ATLANTA — Greetings all from Atlanta, Georgia, the land of Gone with the Wind, the National Centers for Decease Control, birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King, SEC Championship game, Coca-Cola, Magic City, the NFL Atlanta Falcons, Braves, Hawks — and this week Super Bowl LIII.
I’m here to cover my 38th Super Bowl in Mercedes Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta. The stadium is a virtual carbon copy of U.S. Bank Stadium, just a little larger. They like to have a good time in Atlanta, home of southern hospitality and the largest rate of HIV positive cases in the United States.
Yes, I like to keep it real. As president/founder of the Carol Fitzgerald Memorial Fund, which, in addition to breast cancer prevention, also supports the prevention of HIV/AIDS in the Black community, I have twice as much work to do this week.
The Vince Lombardi Trophy vs. the Oscars? It’s no contest. Where else can 187 million Americans all do the same thing? Only the Super Bowl.
Days that define us as Americans: Independence Day, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving Day. And of course Super Bowl Sunday. They have not started giving people the day off on the following Monday yet, but in some respects, Super Bowl Sunday seems more like a national holiday than a lot of actual holidays.
The New England Patriots, the dynasty that won’t go away, has reached their 11th Super Bowl, by far the most in NFL history. Years ago the Buffalo Bills reached four straight Super Bowls. This is the third-straight for the Patriots and their fifth in six years.
Head Coach Bill Belichick will be on the sideline in his ninth Super Bowl. He’s won five and is chasing after his sixth, which he was denied last year. If he wins Sunday, he will tie George Hallas and Curly Lambeau with six NFL Championships as a head coach for number-one all-time.
Belichick has won 30 playoff games, number-one all-time, and has coached in 13 AFC Conference Championship games. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, also in his ninth Super Bowl, has won 29 playoff games and boasts five Super Bowl wins, the most all-time.
Brady in Super Bowl LII threw for a record 505 yards. He’s won nine conference championship games, the most all-time. No wonder they refer to him as the G.O.A.T.: greatest of all time.
The Patriots are two-point favorites over the Los Angeles Rams. I have seen the Rams play three times this year; they beat the Vikings and Cardinals twice. They scored 527 points this season, the second-highest total in the NFL. They are 15-3 and are in the franchise’s fourth Super Bowl.
The Patriots and Rams met years ago in Super Bowl XXXVI. The Rams were in St. Louis then, were 14-point favorites, and lost to the Patriots in a stunning 20-17 upset.
The Rams beat the New Orleans Saints 26-23 in overtime in the NFC Championship. The game created the most controversial non-call in recent NFL history. A virtually certain interference call against the Saints receiver was missed late in the fourth quarter with 1.49 to play. Had the game officials made the call, the Saints most assuredly would be in SB53.
Cameron Jordan of the Saints said, “Make calls, not apologies.” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been silent on the non-call. Last week, the NFL fined Rams defensive back Nickell Robey Coleman $26,670 for hitting the defenseless Saints receiver, leading with his helmet on the play in question.
The Rams are an explosive team. They rallied from 13-0 to beat the Saints and beat the Kansas City Chiefs 54-51 in overtime during the regular season. The Rams are loaded with talent. Quarterback Jared Goff threw 32 TD passes; running back Todd Gurley scored 19 touchdowns; and Aaron Donald, with 20.5 sacks, was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
The Rams are well coached by Sean McVay in his second season. The 34-year-old head coach is the youngest in the NFL.
Belichick and Brady are really tough — on this stage they are legends. The Patriots’ dynasty is far from over, and they have a huge experience advantage. I can’t believe they lost to the Eagles in Minneapolis last year — which like this year’s Super Bowl was a rematch — after beating the Los Angeles Chargers 41-28 and Kansas City with MVP Pat Mahomes 37-31 in overtime.
I’m calling the Patriots to win it 34-28.