The time has come, the two best teams in SML season 4 will meet in what is sure to be a fantastic season finale .... all hail the Pastinator led Kansas City Chiefs and the Eder led Minnesota Vikings. What can we expect? Who are the players to watch? Who will prove victorious? Well, these 2 coaches are meeting for the first time which has its pros and cons for both teams. Both coaches will be looking for weaknesses in their opponents game and feverishly putting together their gameplans without any real experience of each others traits - and that makes it even more exciting!
I must be honest, coming into the playoffs a lot of pundits including myself were backing the NFC North to retain the Superbowl trophy yet again, but the heartbreaking news for Vikes fans came today after they had defeated the Tampa Bay Buccs but lost superstar running back Adrian Peterson through injury! Now, what does that mean exactly - it means the Superbowl now has NO favourite and will obviously affect Minnesota more than KC. The Chiefs have not had the 'pleasure' of facing AP before so their gameplan is likely to be unaffected whereas the Vikings have to rethink a lot. Should they stick with the same attack of handing off to a HB and burning teams with the occasional play-action pass - or do they change? Add to the loss of Peterson, Minnesota's most dangerous wideout Percy Harvin will also be absent. I think this is almost as tough a loss as AP due to the fact they are coming up against the 'Turnover Supernova' - the KC Secondary!
So, we have established that there is no underdog in the upcoming extravaganza. Lets have a little look at some key stats:
OFFENSE KC MINN
Yards P/G 360 377
Pts P/G 31 34
Scr Plays 768 753
1st downs 14 14
3rd down % 48 50
Turnovers 25 27
DEFENSE KC MINN
Yards P/G 238 254
Pts P/G 13 18
3rd down % 29 31
Turnovers 57 28
As you can see, the above stats are extremely similar apart from the +/- in turnovers with KC acquiring more take-aways than you'd get from a half price Chinese restaurant! Both teams have lost 2 human games this season and both have played a similar amount of human opponents. There is just the one factor that stands out - the KC take-aways.
Safeties Eric Berry and Dontravious Taylor have been handed a system by Coach Pastinator that plays right into their hands, literally. The corners are not as dynamic, and can be got at with the deep ball as they are not the speediest group at all, but, as i mentioned earlier, the Vikes are without Percy Harvin so the one KC weakness in the secondary just got a little stronger. Minnesota's DB's are solid too, with the experience of SS Adrian Wilson and the speed on the outside at CB Messrs Baldwin and Bowe will have to work real hard to find room.
The pass rush is tilted in the Vikes favour, mainly because of Kevin Williams. They also have Marvin Austin and Osi, whilst the Chiefs will be sending bad boy Ndamukong Suh on a mission no doubt but the D line will be Minnesota's main weapon in SBIV.
However, this game will be all about the running - and prior to Petersons' injury was rightly billed as a head-to-head between 2 of the best. How things change with the snap of a tendon eh!! SO, the run happy Chiefs (400 runs called compared to 200 passes) have the upper hand, especially with the slightly superior O line to make holes for Jamaal Charles. The Vikes run D has not been fantastic this season, but against a team that hands off 2 in every 3 plays Minnesota have the LB tacklers that can stack up extremely effectively against any rush attack. Minnesota will have to start James Starks, who, incidentally was bought in as AP's back-up in case of injury ( the playoff loss to Chicago last season prompted this move). But Starks is very capable and very strong, KC would do well not to ignore the Vikings ground game as i expect them to make no allowances whatsoever for the fact AP is missing.
The Vikes offense is much more balanced with run and pass plays being fairly even on the season. Christian Ponder has thrown double the amount of yards Kevin Kolb has, although Ponder has thrown 23 INT's - not ideal preparation for the Chiefs!
So, there you have it, the Chiefs win the secondary battle and the running game, the Vikes win the passing contest and the experience of BIG pressure games.
To sum it up, the stats favour Pastinator, but Eder has always played a system where his players tend to perform to their maximum and have been specifically chosen to do a specific job. I am known for making bold predictions but this time i cannot call the winner.
But, i will say this, i predict the team who gets the upper hand early will win. I know it sounds a little crazy with the teams being so evenly matched but as they haven't met before, the team who's gameplan works quickest will get their rings, and probably by a comfortable score!
Enjoy the game Pastinator and Eder, good luck to you both!