modern era, very few tennis players over that age win grand slams. In addition, there are two other future hall of famers — Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic — who are playing much better than Federer, so I’d say there will be no more grand slams for King Roger. On the other hand, I think Tiger will break through next season. He has played fairly well this year — he just hasn’t done so well in the majors. If he keeps it up, a win in a major within the next year or two is inevitable.
Gabe: With 17 major championships, including an incredible five championships in a row at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, Roger Federer is currently the best tennis player of all time. However, having lost in the 2nd round of Wimbledon and the 4th round of the U.S. Open this year, it appears that at 32, all the mileage may finally have caught up to him. Prior to his recent struggles, Fed hadn’t failed to make the quarterfinals at a major since 2004. To count out a champion half as great as Federer would be precarious for sure. But the likelihood that his body will be able to hold up against the top talent in the world in the two-week marathons that are best of five set major championships is getting slimmer every second. Following the completion of the U.S. Open Men’s Final, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will combine for 19 major championships and are in the prime of their respective careers. Nadal has won 12 majors. He has won the French Open four years in a row and in eight of his nine appearances, beating Fed all five times they’ve faced each other on the clay at Roland Garros. Djokovic has won six majors while reaching the semifinals at 14 straight majors (just nine behind Fed’s 23 semis from 2004-2010), and will look to win his fourth straight Australian Open in January. And Andy Murray has won two majors and the Olympics in the last two years. Federer’s window of opportunity is undoubtedly closing. If he does have one last major championship in him, his best shot will be at Wimbledon — where he has won six times, the grass is less grueling on the body, and anything can happen. Given Tiger Woods’ skills and the fact that he will be able to walk the course longer than Federer will be able to take the court, Woods is more likely to be crowned a major champion again in his career.
Gabe wins for great analysis of the top players, Amy gets 2 points for saying Tiger may keep up good play into next year, and Chrissy gets 1 for saying younger players will fuel Federer.
Gabe wins Around the Dorm, 8-7-3