Renting a Team

Another Super Bowl, another matchup of the not-Browns playing the not-Browns. With local fans unable to support their beloved Dawg Pound (hashtag #dp) they are forced to choose from the remaining options. Let us investigate the remaining clubs and see who deserves Cleveland’s support.

Las Vegas expects over $4 billion to change hands on Super Bowl betting. Plenty of that dough will go toward the favored New England Patriots. The Pats enter as 2.5-point favorites with an over/under set at 56.5. Considering the teams’ relative experience and momentum the line seems about right. But I’m willing to bet most of the country would rather see the underdog win. Tally one for the Rams.

Rams – 1, Pats – 0

The New England Patriots have become to football what the Yankees are for baseball: shorthand for dominance. The Pats won the Super Bowl in 2001, 2003, 2004, 2014, and most recently 2016. The Pats have won ten straight AFC East titles. This is their third straight Super Bowl, losing last year’s contest to the Philadelphia Eagles. In other words, people are sick of them. The Los Angeles Rams, on the other hand, have not won the Super Bowl since 1999 when they still called St. Louis home. Any Los Angeles fans (I’m sure there are a few) would have to go back to 1951 for the last Rams title while in LA – 68 seasons. However you choose to measure it, the Rams have been waiting longer.

Rams – 2, Pats – 0

It’s nice to see former Buckeyes win the Super Bowl (usually). The Rams only have one Ohio Stater on the roster – long snapper Jake McQuaide. The eighth-year player is often overlooked on special teams, but it’s better than nothing. The Rams also employ second-year receiver and former Akron Zip JoJo Natson. The second stringer has appeared in thirteen games for LA but has yet to record a catch. Meanwhile seventh-year defensive back Nate Ebner still suits up for the Patriots. Ebner makes his bones on special teams and has carved out a nice little niche for himself on a perennial contender. Defensive end John Simon also calls New England home. The sixth-year man is on the depth chart’s third-string but has still managed sixteen tackles and two sacks in 2018. So, if you support Scarlet and Gray then it’s red, white, and blue for you on Sunday.

Rams – 2, Pats – 1

Both teams enter the game under the cloud of either grumbling or outright controversy. The Patriots and Chiefs clashed in a classic AFC Championship Game culminating in overtime. The OT period proved anticlimactic, however, as New England won the coin toss and promptly marched 75 yards downfield to score and win the conference. The Patriots didn’t do anything wrong, per se, but the depressing bonus period reinforced how unhappy most fans are with the NFL’s overtime system. The Rams, on the other hand, got to Atlanta with some serious help from the zebras. A missed pass interference call in the NFC Championship Game denied the New Orleans Saints a first down and chance to ice the game in the fourth quarter. Instead, the Rams scored to tie it and took the decision in overtime. For what it’s worth, the offending player quickly admitted to the blatant pass interference and the league will likely add judgment calls to the list of reviewable plays starting this fall. Karmically speaking Los Angeles should be very worried that their appearance is doomed to cosmic balance and Tom Brady’s right arm.

Rams – 2, Pats – 2

While neither team calls Cleveland home, there is one that once did. The Rams are the NFL’s vagabonds. They have played in three different cities and seven stadiums with an eighth coming next year. It’s no secret that in 2016 the Rams relocated from to Los Angeles from St. Louis packing the Gateway to the West’s hearts and souls along with helmets and cleats. The Rams played in St. Louis from 1995 to 2015. They called LA home from 1946-1994. However, their story begins in 1936 on the shores of Lake Erie. The Cleveland Rams were the North Coast’s NFL unit from 1936-45 notwithstanding 1943’s gap year. Moreover, the Cleveland Rams won the 1945 NFL Championship, besting Slingin’ Sammy Baugh and the Washington Redskins 15-14. So even though the Cleveland Browns will not be on the field Sunday, at least one unit has a little CLE in its DNA.

Rams – 3, Pats – 2

Go Rams!