It’s that time of year once again. The first Sunday of February always creates quite a stir nationwide and the cause is quite obvious. So gather all of your friends and family, bring the snacks and beer, and gather around the TV to witness a clash of the titans like none other.
I am speaking, of course, about the Puppy Bowl.
Yes, the Puppy Bowl airs all day on Sunday leading up to and even during that other game that airs. Fully equipped with money pouring in from sponsors, a kitten half-time show, hamsters in blimps and a tweeting bird, this game has everything the whole family could possibly want. Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention; there’s puppies!
Not that there’s anything un-manly about puppies roaming around chewing on stuffed animals, but similar to any other sporting event, it is enhanced by an added wager. Last year, Animal Planet came up with the genius idea to run a Fantasy game around the event and it was drastically under-played in my opinion. So this season, in order to increase the participation level to what the event deserves (which is everyone in America participating), I wanted to get a bettor’s guide to the event together. Before you set your lineup, you need to have all the information to make the most informed decision you possibly can.
How does the game work? There are 12 total participants divided amongst two randomly pre-determined “teams.” However, the teams do not factor into the Fantasy game itself. All you need to do is select three puppies to your “Fantasy team.” Once selected, Animal Planet gives you a scorecard to print out and keep tallies on a multitude of outcomes. Here’s how it is scored:
Touchdowns – seven pts
Field goals – three pts
Takeaways – three pts
Tackles – two pts
Penalties – negative two pts
So there is obviously a premium on scoring but do not sleep on the sneaky defenders who potentially could take a steal to the house at any time (the Rajon Rondo types).
When beginning to analyze an event, there’s no better place to start than past results. “Trends” are a commonly used betting term that essentially mean patterns that have developed over time that give the bettor an edge. This year will be the 11th Puppy Bowl and here is a list of the past winners:
Puppy Bowl I
Max, a Jack Russell Terrier
Puppy Bowl II
Monseigneur Jacques, a French Poodle
Puppy Bowl III
Bomber, a Samoyed
Puppy Bowl IV
Abigail, a Jack Russell Terrier
Puppy Bowl V
Matilda, a Beagle
Puppy Bowl VI
Jake, a Chihuahua/Pug Mix
Puppy Bowl VII
CB, a Shih Tzu/Terrier Mix
Puppy Bowl VIII
Fumble, a Terrier Mix
Puppy Bowl IX
Marta, a Schnauzer/Beagle Mix
Puppy Bowl X
Loren, a Brittany
Notice four of the ten previous winners were some form of terrier mix and two were some form of beagle. Surprisingly, a poodle (or what I refer to as one of the “foo-foo breeds”) actually emerged victorious in season two. Strength of schedule may have factored into this victory as I do not have a comprehensive list of the competitors from that year. Four of the previous winners were also females so, in our small sample size, males only seem to have a slight edge. Taking the analysis even deeper, only three of the past winners had over six characters in their name so you may want to avoid the tongue twisters.
So keeping all of the prior data in mind, let’s meet this year’s teams and contestants:
Team Ruff (54% favorites to win): Bubba, Bryan Adams, Titan, Marley, Falcor, Henry
Team Fluff (46% favorites to win): Miss Martian, Cara, Keno, Chicklet, Freckles, Papi
Notice Team Ruff is a decent favorite according to America’s poll. Vegas is not offering lines to this contest unfortunately but I believe the names of the teams have swayed the vote incorrectly. At worst, this should be around 50/50 with the more reasonable scenario being the Fluff team slightly favored. Nice attempt to sandbag America Animal Planet but you ain’t fooling me!
Onto the most important part: the individual participants themselves. Besides, when you select your three dog team, only their points will matter. Without further ado, here is a player summary of each participant:
Bubba, Chihuahua Mix – The lack of information here is semi-disturbing. We all know Chihuahuas are one of the smallest breeds of dogs which doesn’t bode well when playing against Labradors, Aussie Shepherds, etc. Without knowing what the dog is mixed with, and it does appear it could be a Rottweiler with the coloring of the dog, it’s safest to assume it’s a small breed. What do we know about Chihuahuas? According to dogbreedinfo.com, they are a courageous, extremely lively, proud and adventurous breed that may be difficult to housebreak. The courageous and adventurous parts are at least mildly encouraging as we want Bubba to venture towards the end zone. Unfortunately, it seems like he’ll be wandering in his own direction and may spend a fair amount of time urinating on the field. Finally, Chihuahuas that do not get a daily walk are more likely to display a wide array of behavior problems as well as neurotic issues. We could have a Josh Gordon on our hands which makes little Bubba hard to rely on. He’s a long-shot GPP type play.
Bryan Adams, Labrador Mix – Who gives their dog a first and last name? Don’t we just assume the dog takes on the family’s last name? Is the family who adopted this pup’s last name Adams? I really hope so or else this is just ridiculous. Looking on the bright side, a Labrador seems like the perfect breed to dominate one of these competitions. They are large, active and incredibly smart. Similarly to Bubba, the wildcard creeps in with Bryan Adams to the fact that he is a “mix.” There’s a whole lot of gray area that could be eliminated with the specifics of what Bryan Adams has in him aside from Lab. The fun fact provided about Bryan Adams is he “has a soft spot for Canadian singers with raspy voices” (which solves the mystery of the last name) but also makes me wonder if that’s the music choice of a winning pup? Sure he has one song entitled “Cuts Like a Knife” but that’s mostly for show. Motivated dogs should really be listening to heavy metal or hip-hop pre-match for proper inspiration. Bryan Adams seems like he should finish in the top half but there’s certainly downside.
Titan, American Bulldog – When you think “bulldog,” you immediately think “lazy sack of crap.” To be fair, that’s how most bulldogs actually are. In Titan’s case, he is actually an American Bulldog (not to be confused with his lazier, fatter English Bulldog counterpart). If you research (Google) this breed of dog, they are very muscular and sturdy looking dogs. This is where the extra research pays off in Puppy Bowl Fantasy competitions. Already in his picture, the 12 week old is looking jacked and ready to play. It should be noted at 12 weeks old, he is tied for the youngest competitor which gives a two-to-four-week experience edge to some of the others. All-in-all, Titan looks like one of the favorites.
Marley, Labrador Retriever – It pains me to write a blurb on a dog named Marley since I am admittedly biased against the name. My ex-roommate had a dog named Marley that bit me so it’s taking all I have to fairly handicap this 14 year old white Lab. The first noticeable attribute about Marley is her size. She barely fits in the space given for her picture which gives her the opportunity to create a brick wall for smaller dogs trying to run by her with the football. Also, her breed is fully confirmed as a Lab while Bryan Adams’ is up for debate giving Marley the slight edge. Her fun fact is slightly unnerving: she “thinks fashion week should last a month.” Why would she even bring up Fashion Week in her Media Day interview? Is her head even in the game? While her breed suggests she’s a must-pick, her actions signify you do just the opposite.
Falcor, Clumber Spaniel – Admittedly, I have no idea what a clumber spaniel is so I once again took to dogbreedinfo. From my limited experience with spaniels, I know many of them are prone to health problems. After researching the breed, this clumber breed is no different; they are prone to entropion, hip dysplasia, dry eyes and tend to snore, wheeze and drool. Now I don’t know about you but I do not want to bet on a contestant wheezing and drooling through match play. Sorry Falcor but you are an instant fade.
Henry, English Springer Spaniel – English Springers are the bigger, more athletic dogs in the Spaniel family and are much easier to trust than Clumbers. They’re medium-sized compact dogs that are described as “brave, playful, energetic, pleasant and cheerful.” Intelligence is also one of their strong points so while the breed had me at “brave and energetic,” knowing Henry is smart boosts him in my power rankings. Even in his picture, he is playing with a toy which is an essential skill to this competition. The major question that will need to be answered is “will he adjust from playing with a tire on a swing to carrying a football?” We will soon find out.
Miss Martian, Coonhound Mix – A breed known for its work ethic, choosing a coonhound seems like an excellent choice if trying to win. They are loyal and good-natured but are built to hunt. Their objective is to help their human counterpart capture whatever animal they are looking for. This, however, is both a positive and a negative. It worries me how this breed will react when stuffed animals resembling prey are scattered all over the field. Will Miss Martian be able to focus on a football shaped object when there are little critters around as an alternative? The level of confusion that a scenario like that may present to poor little Miss Martian makes her a very volatile pick.
Cara, Shih Tzu – There has been a previous Shih Tzu winner but that dog was half terrier (which seems to be the prime breed in these competitions). One glance at her picture and you’ll see she already looks timid. Being put in a no-holds barred battle of wills may not be the best scenario for a lap dog. A fun fact about her is her fantasy football team is currently in first place (which I assume means she won her league) so she may be able to ride the momentum. At the same time, playing Fantasy and putting on the pads are two separate entities. Cara, like myself, is probably best playing the game of football from behind a computer.
Keno, Terrier Mix – Keno has the breed of a champion and the look of a mongoose. She is only 12 weeks old, but according to her bio is best friends with a pot-bellied pig. Maybe this pig is her trainer as well and has toughened her up? Maybe the pig has put her in dirty situations before so being matched up against drooling, urinating opponents won’t affect her? Or maybe she’s not actually friends with a pig and Animal Planet made that up? No, it has to be either of the first two scenarios. Regardless, it’s hard to find negatives to Keno’s game and she should be looked at as the safest pick in the field.
Chicklet, Aussie Shepherd Mix – Really…….Chicklet? Who owns this dog, Kim Kardashian? Her bio says she was the “it” girl of her litter but here’s the brutally honest truth: this isn’t a goddamned fashion show! This is football! Even though her breed is encouraging, I can’t bring myself to pick a dog with this name.
Freckles, Hound Mix – Freckles is a weird name for a dog with a mix of two solid colors but he has the looks of a formidable foe. Although tied for the youngest in the field, he has long legs and a lean body for a little dog. He loves watching “America’s cutest dog” marathons which leads me to believe he didn’t train as hard as he should of in preparation for this event. As a philosopher once said, “train like you’re second, play like you’re first.” Freckles did no such thing which should make for a tough adjustment early at the very least if not all game long.
Papi, Corgi Mix – Last but not least is Papi the Corgi mix. Corgis are low to the ground which could give Papi Darren Sproles-esque upside. With every touch, he may be able to hide behind his blockers, and with one burst of speed, just be gone. Papi loves to mud wrestle according to his profile which certainly beats Freckles’ method of sitting on the couch training. Although many have called Papi too small, he’s idolized Mugsy Bogues since the day he was born (15 weeks ago). Sure Corgi may not be the ideal breed to win the contest but if a poodle can do it then a Corgi certainly can too. Papi makes for an excellent sleeper especially if most of your league is selecting by breed alone and not doing their homework.
With all the analysis, here are my expert picks:
Titan, Keno and Papi
Good luck and may the force be with you!
P.S. In all seriousness, Uber was delivering the Puppy Bowl participants to 10 different cities on Wednesday, January 28 between 11am & 3pm. They teamed up to deliver adoptable animals all over the nation in hopes of both finding homes for them and raising funds for shelters. If you’re considering adopting an animal, please look to a shelter first to see if they can’t hook you up with exactly what you want!
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