In a turn of events that no one could've predicted, Super Bowl LVI is the closest we'll ever get to an NFL championship game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Detroit Lions (it's Matthew Stafford's Los Angeles Rams, but you can pretend it's Detroit if you want).
In another twist of fate, people are actually spending a lot of time talking about one particular kicker in the buildup to this contest — Cincinnati's Evan "Money Mac" McPherson. McPherson has out-dueled 2020 Offensive Player of the Year Derrick Henry and 2018 MVP Patrick Mahomes while drilling 12 straight in the postseason, including two game-winners.
But how long can McPherson keep up this facade of being a cool guy that's beloved by his teammates when we all know he's really a large-toed savant of putting pig skin through PVC? And what about the unheralded Rams kicker Matt Gay, whose mantra is "see ball, kick ball" and who loves nothing more than "doing some dry swings" and visualizing the ball going through the uprights "over and over and over again?"
We're still figuring out the science of this annual kicker vs. kicker prediction. In 2020 we predicted that Carli Lloyd would, theoretically and perhaps factually, win the Super Bowl, while the 2021 event was supposed to end in a draw.
Neither of those picks came to fruition, BUT IT WORKS BETTER NOW.
(Also I'm a Vikings fan, so if you think the tone of this article is anti-kicker just know that I've been hurt.)
The18's Super Bowl Prediction
Advantage: There's no difference between the two. So far this is a hugely disappointing matchup. Both have opted for the newfangled technology that shows they're willing to attempt a tackle but also entirely unable. As a tie-breaker, we're moving to the jersey sleeves. Gay wins by keeping the OG kicker style — loose and baggy. No need to enter the arms race when you know you've got the warheads at home.
McPherson: 0 | Gay: 1
(SOCCER) CLEAT CHOICE
Advantage: Both wear Trusox and are Nike heads, but McPherson opts for a recent release in the Nike Mercurial Superfly 8 Elite whereas Gay has a pair of grass-stained Nike Phantom Venom Elites.
In something of a rarity, both actually sport a pair of those cleats. Kickers are notorious for going with one soccer cleat (for kicking!) and one football cleat (for the other stuff like sitting on the bench!) because they're carny folk.
McPherson: 1 | Gay: 1
Evan McPherson: In a recent ESPN article, McPherson was heralded as a 22-year-old "wunderkind" who's "the king of chicken fingers." Teammate C.J. Uzomah said he's "a 7-year-old stud who is just a menace to society... Just giving you smug looks. And you want to give him a wedgie, but you can't because you can't catch him."
I need to collect myself.
Matt Gay: Gay has a heartfelt pregame ritual where he writes "P.O." — the initials of his best friend growing up who passed away — on his tapped left wrist. At 6'0'' and 231 lbs, the Utah graduate has been described as a "fuckin' JACKED kicker, man" by head coach Sean McVay. He says he wants to work out with Aaron Donald. That's not quirky, that's hardcore.
Aaron Donald with the speed
— ESPN (@espn) August 13, 2019
Advantage: I swear every year these kickers get more athletic, more muscular and more accepted by teammates. All we get now is story after story on kickers who are "breaking the mold" and "redefining the position" — but what about what I want, huh? What about a kicker who reasserts the mold, one who refuses to wear pads, is a total social recluse and whose helmet is a discarded plastic grocery bag tied under the chin? Bring back my kickers!
McPherson wins since a teammate said he wants to give him a wedgie.
McPherson: 2 | Gay: 1
HAVE THEY EVER LACED ONE FAR AS HELL?
Evan McPherson: McPherson is only a rookie, but his career long is already 58 yards (a Bengals record). He's also 12 of 14 from over 50 yards out this season. He's the Queen City James Ward-Prowse.
The longest field goal in Bengals history.Watch on CBS pic.twitter.com/eEsBAOLjYK
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) December 19, 2021
Matt Gay: Gay's long this year is from 55 and his three-year career long is also from 58. He's four of six from over 50 yards this season.
Advantage: The Rams kicker has more upper body strength, but in the world of kicking that's like saying you're the league's skinniest defensive tackle.
McPherson: 3 | Gay: 1
WHO'S THE BETTER SOCCER PLAYER?
Evan McPherson: He played soccer in high school — winning MVP of the state tournament his freshman year while scoring headed goals in the semifinals and final — but kicking was always the focus after that.
Matt Gay: He played soccer in college, scoring eight goals and providing five assists in 33 games for the Utah Valley Wolverines between his freshman and sophomore seasons before turning to the dark arts.
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Advantage: Gay wins this one as a member of the 2014 NSCAA West All-Region Second Team.
McPherson: 3 | Gay: 2
Prediction: The Cincinnati Bengals are going to win the Super Bowl by a final score of three to two. It's not going to be the most exciting game.