A die-hard Bay Area sports fan, I have a soft spot for the Broncos because my wife has loved the team for most of her life. So Sunday afternoon in the Burke household was often spent on the couch switching between Broncos and San Francisco 49ers victories this season.
That’s exactly why I have a hunch that the Broncos may meet the 49ers in the Superbowl in February. Both teams are stacked. And if you come to my living room on game day, you’ll understand that it’s destiny.
The result of the game? I have no idea. If it’s cold, I lean towards the 49ers because Peyton Manning’s brain and 37-year-old arm seem to malfunction in extreme temperatures. If it’s not, the Broncos will win in a cake-walk because Peyton needs another ring in this monumental season.
Thus begins my annual Bay Area pro sports prediction column.
As for the Oakland Raiders, Al Davis’ passing has not seemed to change the team’s fortunes. A 4-12 record this season should improve to 6-10 in 2014 as Terrelle Pryor improves as a passer to complement his fabulous wheels and the Reggie McKenzie era finally takes hold in Oakland.
I have a hard time making a bold prediction for the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks have been to the playoffs 16 times in their 22-year history. They have yet to play in the Stanley Cup Finals. San Jose has also made the playoffs for nine consecutive seasons, but have yet to fulfill lofty expectations. So this year, I will temper my expecations. cross my fingers and hope for the best. Anti Niemi is a world champion level goaltender. Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle are veteran leaders. Logan Couture is a bonafide star and Tomas Hertl was as promising a young player as there is in the league, until he went down with a knee injury. It seems like all the pieces are in place for a deep playoff run, but until the team makes the Stanley Cup finals, all the pieces in the world are just pieces until the puzzle is completed.
The Golden State Warriors are in a similar predicament to the Sharks this season. They are not the best team in the league, but if they get hot at the right time, and the teams ahead of them have an injury or a slump, they could find themselves fighting for a trip to the NBA finals in 2014. Steph Curry is everyone’s favorite player with his boyish looks and daredevil game. The team is loaded with talent, including Andre Iguadola, yet the pieces have not all come together yet. I believe they will as long as the roster maintains its health throughout the season. Then, in the playoffs, if they can get over a mental block they have against the San Antonio Spurs, they could be playing in the NBA finals against the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers. Many of the so called experts made a similar prediction at the beginning of the season. It’s for good reason and I am starting to see this Warriors team round into form.
The Oakland A’s made a surprising playoff run in 2013 and largely keep the roster, including a strong pitching staff, top to bottom, intact. A roster that is chalk-full of no-name players has all the right pieces to remain in the hunt deep into October in the American League. Plus, Billy Bean and company made just enough moves this offseason to keep the A’s hungry after a surprising playoff run in 2013.
The most frustrating team in the Bay Area may be the San Francisco Giants. The team has won two of the last four World Series titles, but has struggled so mightily in the seasons that it has not won, that the team did not even make the playoffs.
The 2014 team is counting on Pablo Sandoval to return this spring in good shape, and for the pitching staff, including recent re-signee Tim Lincecum, to bounce back from a sub-par 2013. The pitching staff will certainly be better as Barry Zito and his 5-11 record in 2013, was not resigned. Giants fans may wonder why I am singling Zito out. He was 5-2 in San Francisco with a 3.59 ERA. On the road, Zito was 0-9 and boasted an astounding 9.56 ERA. You can see why the Giants did not resign him. Even an average starting pitcher can win several games on the road. Zito, at this point in his career is below the mean.
This year promises to bring much excitement to the Bay Area. Almost every local team is expected to make the playoffs, and a world championship is not beyond the imagination for most.
On our flight to Denver, I sat next to a Broncos fan who recalled the team’s back-to-back championships in the late-1990s with John Elway at the helm. At the time, the fan expected the team to be back in the Superbowl fairly quickly, but 15 years later, the Broncos are still looking for another shot at a title.
This proves only one thing. When our Bay Area teams do make it to a championship, we ought to treasure it and try to remember every second of it. Because it might be a decade or two, (or longer) before the team has a chance to do it again.