Super Bowl LIII: Ruthless Edition

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This is it, gang. I hereby cast before you all of the marbles. Every single marble. Even if you don’t play marbles.

You’re getting the column relatively early, for me anyway, and you’re getting two picks. I can concede that we won’t get the best lines possible, but I’ve been following all week. Reason being that the winner of the Super Bowl, and the final score thereof, will characterize this column, my little tiny corner of the internet, forever, at least with respect to the 2018-2019 NFL season, and in short, if these picks hit, we will have gone 38-35 negating pushes, giving us a 52.7 winning percentage, and thus, a profitable year. That would mean a lot to me, as I’m sure it would to you, or really anyone who has to buy their own Goddamned cereal.

Mind you, we could have packed it in before the divisionals. I could have claimed a winning record at that point, patted myself on the back, and reviewed a movie or something. Had Kevin not already done so with his usual panache, I may have reviewed Sicario: Day of the Soldado, given how popular it seems to be these days with the supposed upper crust. But that’s not how we work around here.

You guys know I don’t lie to you. I don’t make excuses or try to cover losses by pointing out… gee I dunno…the worst PI non-call I have ever seen in a championship game, perhaps? That’s all well and good for touts, or gimmicks, or comics working a side hustle for pocket change, relatively speaking, but not for Ruthless. As you know, I personally place every bet that I recommend, and I could prove it if I had to, because I want you guys to cash in.

And therein lies this issue, and maybe – just maybe – it explains all of the textual stalling. Because separate and apart from the viability of the aforementioned winning record, we may just be in for the most competitive Super Bowl some of you have seen in your lives. There are two good teams. There are two prolific offenses led by quarterbacks capable of putting up basketball scores. There’s even a dramatic element, with a 41-year-old first-ballot Hall of Famer trying to hold off the third-year wunderkind who just might someday make a play for his wife on the motivational speaking circuit.

And lucky me, I get to stake my reputation on not one but two picks, in a do-or-die scenario, with no opportunity for redemption. Well, so be it. In the words of Andre Gide, let’s pick the motherfuckin’ Super Bowl!

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NEW ENGLAND -2.5 v. L.A. RAMS and OVER 56.5

I’m sorry, but I’m going to be the millionth person to make an argument about how the Patriots have been there before. I know, I know. Technically, I suppose neither team has actually been there before, as neither the Pats nor the Rams have played on the road against the Falcons since Megatron’s Asshole opened in August of 2017. However, preparation in the week leading up to this game is different than the regular season, and a great many of the Pats players have been through the media days, radio row, sponsor obligations and so forth. There are 11 first-year players on the Rams roster, they are led by a coach whose previous playoff experience was capped by a wildcard weekend loss, and they were visibly shaken by the loud Saints crowd in the NFC title game. You can call Atlanta a neutral field, but be honest: how many L.A. Rams fans do you actually know?

I just can’t erase the vision of the Chiefs game two weeks ago, no matter how much I drink. It seemed like every third down, there was another pass to Edelman. Over and over again, like a nightmare. I thought the decline of Gronk might finally, demonstrably choke that offense, but instead he gets 11 targets, they finished fourth in the NFL in terms of overall scoring, and they put up an average of 39 in their last two games against the Chargers and K.C. If you believe the statistics, the Ram’s defense looks its worst when facing play-action and spread-out sets, both of which the Pats are more than capable of doing.

As for the Rams, for as great as Goff is, and as even greater as he may very well end up, there has been a statistical decline in the last couple of months, and this is the best pass defense that he will have seen since that decline started. That doesn’t bode well given that Todd Gurley was outright benched after a poor performance in New Orleans, even as the announce team acted bewildered as to why he wasn’t on the field.

Honestly, at the end of the day, there just isn’t a reason not to trust Tom Brady in this big-game situation, as much as it pains me to say so. This is a financial decision, so you’re going to have to forget about his quack doctor and his red hat collection for a couple of hours and root for him to cover 2 and a hook. As for the over, that seems a bit more clear to me. We already discussed the Pats high-ranked offense and recent scoring surge, but L.A. has averages 32 on the year and are led by a guy who I saw, with my own two eyes, complete 26 of 33 for 465 yards and five TD’s. If, as rumored, New England can shut down the run, there’s no saying that he couldn’t replicate that style of play if need be. So long as nobody gets pounded into the sand early, I expect a back-and-forth contest that puts up big numbers.

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And with that…

Hang on. Yes, you know this was coming. Congratulations, you’re a fucking genius. Even though I did it last year.

We have again reached the last column of the season, so I have to once more ask you to indulge my more sentimental side for a paragraph or two. Because the privilege of doing this for you guys is something I truly cherish, and there are people to whom I owe at the very least my gratitude.

I do not now, nor did I ever, deserve to be on the same front page as writers this talented. So please follow the aforementioned Kevin, and Jaimes, and Sarah, Devon Pack, the legendary Matt Cale, the incoming Mike Rinaldi, and everyone else whose work appears here. I was lucky enough to find a place here, perhaps due to a holdover of sorts from more anarchic days, but Ruthless is primarily known for its culture beat, and there is damn sure a reason for that. Long may it live, in tandem with the screens it both celebrates and rebukes as warranted.

I won’t turn this into the sequel to last year’s love letter to my wife, but she does edit every word before it goes to the boss, and I couldn’t do this without her. This has been something of a rocky year for her – I don’t even want to get into it, but trust me – and through it all she’s gutted everything out like a champ, from late-night edits, to taking the other side in useless position battle debates that she couldn’t care less about, even doing literally every single bit of required math any more complicated than page counts. I watched those competing Fyre Festival documentaries that came out during Pro Bowl weekend and they hammered home a very manufactured and artificial modern male fantasy depicted in the advertising, with influencers on jet skis fucking around on a beach with Jah Rule and whatnot. Maybe it’s just part of the wisdom that comes with aging, and not that I would turn down a free jet ski, but I honestly could not be happier than when I come home to see both Ms. and Puppy Duquesne waiting by my door at night. You should all be so lucky. Thanks A.M. Nine years this year, no backing out now!

Of course, what good is an edited column if there is no one to print it? Goat, the world’s worst retiree, once again gave me the honor of doing this despite having no name value or recognition, and it has been my honor. Due to my at times rather obvious inexperience, I’ve never worked with another editor-in-chief, but I’m willing to assume that they generally don’t let people email their drafts twelve minutes before kickoff, or in the middle of the night across three time zones, or let them submit a cell phone shot of a tangible photo print because their mother would get a kick out of it. Thanks again, boss. And I’m sorry about all that other stuff. And for calling your attention to Christmas Mail. But I can’t wait to read your thoughts about it!

OK seriously, that’ss it for this season. In the most genuine and appreciative way I wish you all:

GOOD LUCK!

About J.J. Duquesne

J.J. is an attorney in New York City. He loves NFL Football...a LOT.