Best Sports Stuff Right Now: Brady (Fake), Julio (Real) and Lady Gaga...

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJanuary 31, 2017

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 29:  A general view of George R. Brown Convention Center during Super Bowl LIVE on January 29, 2017 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Tim Warner/Getty Images

Few would argue that Super Bowl week isn't the best week in sports. 

This is especially the case this year. Not only does the matchup in Houston boast the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons, a surefire offensive fireworks display. It boasts storylines in a way no Super Bowl media day has before, ranging from suspensions and scandals right on up to President Donald Trump.

Don't think this week is only about the Super Bowl, either. Far from it—the NBA still exists, college basketball offers one of its best matchups of the year and the recruiting realm delivers its biggest day of the year.

So buckle those seat belts—the best sports stuff right now comes barreling at you more violently than LeGarrette Blount between the tackles.     


Heroes don't always wear capes...

...they wear half-shirts.

The NFL's Pro Bowl this past Sunday was admittedly better than those in past years, although it's a shame we can't say the same about the jerseys.

What we can say, though, is Dallas Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott gave us the best moment of the game by gracefully handling a fan who decided to run onto the field.

Elliott, a chiseled monstrosity of a player (which is a good thing), could have ruined this guy's life WWE style. He didn't, which makes for some hilarious viewing.   


Halftime Hype 

Lady Gaga is about to shut it down in Houston.

The pop star known for crazy outfits is one of the most-hyped aspects of this year's game.

From flirting with the idea of performing on top of NRG Stadium (per Page Six) to simply being Lady Gaga, this is one of the most anticipated halftime shows in recent memory.

The politicized environment doesn't hurt, either—whispers of her mentioning Trump (per Entertainment Tonight, h/t CBSSports.com) during her performance have popped up.   


National Signing Day Unrolls the Red Carpet 

The future of the nation's top college football programs will reveal itself Wednesday.

Though it sits on the backburner compared to the Super Bowl, national signing day is a holiday of its own in the college football realm.

Whether it is the story of Tua Tagovailoa mentioned above or something else, the race to have the best recruiting class will reveal the finish line Wednesday.

Whether it is Alabama taking the crown or a different program pulling off the upset is one of the week's most nail-biting questions.     


College Basketball's Epic Encounter

LEXINGTON, KY - JANUARY 28:  Frank Mason III #0 of the Kansas Jayhawks shoots the ball against the Kentucky Wildcats during the game against at Rupp Arena on January 28, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

It doesn't get much bigger than this.

Wednesday, the No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks host the No. 2 Baylor Bears in what might be college basketball's top game of the year.

The Jayhawks have stormed out to a 19-2 record this year, most recently upending fourth-ranked Kentucky. The Bears look slightly better at 20-1, having only lost to then-No. 10 West Virginia.

The Big 12 showdown will have fans feeling like March came early, so don't miss out because football owns most of the coverage this week.


NBA Pulls Out Major Punches, Too

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 25: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors looks on against the Charlotte Hornets at Spectrum Center on January 25, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

The NBA isn't about to be left behind either.

The Association trots out a monster Thursday lineup when the Atlanta Hawks take on the Houston Rockets, a duel between two surging teams. The night then finishes with the Golden State Warriors visiting the Los Angeles Clippers in a battle of contenders.

On Super Bowl Sunday itself, those Clippers take on the Boston Celtics at 2 p.m. ET in an interesting cross-conference matchup. The day ends with a showdown between the Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder, two young teams looking for answers and playoff bids.

The NBA knows its successful niche here—a superb way to pass the time while waiting for football.  


Go Ahead, Stop Julio, See What Happens 

Bob Leverone/Associated Press

One of the most overrated narratives surrounding this year's Super Bowl is the idea that the Patriots can win if they find a way to shut down star Atlanta wideout Julio Jones.

It makes sense on paper. Over just 14 games, Jones posted 1,409 yards and six touchdowns before amassing another 247 yards and three touchdowns over two playoff games.

Though it makes sense, it's wrong. Look at the deep dive provided by The MMQB's Peter King:

Jones had four little-to-no-impact games in the 14 he played in the regular season. I looked at those games. Atlanta went 4-0 in the four games, and averaged 34.8 points per game. Looking at the four games, and how Jones’ numbers compared to the combined numbers of wideouts Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel and backs Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman.

So, in the six games this season when Jones either did not play or was a small factor, Atlanta was 6-0 and averaged 37.0 points per game.

These superb weapons around Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan are what makes the title game so interesting.

How head coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots tackle this problem will decide the game.   


Thunder Innovation Winning Games 

CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 29: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder looks on during the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on January 29, 2017 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that
David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

Russell Westbrook and the Thunder continue to hang around in the Western Conference playoff picture for more than just Westbrook's silly numbers.

No, everyone in Oklahoma City deserves credit for trotting out wrinkles in the offense that have defenses scrambling to adapt.

ESPN.com's Zach Lowe brought up one innovation concerning a pick-and-roll with Westbrook and Victor Oladipo:

But the Thunder can catch teams off guard if they use this play sparingly, and spring it after some misdirection that tricks defenders into expecting something else. Guards aren't as used to guarding the screener in the pick-and-roll, and mistakes happen when offenses shock defenders out of their comfort zones.

Curveballs like this will keep the Thunder in the race despite the departure of Kevin Durant. Once in the postseason, anything can happen.   


Falcons Pingpong to the Super Bowl

The storylines surrounding the Patriots are quite serious.

Atlanta has, well, pingpong.

Falcons head coach Dan Quinn revealed that one of his team's secrets to success this year was getting his guys to bond and compete over games of pingpong in the locker room, according to Matt Winkeljohn of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

This is one of those things where it was a shift for us and our connections with one another. You see so many people … playing dominoes on the phone. That interaction, that competition that you have … the line for that one table was strong, and so it grew to two, and it grew to three. It’s an important thing for the guys.

Here is to hoping we get some cameras in that pregame locker room.     


Super Bowl Media Frenzy is Must-See Television 

Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

The wild media coverage surrounding Super Bowl week is always a fun time.

The events have produced gems from former Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch such as "I'm just 'bout that action, Boss," among many other notable moments.

Monday night produced some amazing moments, quotes and costumes, including Fake Brady:

This year the weeklong frenzy promises to be more entertaining than ever. The Falcons aren't exactly a household team yet and the scrum will make them one. Don't forget the hoopla surrounding Tom Brady, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Trump, not to mention Deflategate.

Most years, the interviews and events are something fans can catch a recap of after the fact. This year...not so much.


The Wild World of Prop Bets...

John Locher/Associated Press

Observers have more than a few avenues to cash in on the Super Bowl while watching it this year.

Want to roll the dice on what Lady Gaga wears, if she'll suffer a wardrobe malfunction or if she mentions Trump? You can, according to OddsShark's Justin Hartling.

Ditto for in-game odds, per OddsShark's Joe Osborne. Think Chris Hogan will win MVP? The world is yours. Levine Toilolo? Go for it, friend. Want to make something as silly as the coin toss interesting? Throw some real coin on it.

The props this year are quite the way to say goodbye to NFL betting, to say the least.


...and the Wild World of Super Bowl Commercials

For the observers who tune in to the big game just to watch the commercials, well, this year is for you.

It's hard to fit all the must-see stuff into a small space like this, but you know Super Bowl advertising isn't playing around when a company drops millions on a hype trailer for an advertisement that will run during the Super Bowl.

Countless celebrities and major names will appear in ads this year, ranging from Jason Statham to Melissa McCarthy and even Brady himself.

Like the media day, this is a global event to catch live, not after the fact.     


The Offensive Chess Match 

Though fans could have dreamed up different participants, it doesn't get much better than Brady squaring off against Ryan. 

Brady and his 28 touchdowns with two interceptions over 12 games has a vast array of weapons, from Hogan to Julian Edelman and Martellus Bennett.

Ryan and his 38 touchdowns with seven interceptions over a full season has Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel and a pair of versatile backs at his disposal.

It sets up the question—is this the year the Falcons secure a legacy forever, or is the Brady dynasty simply gaining a ring for another finger?