Tag Archives: Super Bowl

The Nerdy Approach to Super Bowl LI

Anyone who knows me knows that if I’d spent 1/3 the time studying in school that I do studying sports, who knows what I could have accomplished in life. But the past is the past, and what’s present and future is this pretty big football game on Sunday night.

So of course I decided to delve deeper into the numbers. I don’t just wanna know who scored the most points and who allowed the fewest, and vice versa. I want to know how. More specifically I want to know how what we do matches up with what they do. I don’t want to just look at blanket rushing yards and yards allowed, I want to know what is likely to happen if we run over the right tackle, based on our success doing it, and their success stopping opponents. So I’ve done the homework, probably much to my boss’ chagrin, and have put this together for you.

For those unfamiliar with DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) it takes into consideration things like an opponent, down and distance, field position, and score. For a more complete and accurate explanation, check the guys out at Football Outsiders where they explain it all here. It’s a far better way of looking at a team than raw counting stats. Is it perfect? No, but it paints a lot more realistic of a picture than say, the stats that tell you the Patriots defense has been the league’s top unit. Psssssst, it hasn’t, and it’s not even close.

So I’ve taken the numbers and matched them up so you can get an idea of what to expect when we have the ball, when they have it, and how the special teams might shake out. If you see red lettering, it means it’s something that’s a Falcons advantage. If it’s blue, then that particular stat and trend would favor the Patriots. If both are colored, then it’s one of those pivotal swing match-ups that will likely determine this game. And if they’re both still the standard text color, then it’s not something either team excels at, or is bad at, but, if one team does get an edge there, it could be vital.

Obviously this is no guarantee of what will happen, or even close. They still gotta strap em up on Saturday night, but I think it can give you a good idea of what to expect. Take these and do what you may, closer to game time I’ll break it down in to what I expect to see Sunday night, and where the Pats will exploit us, but also where we can return the favor.

 

Overall

Atlanta – DVOA 19.6% (3rd), Weighted DVOA 19.8% (4th), Schedule 0.1% (16th)

New England – DVOA 25.3% (1st), Weighted DVOA 34.0% (1st), Schedule -8.0% (32nd)

 

Atlanta Offense – DVOA 25.3% (1st), Weighted DVOA 24.8% (2nd), Schedule -2.5% (2nd)

N.E. Defense – DVOA -1.5% (16th), Weighted DVOA -6.0% (11th), Schedule -7.1% (32nd)

Difference – 23.8%

 

Atlanta Defense – DVOA 8.1% (27th), Weighted DVOA 5.6% (22nd), Schedule -2.0% (24th)

N.E. Offense – DVOA 21.1% (2nd), Weighted DVOA 25.0% (1st), Schedule -0.7% (10th)

Difference – -29.2%

 

Atlanta Net Yards Per Drive – 6.02 (2nd)

New England Net Yards Per Drive – 6.66 (1st)

 

Atlanta Net Points Per Drive – 0.77 (2nd)

New England Net Points Per Drive – 1.11 (1st)

 

Atlanta Net Drive Success Rate – .037 (4th)

New England Net Drive Success Rate – .080 (1st)

When we have the ball:

Running Game –

Atlanta Run Offense – 1.7 % (7th)

New England Run Defense – -23.7% (4th)

 

Devonta Freeman – DYAR 147 (12th), DVOA 6.3% (14th), Success Rate 50% (12th)

Tevin Coleman – DYAR 86 (18th), DVOA 9.7% (12th), Success Rate 45% (25th)

 

Atlanta Adjusted Line Yards – 4.09 (10th)

New England Opponent Adjust Line Yards – 3.69 (11th)

 

Atlanta Power Success – 61% (17th)

New England Opponent Power Success – 63% (14th)

 

Atlanta Stuffed – 22% (23rd)

New England Opponent Stuffed – 17% (21st)

 

Atlanta 2nd Level Yards – 1.3 (7th)

New England Opponent 2nd Level Yards – 1.03 (7th)

 

Atlanta Open Field Yards – 1.2 (3rd)

New England Opponent Open Field Yards – 0.27 (1st)

 

Atlanta Left End ALY – 3.77 (22nd), 16% of 379 runs

New England Opponent Left End ALY – 3.00 (5th), 8% of 323 runs

 

Atlanta Left Tackle ALY – 4.41 (10th), 12% of runs

New England Opponent Left Tackle ALY – 4.09 (17th), 14% of runs

 

Atlanta Mid/Guard ALY – 4.26 (4th), 42 % of runs

New England Opponent Mid/Guard ALY – 3.76 (13th), 57% of runs

 

Atlanta Right Tackle ALY – 4.78 (4th), 13% of runs

New England Opponent Right Tackle ALY – 3.08 (6th), 7% of runs

 

Atlanta Right End ALY – 3.15 (21st), 16 % of runs

New England Opponent Right End ALY – 3.73 (20th), 13% of runs

 

Passing Game-

Atlanta Pass Offense – 53.0% (1st)

New England Pass Defense – 13.9% (23rd)

 

Matt Ryan – DYAR 1918 (1st), DVOA 40.2% (1st), 83.4 (1st)

 

Julio Jones – DYAR 458 (1st), DVOA 31.8% (2nd), Catch Rate 64.3%, DPI 6/132

Mohamed Sanu – DYAR 124 (43rd), DVOA 6.7% (34th), Catch Rate 73%, DPI 1/1

Taylor Gabriel – DYAR 189 (24th), DVOA 36.6 % (1st), Catch Rate 70%, DPI 1/25

Aldrick Robinson – DYAR 90 (55th), DVOA 24.1% (NA), Catch Rate 63%, DPI 0/0

Justin Hardy – DYAR 70 (59th), DVOA 14.8% (NA), Catch Rate 68%, DPI 0/0

 

Austin Hooper – DYAR 107 (11th), 47.1% (2nd), Catch Rate 70%, DPI 1/11

Levine Toilolo – DYAR 84 (16th), 56.8% (NA), Catch Rate 68%, DPI 0/0

 

Devonta Freeman – DYAR 140 (5th), 24.5% (6th), Catch Rate 83%

Tevin Coleman – DYAR 135 (6th), 48.5% (1st), Catch Rate 78%

 

N.E. vs #1 WR – DVOA 3.8% (20th), PA/G 8.4, YPG 73.1 (League Avg 8.4 & 69.8)

N.E. vs #2 WR – DVOA 6.6% (8th), PA/G 6.3, YPG 45.6 (League Avg 6.4 & 49.4)

N.E. vs Other WR – DVOA 5.4% (19th), PA/G 7.0, YPG 50.6 (League Avg 6.8 & 50.6)

N.E. vs TE – DVOA 3.1% (14th), PA/G 8.6, YPG 49.6 (League Avg 7.4 & 54.3)

N.E. vs RB – DVOA 5.7% (20th), PA/G 7.8, YPG 50.3 (League Avg 6.7 & 40.2)

 

N.E. vs Left – DVOA -21.2% (3rd) (Avg -1.3%)

N.E. vs Middle – DVOA 19.3% (17th) (Avg 12.8%)

N.E. vs Right – DVOA 9.8% (29th) (Avg -6.8%)

Deep – DVOA 20.8% (16th); Left -44.5%, Mid 97.6%, Right 39.8% (Avg, 13.0%, 48.3%, 15.1%)

Short – DVOA -4.7% (15th); Left -14.3%, Mid 2.8%, Right -1.2% (Avg, -5.1%, 5.7%, -11.9%)

 

Atlanta Opponents Adjusted Sack Rate – 6.5% (23rd), Sacks Allowed 37

Patriots Adjusted Sack Rate – 5.1% (26th), Sacks 34

Drive Stats-

Atlanta Yards Per Drive – 40.53 (1st)

New England Yards Allowed Per Drive – 28.82 (8th)

 

Atlanta Points Per Drive – 3.06 (1st)

New England Points Allowed Per Drive – 1.42 (1st)

 

Atlanta Drive Success Rate – .778 (1st)

New England Opponent Drive Success Rate – .662 (5th)

 

Atlanta Turnovers Per Drive – .066 (2nd)

New England Forced Turnovers Per Drive – .119 (17th)

 

Atlanta Interceptions Per Drive – .042 (6th)

New England Opponent Interceptions Per Drive – 0.73 (17th)

 

Atlanta Fumbles Per Drive – .024 (3rd)

New England Opponent Fumbles Per Drive – .045 (17th)

 

Atlanta Avg LOS – 28.52 (13th)

New England Opponent Avg LOS – 24.87 (1st)

 

Atlanta Plays Per Drive – 6.15 (13th)

New England Opponent Plays Per Drive – 5.79 (11th)

 

Atlanta Punts Per Drive – .289 (1st)

New England Opponent Punts Per Drive – .452 (6th)

 

Atlanta 3 & Outs Per Drive – .145 (1st)

New England Opponent 3 & Outs Per Drive – .249 (7th)

 

Atlanta Pts/Red Zone – 5.24 (6th)

New England Opponent Pts/Red Zone – 4.55 (6th)

 

Atlanta Avg Score Differential – 4.92 (2nd)

New England Opponents Avg Score Differential – -9.76 (1st)
When they have the ball:

Running Game –

Atlanta Run Defense – 2.5% (29th)

New England Run Offense – -3.4% (17th)

Difference – 0.9%

 

Legarette Blount – DYAR 132 (14th), DVOA 1.5% (18th), Success Rate 44% (28th)

Dion Lewis – DYAR 74 (19th), DVOA 21.1% (NA), Success Rate NA

 

Atlanta Opponent Adjusted Line Yards – 4.16 (25th)

New England Adjust Line Yards – 4.15 (9th)

 

Atlanta Opponent Power Success – 63% (16th)

New England Power Success – 59% (22nd)

 

Atlanta Opponent Stuffed – 19% (18th)

New England Stuffed – 20% (16th)

 

Atlanta Opponent 2nd Level Yards – 1.29 (26th)

New England 2nd Level Yards – 1.10 (21st)

 

Atlanta Opponent Open Field Yards – 0.64 (13th)

New England Open Field Yards – 0.60 (21st)

 

Atlanta Opponent Left End ALY – 3.56 (12th), 13% of 303 runs

New England Left End ALY – 4.88 (7th), 10% of 409 runs

 

Atlanta Opponent Left Tackle ALY – 3.66 (13th), 14% of runs

New England Left Tackle ALY – 3.53 (23rd), 13% of runs

 

Atlanta Opponent Mid/Guard ALY – 4.24 (27th), 50% of runs

New England Mid/Guard ALY – 4.12 (7th), 59% of runs

 

Atlanta Opponent Right Tackle ALY – 4.99 (32nd), 15% of runs

New England Right Tackle ALY – 4.01 (12th), 13% of runs

 

Atlanta Opponent Right End ALY – 3.99 (24th), 9% of runs

New England Right End ALY – 5.48 (3rd), 4% of runs

 

Passing Game-

Atlanta Pass Defense – 11.6% (19th)

New England Pass Offense – 50.5% (2nd)

Difference – -62.1%

 

Tom Brady – DYAR 1295 (5th), DVOA 33.8% (2nd), 83.1 (2nd)

 

Julian Edelman – DYAR 48 (65th), DVOA -8.7% (69th), Catch Rate 62.0%, DPI 1/12

Chris Hogan – DYAR 145 (35th), DVOA 18.1% (11th), Catch Rate 66%, DPI 1/8

Malcom Mitchell – DYAR 131 (39th), DVOA 19.5% (7th), Catch Rate 67%, DPI 2/78

Danny Amendola – DYAR 84 (57th), DVOA 26.8% (NA), Catch Rate 79%, DPI 0/0

 

Martellus Bennett – DYAR 200 (3rd), 34.6% (3rd), Catch Rate 75%, DPI 2/7

 

James White – DYAR 161 (3rd), 19.8% (10th), Catch Rate 70%

Dion Lewis – DYAR -25 (49th), -31.1% (NA), Catch Rate 71%

 

Atlanta Vs #1 WR – DVOA -4.0% (9th), PA/G 8.4, YPG 61.3 (League Avg 8.4 & 69.8)

Atlanta Vs #2 WR – DVOA 6.6% (8th), PA/G 7.6, YPG 58.8 (League Avg 6.4 & 49.4)

Atlanta Vs Other WR – DVOA 5.4% (19th), PA/G 7.2, YPG 55.1 (League Avg 6.8 & 50.6)

Atlanta Vs TE – DVOA 3.1% (14th), PA/G 8.9, YPG 61.4 (League Avg 7.4 & 54.3)

Atlanta VS RB – DVOA 16.7% (26th), PA/G 9.1, YPG 53.5 (League Avg 6.7 & 40.2)

 

Atlanta vs Left – DVOA -8.6% (25th) (Avg -1.3%)

Atlanta vs Middle – DVOA 12.0% (14th) (Avg 12.8%)

Atlanta vs Right – DVOA -6.5% (18th) (Avg -6.8%)

Deep – DVOA 15.2% (12th); Left 19.5%, Mid 69.8%, Right -11.3% (Avg, 13.0%, 48.3%, 15.1%)

Short – DVOA 0.3% (26th); Left 5.5%, Mid 3.8%, Right -5.5% (Avg, -5.1%, 5.7%, -11.9%)

 

Atlanta Adjusted Sack Rate – 5.4% (24th), Sacks 34

Patriots Opponents Adjusted Sack Rate – 4.7% (6th), Sacks Allowed 24

Drive Stats-

Atlanta Yards Allowed Per Drive – 34.51 (26th)

New England Yards Per Drive – 35.48 (7th)

 

Atlanta Points Allowed Per Drive – 2.29 (27th)

New England Points Per Drive – 2.53 (5th)

 

Atlanta Opponents Drive Success Rate – .741 (28th)

New England Drive Success Rate – .742 (5th)

 

Atlanta Opponents Turnovers Per Drive – .117 (18th)

New England Turnovers Per Drive – .046 (1st)

 

Atlanta Opponents Interceptions Per Drive – .070 (19th)

New England Interceptions Per Drive – 0.012 (1st)

 

Atlanta Opponents Fumbles Per Drive – .047 (14th)

New England Fumbles Per Drive – .035 (8th)

 

Atlanta Opponents Avg LOS – 26.08 (3rd)

New England Avg LOS – 30.66 (2nd)

 

Atlanta Opponents Plays Per Drive – 6.29 (29th)

New England Plays Per Drive – 6.23 (7th)

 

Atlanta Opponents Punts Per Drive – .386 (25th)

New England Punts Per Drive – .416 (18th)

 

Atlanta Opponents 3 & Outs Per Drive – .205 (21st)

New England 3 & Outs Per Drive – .238 (27th)

 

Atlanta Opponents Pts/Red Zone – 5.69 (31st)

New England Pts/Red Zone – 5.23 (7th)

 

Atlanta Opponents Avg Score Differential – -8.23 (2nd)

New England Avg Score Differential – 7.41 (1st)
Special Teams

Atlanta – 2.4% (8th)

New England – 2.7% (7th)

 

Atlanta Kickoff – -3.0

New England Kick Return – -2.8

 

Atlanta Kick Return – -1.5

New England Kickoff – 11.8

 

Atlanta Avg LOS after Kickoff – 25.6 (8th)

New England Opponent Avg LOS after Kickoff – 23.46 (3rd)

 

Atlanta Opponent Avg LOS after Kickoff – 24.49 (11th)

New England Avg LOS after Kickoff – 27.10 (1st)

 

Atlanta Punt – 2.2

New England Punt Return – -7.7

 

Atlanta Punt Return – 3.5

New England Punt – 12.2

 

Atlanta Field Goal/XP – 10.9

New England Field Goal/XP – 0.1

 

Atlanta Hidden ST Yards – -4.3 (23rd)

New England Hidden St Yards – 11.2 (4th)

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Just Who is my Favorite Sports Team?

Someone asked me recently, of my favorite teams, which is actually my true favorite. My immediate answer was, “Chase Elliott”. But as I sit and think about this question, and how I’d answer if asked again, I think I might reconsider. As I thought, it got me thinking, just which teams ARE my favorite. Which teams would winning a championship mean more for me? And which ones is a championship so unfathomable that perhaps, it falls down the list simply because imagining it occurring is too far fetched for me to even attempt to wrap my arms around how I’d feel. So I’ve thought a lot about this, and I’ve come up with a list, in order, of the 25 things I’d most like to see occur in sports during my lifetime.

1. Atlanta Falcons win Super Bowl- I know I said Chase Elliott was my favorite team/driver, whatever you want to call it, and he is. However, I get to watch him 30 to 36 weekends a year. He’s also young, it’s his first year in major NASCAR racing. There’s going to be plenty of time for that.

The Atlanta Falcons however, are not young. The Falcons are nearing 50 years old, and still no championship. They were instilled as my favorite team growing up because they were my dad’s favorite team. It didn’t hurt that of the stick and ball sports, football is my favorite, and it’s not close. But not only that, the Atlanta Falcons are, besides the Elliotts, the only TRUE professional team based out of Georgia, and the only one based out of Atlanta, the Dream notwithstanding. Yes, the Braves and Hawks call Atlanta home now, but they didn’t originate here.

The Atlanta Falcons are Atlanta’s and Atlanta’s alone. We share no history (though at times, pawning some of this history off on another city wouldn’t exactly stink) with another city, no records, no uniforms, no logos, no anything. They’ve always been, the ATLANTA Falcons.

The day that this team brings a championship to Atlanta is one, that truthfully, I can’t even begin to describe the way I even think I’d feel. And I know what I’d ultimately actually feel would reach far, far beyond what I can conjure up in my mind.

2. Chase Elliott win a Sprint Cup Championship- As mentioned, Elliott is my “favorite”. If this question was posed 11 years ago, I would have put Bill Elliott winning a championship at 1, the Falcons winning a Super Bowl at 2. As much as I loved the Falcons as a kid, they didn’t compare to how much I loved “Awesome Bill”. And now that his son his here? I love the Falcons, but not like I root for this kid. The investment is deep. The history is deeper. The personal meaning, deeper than both together.

Through all the ups and downs of my relationship with my father, there is one constant. An Elliott in a racecar. There’s always an Elliott that we can come together over. Whether it was reminiscing about the good ole days of Bill’s hey day, or even his not so stellar moments, or it’s talking about the incredibly bright future of his son Chase, we will always have an Elliott. And for that, nothing can replace that. And that’s not saying the Falcons aren’t a “me and dad thing”, but it’s not close to our connection to the Elliotts, as I mentioned in a post nearly four full years ago.

So the day Chase Elliott hoists that championship trophy above his head, I’ll remember being there in 1988 at Atlanta International Raceway to watch his dad hoist one, and I hope, when it happens, I’m with my dad.

3. Georgia Tech College Football National Championship- This one is one I almost dropped lower, simply because of the improbability. Not to mention, I was alive for one of these, and despite being only five years old, I actually have vivid memories of Shawn Jones and William Bell running all through Nebraska’s defense in Orlando. However, it’s that improbability that ranks it so high on the list. Everyone knows I pull for Georgia when they don’t play Tech, and because I wasn’t alive for Georgia’s national title, and because there are so many other rabid SEC fans around here, I almost put them higher than Tech on this list. Then I thought, not only does a Tech title put it in the face of THOSE SEC fans, it does it to the Georgia fans I’ve heard nothing but ridicule from for almost the last quarter century. But alas, it’s not going to happen. But I can dream, right?

4. Georgia College Football National Championship- Like I mentioned above, I almost put this above Tech winning one, but it comes in a step below. I know some Tech fans may disown me for that thought, and some may even disown me for having them here, but that’s fine. I like all my home teams. When a team from Georgia plays a team from another state, I want the local boys to whip their ass. Every. Single. Time.

Beyond that though, I love Mark Richt. He’s everything right about college football and receives far, far, FAR more flak than he deserves. Whether it’s people incredulously going on about how he’s, “lost control of the program”, or the players, or to the even more asinine arguments about his lack of a national title, he receives unjust criticism.

The national title argument in particular irks me because it’s so stupid. Because the argument is so ignorant. I’m not here to get into details about that. But, if Richt could win one in Athens, it would shut those people up. And for that reason alone, them winning a national title makes the top four.

5. Chase Elliott Winning the Daytona 500- See above for the reasoning. The Daytona 500, in many ways, is almost the equivalent to a championship, so if Chase can pull that one off, it’s going to be one very, very special day.

6. Atlanta Braves World Series- Yes, we have one. And I was plenty old enough to enjoy and appreciate it. But not as much as I’d enjoy and appreciate it now. All the World Series losses as well that have added up over the years only add to the need for a championship. Hearing it from all these teams who over the past 25 years have made the playoffs, maybe 2 times, maybe three, or even five or six, but have two World Series rings, about how much greater an organization than the Braves they are (though currently employing Fredi Gonzalez gives these claims merit) gets old. A second trophy would shut them up.

7. Chase Elliott Nationwide Championship- It might seem high, seeing as how the Nationwide Series, or Xfinity Series, or whatever it will be next year, is basically the AAA minor leagues of NASCAR. However, unlike other minor leagues, they’re on major TV every week, they’re a multi million dollar sport, and, they’re the second most popular form of motorsports in America. So it’s not your typical minor league circuit. Throw in the fact that for Chase to win one, he’d have to do so at age 18 or 19…. It’d be pretty cool. Plus, with the way sports are around here in Georgia, it might be the closest we get to a championship in the next few years, well, until Chase goes and wins one at the Cup level.

8. Georgia Tech Basketball National Title- They’ve been closer than any other team in this state over the past 15 years when it comes to winning a title, though, you could argue that the 2012 Georgia football team was pretty dadgum close as well. They actually have played for a championship in this century. Nobody else say can say that. So there’s that. But, while I love my Jackets, and am an ardent follower and supporter, basketball just isn’t there with football, NASCAR, and even baseball. Notice, I still haven’t gotten to the Hawks yet. Being a Georgia Tech fan however is hard. We’re outnumbered, and the good times are becoming fewer and farther between. Something to cheer about, period, would be nice. But if Tech is going to win something, while I’d pick baseball first, the odds are much, much better in happens on the hardwood than on the Flats.

9. Kasey Kahne Sprint Cup Championship- Kasey Kahne is here because of Bill Elliott. When Elliott retired following the 2003 season, Kasey Kahne was tabbed to be his replacement in the no. 9 car, and immediately, I became a fan. At this point, there was no sign of a future Elliott coming into the sport, so I had to find a new guy to pull for. That Kasey was a contender off the bat, with so many agonizingly close runner-up finishes (much like Elliott) in his rookie year, pulling for him became easy, and difficult at the same time. Kahne is a guy with a lot of talent, that’s yet to put it all together. Watching him will his way into the chase (NASCAR’s version of the playoffs) this year with a gutty drive at Atlanta was pretty cool. Watching him finally put everything together and win a championship would be downright awesome. For ten years I’ve been a Kahne fan, but he better hurry. Once Chase Elliott arrives on the Sprint Cup circuit, he’s no longer going to be my top dog. Maybe he can pull it off this year, who knows?

10. Atlanta Hawks NBA Championship- I probably dropped them below Georgia State simply because of how infuriated and frustrated I am with the mess this organization is right now. And it’s probably because it’s been such a frustrating and infuriating disaster for so long, that they have fallen so far. Nevertheless, they’re still my team.

11. Georgia Tech Baseball College World Series

12. Kasey Kahne Winning the Daytona 500

13. North Carolina Basketball National Championship

14. Georgia Southern Football Being Ranked

15. Georgia State Basketball Final Four

16. Georgia Basketball National Championship

17. Atlanta Dream WNBA Championship

18. Georgia Tech Basketball ACC Tournament Championship

19. Georgia State Football Conference Championship

20. Kennesaw State Basketball NCAA Tournament Bid

21. Kansas City Royals World Series

22. Detroit Lions Super Bowl

23. North Carolina Football National Championship

24. Buffalo Bills Super Bowl

25. Cleveland Browns Super Bowl

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Filed under Baseball, Basketball, Braves, College Basketball, College Football, Daytona 500, Falcons, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawks, Motorsports, NASCAR, NFL, Personal, Playoffs, Sports

Daytona 500 Sunday, Ain’t Nothin’ Like It

Daytona 500 Sunday is truely one of the most special, and unique days in all of sports. It is a day, event, and spectacle that can’t really be compared to any other day in sports.

Sure, days such as the final Sunday at Augusta, Major League Baseball’s opening day, the Indianapolis 500, and of course Super Bowl Sunday can compare to some extent, but even there, it’s closer to comparing apples to oranges.

Some may find it peculiar, or even backwards, that the NASCAR season opens with the sports biggest prize at stake and on the line. That only adds to the lore, the intrigue, and the magnitude of the event.

For NASCAR, when it’s biggest event takes place, everyone is still involved.

While the final Sunday at Augusta is a picturesque afternoon at one of the most beautiful places in the world, by the time you arrive to Sunday, only a select few of those who participated in the event still have any sort of remote possibility to win the event. The hope that springs eternal with a new beginning has already worn off for the majority of those involved.

Besides, by the time Augusta rolls around, the tour has already made stops at places such as Pebble Beach and Riviera, and been to Hawaii. Golf is no longer fresh and new, the season is well under way.

The Indianapolis 500, once the pre-eminent motorsports event in the world, no longer has the buzz that it once did, and in fact, is considered my many to be only the second most important race on the Sunday it’s run, having fallen behind NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600. While in terms of a pure spectacle the Indy 500 is a step above the Daytona 500, this is about sports, and competition. If we just wanted a spectacle, well, there are plenty of other avenues upon which we could quench that thirst.

Opening day for Major League Baseball is a big day, a special and unique day in it’s own right. For many reasons that Daytona is so special due to the starting of something new, baseballs opening day has a similar feel. However, winning or losing on opening day ultimately matters very little.

Do you remember if your team won on opening day in 2006? Even the most die-hard of baseball fans likely can’t answer that question. Even the most casual of NASCAR fans might be able to answer who won the Daytona 500 in 2006.

Seriously, who remembers what happened on opening day in 1979? Most NASCAR fans have a very good recollection, or newfound awareness, of exactly what took place in the 1979 Daytona 500.

The most common comparison of course is the Super Bowl, as the Daytona 500 itself is considered the Super Bowl of NASCAR.

But consider that when the Super Bowl is completed, so is football. Done. Finished. Over. The Daytona 500 gears you up for the NASCAR season, the Super Bowl simply reminds you that football is over.

Don’t get me wrong, I am as big a football fan as anyone, and will take the NFL season and NFL playoffs over NASCARs season and Chase any day of the week. But I won’t take it over Speed Weeks down at Daytona.

Additionally, when the Sprint Cup teams come south to Florida in February for a week and a half of racing at the famed 2.5 mile superspeedway, they all come with the promise that a new season begins. It’s not just the Daytona 500 they are coming to Florida for, it’s a new year, a new season, a new chance, a new life.

Take this year for instance. Jimmie Johnson comes down here with the promise of starting a new quest to further etch his name into history. Denny Hamlin can finally attempt to bury the memory of choking away the 2010 championship, and set out again to capture an elusive title. Jeff Gordon gets yet another shot to try and match protoge turned rival Jimmie Johnson in championships and remind the world he’s not going anywhere yet.

When teams get to the Super Bowl, there is nothing to look forward to after that, particularly for the loser.

A “good showing” in the Super Bowl means absolutely nothing. A “good showing” down in Daytona can provide the momentum to propel a team towards a succsesful season.

Not only that, by the time Super Bowl Sunday rolls around, you’ve only got two teams left with anything to play for.

Today in Daytona, there will be 43. While there aren’t 43 legitimate threats to win today, and certainly not that many who are seriously vying for a championship, it’s a lot more than two. And even for those who aren’t ready to contend in prime time, they are here ready to improve, and gain momentum to top their previous season. For 30 of the 32 NFL teams, it’s already over. Super Bowl Sunday means nothing to them.

With one minute left in the Super Bowl, if we are lucky, we get two teams with a chance to win. With about one minute left this afternoon, there will still likely be about eight to ten people still with a chance to bring home the most coveted trophy in racing.

The Super Bowl has great moments, plenty of them, moreso probably than perhaps any other single sporting event in the world. But does it have the story lines and drama that a Daytona 500 does?

Do you have former World Series winners crossing over and suddenly coaching football teams in the Super Bowl, trying to obtain greatness in two sports, ala Joe Gibbs?

Are there second and third generations trying to follow in their fathers footsteps?

Are there second generation players forced to return to the site of their fathers tragic death every year to compete for the biggest prize in their sport, carrying what seems to be the weight of an entire sport on their shoulders?

You tell me what impact Bart Starr had on this years Super Bowl. Richard Petty, he of seven Daytona 500s, but none since 1981, and retired since 1992, is still coming to Daytona, still trying to win a Daytona 500, just as an owner.

The Sprint Cup season ended in the middle of November, and as soon as that season ended, the focus began on 2011. And while the focus was on 2011 as a whole, a lot of it was focused on winning one particular race in 2011, the first one.

Preparations for many teams for the Daytona 500 actually began before the 2010 season was even over. Every team spent all winner making sure their best engine was built to be put in their car for todays race. The fabrication guys spend more time massaging and perfecting the bodies of the Daytona car than they will any car they prepare all year.

Every egg is poured into this basket. Why? Because if you win Daytona, you’re done. No matter what you do or do not do ever again in your career, you win the Daytona 500, you’re somebody.

Ask Derrike Cope. There’s a reason he was still allowed to come out and run the Bud Shootout Saturday night and have some more fun in a racecar. It’s because he won the Daytona 500.

Ask Darrel Waltrip what it’s like to win the Daytona 500. Ask his brother Michael. If you ever have doubt as to what this race means, check out the end of the 1976 Daytona 500 where two of perhaps the five greatest wheelmen the sport has ever seen couldn’t figure out how to get off of turn four together without crashing due to their burning desire to win the 500.

No man better personified the importance of this race of course than the late Dale Earnhardt. His failures in the race were well documented. You thought Phil Mickelson had it bad with his failures in majors? Hah. And of course Mickelson got four chances a year. Alas, the Daytona 500 affords you one chance each year, and that’s it. Plus, the golf course never jumped up and altered the flight or path of a Mickelson golf shot as it neared the hole to clinch a tournament (see Earnhardt’s cut tire in 1990), robbing him of sure victory.

Earnhardt’s 1998 victory is perhaps best known for the receiving line down pit road where every man from every rival pit crew, and every official lined up to shake the hand of the man who finally won the Daytona 500.

Sure, NFL players congratulate one another for winning a Super Bowl, but there’s never been anything like what Earnhardt saw coming down pit road in 1998. There’s a reason for that.

The Daytona 500 brings out the best and worst in everyone on the track.

Dale Earnhardt, arguably the greatest driver the sport has seen, twice in six years was running second in the closing laps and wrecked. The number of mistakes made by the true legends of this sport in this race might seem alarming to an outsider, and appear to be an indictment on the sport and event, given that the great ones elevate their game in events such as the Super Bowl.

But you have to consider, when you, and 20 other great drivers are all attempting to elevate their game, there’s only so much room on that race track for everyone to do it.

Part of what makes the Daytona 500 so special is watching these great, magnificent drivers push everything to the limit, sometimes finding out the hard way just what that limit is. Points matter 35 races out of 36. They don’t matter today. Al Davis would love the approach to today’s race, just win baby!

Months of work are over, the culmination of hard work in the shops in North Carolina over the winter hits the track in just a few short hours. A week and a half of prelimenary races, and practicing, and dramatic moments leading up to the race are now a thing of the past. It’s go time.

Let’s go racing boy!

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