The Finale: Super Bowl XLVIII Preview

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’s finally here. Super Bowl XLVIII between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos will settle the 2013-14 NFL season. It has been an absolutely magical ride. It started all the way back in September and in my Season Preview I correctly predicted that the Seahawks and Broncos would meet in New York this weekend.

I am convinced this is going to be one of the best Super Bowl’s of all-time. Are you ready yet? Grab some nachos, wings and order that pizza. It’s time for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Ok, it’s time to set up this bad boy!!!

Weather

What do we know? It’s going to be the coldest Super Bowl of all-time. That only makes sense because this game has a ton of “all-time” implications. Super Bowl XLVIII is going to be played in sub-30-degree temperatures with a high probability of strong wind and a low probability of precipitation. However, there is enough of a chance of precipitation that we should mention it.

How does the weather affect the teams? The Seahawks are praying for bad weather. Seattle is built for cold weather and precipitation. They play in that type of weather almost every week. What do the Seahawks do well? They play defense and run the football. That’s what you have to do in bad weather. The Broncos are not a team that is built for cold weather. We all know that Peyton Manning has historically played worse in the cold and has trouble gripping the football in the cold. If there is any sort of significant precipitation it will limit the passing opportunities for Manning and the Broncos offense, which is predicated on the ability to pass the ball.

However, if it is simply cold and “dry” outside on Sunday night the weather may not have the sort of impact most people thought it would at the beginning of the week. I don’t believe that the Broncos will be slowed down on offense because it’s 35 degrees outside. The only thing that would affect them would be the wind.

Don’t forget about the wind. MetLife Stadium is notorious for gusts of strong wind and if the wind kicks up at any point in the game it will make it harder for Manning to hit those timing routes he’s so famous for. Also, the Broncos have been successful at attempting long field goals this season with all-world kicker Matt Prater. If there are strong winds it will affect the Broncos ability to put up “cheap” points on 50+ yard field goals.

The wind won’t affect the Seahawks as much because, frankly, Russell Wilson has a stronger arm than Manning does and doesn’t take as many chances with timing routes that Manning does. Also, the Seahawks kicker, Steven Hauschka, is a very reliable and accurate kicker who doesn’t attempt field goals longer than 45 yards. The only time I can see the wind affecting the Seahawks is if they need a late field goal to win the game from over 45 yards. If it comes down to a long field goal my money would be on Prater being more likely to knock one in than Hauschka.

We’ve spent a ton of time this week discussing whether or not the weather will have a huge impact on the game and talking about the whether or not having an outdoor Super Bowl in the cold is good for the game. While I don’t think it’s ideal to have an outdoor Super Bowl in cold weather, I do think it’s a good idea to test it out on the grandest stage in football. No stage in sports is bigger than New York City. It’s the pinnacle. If you’re going to do an outdoor Super Bowl in the cold this is the only place to have it. Plus, football is meant to be played in all weather.

That’s part of what makes the sport great. I don’t need to see an outdoor Super Bowl in Green Bay or Minnesota but I don’t mind it in New York every ten years. I’m all for it. Did you see the Lions-Eagles game played in a blizzard early this season? It was one of the most entertaining games of the season! I’m all for testing it out, but only in the Big Apple. I honestly kind of hope it snows. Instead of confetti everyone can throw snowballs into the air! You’re telling me that wouldn’t be awesome to see? If you responded “No” then you’re a liar. 

Storylines

Jan 29, 2014; Jersey City, NJ, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) during a press conference for Super Bowl XLVIII at Hyatt Regency. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

1. Peyton Manning vs. The GOAT

It’s all on the line for Peyton Manning in Super Bowl XLVIII. Manning sidestepped the question this week and that’s the smart thing to do; however, I would bet money he’s thought about it. Perhaps he hasn’t thought about it and obsessed over it as much as we have but he’s thought about it. How could you not?

It’s set in stone that Manning is the greatest regular season QB of all-time. But if Manning wins his second Super Bowl, against one of the top three defenses of the Millennium, he has to be in the pole position of the Greatest of All-Time conversation. Manning has all of the stats and accolades a QB could ever dream of. He has all of the records and will soon win his 5th MVP award. That would put him 2 MVP’s ahead of the next closest person, a man by the name of Brett Favre. The only thing he needs to cement his legacy as the greatest ever is a second Super Bowl title.

Here is my list as of this moment (in order): Joe Montana, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, John Elway, Dan Marino.

You can debate this list all you want but it’s a tough list to argue with other than Marino’s inclusion. Manning is really competing against Brady, who has been his counterpart and nemesis for the majority of his career, and Montana, who may not have the stats of Manning but has four Super Bowl rings and was undefeated in the big game.

If Manning loses and plays well I don’t see him dropping at all on my list unless he has one of the worst games of his career. If Manning wins and doesn’t play well I’ll probably still put him #1 on my list. A bad game and a win may not push him over the top right now but in 20 years no one is going to remember if he played well or not. They will only remember that he has two Super Bowl rings and they will look at his incredible body of work.

One last thing on Manning. If he wins his second Super Bowl this weekend he will be the first QB in NFL history to guide two different franchises to Super Bowl victories. If that’s not a specific example enough of individual greatness than I don’t know what is.

Manning has changed the way the Quarterback position is played more than any other player in the history of modern football. He’s as important to the history of the Quarterback position as the Forward Pass. That’s part of his legacy that will live on forever whether he wins or loses on Sunday night.

2. The Best Offense vs. The Best Defense  

The best offense and the best defense in the NFL have faced each other four times in the Super Bowl. Three out of the four times the best defense has prevailed.

The 2013-14 Broncos had the greatest offensive season of all-time and will go down as the best offense in NFL history, regardless of whether or not they win the Super Bowl. They are the ’85 Bears of offense. The Broncos have altered the lenses through which we judge offensive production. The Broncos averaged more than 10 points more per game than the next closest team in the NFL. TEN POINTS!!!! That’s two more successful offensive possessions than every other team in the league. It’s almost unfathomable.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks are the first team since those ’85 Bears to lead the NFL in points allowed, yards allowed and takeaways. That’s the defensive trifecta. The Hawks are led by the Legion of Boom, aka the secondary. The Seahawks secondary may go down as one of the finest of all-time, especially if they shut down the Broncos aerial attack in the Super Bowl.

This is a legendary matchup. Don’t let that fact get lost on you while you’re watching the game.

3. Pete Carroll’s Impact

No player on the Seahawks has ever played in a Super Bowl before. That means that Pete Carroll is going to have to guide Seattle through the craziness of Super Bowl week and keep their minds in the right place in order to be hitting on all cylinders by the game time.

Carroll is uniquely qualified to prepare his team for the big game. During his time as the Head Coach at USC, Carroll coached in his fair share of big games. That’s a complete understatement, by the way. I have never liked USC or any of its athletes, other than Reggie Bush, but I always admired Carroll’s charisma, enthusiasm and bravado. He’s a coach that I would love for play for.

While at USC, it seemed like the Trojans were always up for the big game. It was evident that his players embraced the big moment and shined under the brightest lights. Even in the 2006 National Championship against Texas, which SC lost 41-38, wasn’t too big of a stage. The Trojans were ready and simply got beat. Carroll is a master at getting the best out of his players and making sure they play with a youthful enthusiasm at all times. I have no doubt that the Seahawks will be ready to take on the Broncos and that the moment isn’t too big for them.

4. Russell Wilson vs. History

Jan 19, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson hoists the George Halas Trophy after the 2013 NFC Championship football game against the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

With a victory over the Broncos in the Super Bowl Russell Wilson will become the 2nd QB ever to win the big game in his second season and will surpass Ben Roethlisberger for the most wins by a QB through his first two years in the NFL. Wilson is one of the smartest QBs to ever come into the NFL and has a knack for making big plays in key moments. He’s always the calmest guy in the huddle and carries himself with a quiet confidence, which is something that all of the great QBs possess.

But, honestly, I can’t figure out Russell Wilson. The only thing I know is that he is a winner and does things on a football field that I have never seen before, especially from a 23-year old in his second season in the league. But I don’t know who he is or how good he really is. I always think of him as a game manager but then he spins off two defenders, jumps over another and fires a laser 50-yards down the field to an open receiver that he couldn’t have possibly known was there.

Wilson is part Drew Brees (height), part Roethlisberger (keeping plays alive), part Elway (arm), part Michael Vick (running ability) and part Manning (intagibles/intelligence). I’m not saying he’s any of those guys, or as good as any of those guys, but I think more than any player I’ve ever seen he’s studied all of the greats and taken a little bit of their games and incorporated it into his.

My only concern about Wilson in the Super Bowl is whether he will be able to hit a couple of those long play action passes without turning the ball over. If he’s able to keep the ball away from the Broncos defense and hit a couple long passes then I believe the Seahawks have an excellent chance of winning the Super Bowl.

5. Richard Sherman vs. The World & The L.O.B. vs. Denver’s Wideouts

Let’s get this out of the way right now: Richard Sherman is not a thug. If you think he’s in any way a thug you should never read anything I write ever again. Yes, Sherman is loud and over the top. Yes, he probably shouldn’t have taken the spotlight away from his team after the Conference Championship. Yes, he probably shouldn’t have thrown a choke sign towards Colin Kaepernick or ran over to Michael Crabtree.

However, in the “No Fun League” isn’t it awesome that we have a guy who talks a big game and backs in up. He makes the NFL more fun. I have zero problems with anything that he’s ever done. NONE. Keep doing you Richard Sherman. And, yes, he’s the best cornerback in the NFL right now. Patrick Peterson and Darrelle Revis are great, but they’re not Richard Sherman. When you pick off the most passes in the NFL for two straight seasons, while being targeted the least amount of times, the argument is over. And when you’re the anchor of the leagues best defense, the argument can’t even be started. It was over before a word was spoken.

With all of that said, this will be Sherman’ biggest and toughest test of his career. The Broncos have more weapons than the United States military. Seattle’s fantastic secondary is going to have its hands full on Sunday. The Broncos have four receivers that caught 10 Touchdowns or more this season: Julius Thomas, Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker. On top of that, the Broncos receivers have one of the best QBs of all-time throwing them the ball.

Sherman will be featured on Peyton Manning’s right side so one would have to assume that Manning is going to stay away from the right side of the defense when he can. That’s no problem for Manning considering the amount of weapons he has at his disposal. I would expect that the Broncos are going to have a difficult time going over the top on the Seahawks, which means I expect to see a lot of pick patterns and crossing routes to try and run a receiver free for 7 or 8 yards. Look for Wes Welker and Eric Decker to get a lot of targets on Sunday.

The Seahawks have done a wonderful job of taking the Tight Ends out of the game in the playoffs. The Hawks held Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints to one catch in the Divisional Round and Vernon Davis of the 49ers to two catches. That’s three combined catches in 120 minutes of game time for two of the best pass catching Tight Ends in the NFL. Broncos TE Julius Thomas has had a fantastic season and has been a prominent target for Manning this season; however, I would not expect that he’s going to be a difference maker against the Seahawks.

This is easily the most fascinating matchup of Super Bowl XLVIII. Whichever team wins this battle will be the Super Bowl Champions. This is THE matchup to watch.

6. The Running Backs

Marshawn Lynch, aka BeastMode, aka Skittles, is one of three or four best running backs in the NFL and is the Seahawks offense. You can say what you want about Russell Wilson but Seattle’s offense is run though Lynch. As Lynch said this week in one of his few quotable moments, “I’m bout that action, boss”.

Yes, Mr. BeastMode, that you are. The Broncos have only allowed one 100-yard rusher, Ryan Mathews, this season and they lost that game to the Chargers. It is of paramount importance for the Broncos to stop Lynch and the Seattle running attack. The Broncos have done a fantastic job of stopping the run in the playoffs against the Chargers and the Patriots; however, Seattle’s rushing attack is much better than those two teams. If the Broncos have any shot of knocking off the Seahawks they better hold Lynch under 100-yards.

On the other side the Broncos have two fantastic running backs. Montee Ball, Denver’s second round pick this season, has been great in the playoffs and works well as a change of pace back for the Broncos starter Knowshon Moreno. Moreno came out of nowhere to score 13 touchdowns this season and, despite the praise he received this season, may still be underrated in terms of his importance to the Broncos offense.

Moreno ran for 1,038 yards this season and 10 touchdowns while also catching 60 balls for 600 yards and 3 more touchdowns. However, it’s not what he’s done as a playmaker that makes him so valuable to the Broncos. Moreno’s ability to block for Peyton Manning in the pocket is his most valuable asset. There have been countless times this season that Manning has been able to extend a play because of Moreno’s ability to block. The Seahawks have hurried the QB more than any other team in the NFL season, which means Moreno’s blocking ability will be key in the Super Bowl. Without Moreno the Broncos would have no chance of beating the Seahawks. That’s how valuable he is to this offense.

7. The Republican: John Fox

You know, because he’s more conservative than Pat Buchanan. If Fox were a gambler he would be sitting at the Blackjack table with the handbook right in front of him. That’s not a dis towards Fox. He is who he is. He’s led two different franchises to the Super Bowl in the last decade. However, the Super Bowl, in some respects, is a “kitchen sink” game. If you play the game like you have everything to lose you’re probably going to lose. If you play the game with reckless abandon, throw all of your cards on the table and play like you have nothing to lose you have a much better chance of winning. I don’t know if Fox’s coaching style will end up costing the Broncos the Super Bowl but it’s something I will be looking at.

X-Factors 

The Weather

We covered this. It’s the biggest X-factor in any Super Bowl ever.

Percy Harvin

Jan 11, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin (11) catches a pass against New Orleans Saints cornerback Corey White (24) during the first half of the 2013 NFC divisional playoff football game at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

He lives!!! After missing most of the season with a combination of injuries Percy Harvin is healthy and will start for the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. Does anybody know what to expect from Harvin? No. But the reason he is an X-factor in the Super Bowl is because the Broncos have to prepare for him because he’s been a dynamic player in the past and will be Russell Wilson’s number one target for as long as he’s on the field. When Harvin has been on the field this season he has been targeted by Wilson more than any other receiver. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Seahawks go for the jugular on their first play from scrimmage and run a play action deep ball to Harvin. That would be the most Pete Carroll move of ever. In fact, at this point I expect that to happen. It’s happening. Lock of the weekend. Actually, scratch that. They’re going to run that play after their first 1st down. Book it.

Pot Roast

Terrance Knighton, aka Pot Roast, is a defensive lineman for the Broncos and has been a force in the playoffs. He’s my X-factor because he can single handedly change the way the Seahawks call plays on Sunday. His ability to run through an offensive line, force the QB to scramble or disrupt the running game is remarkable. The Seahawks are going to want to run the ball right up the middle. That’s what they do. Guess who’ll be waiting for Marshawn Lynch? Yup, Pot Roast. So who will win out: Skittles or Pot Roast? If Knighton wins that battle the Broncos will have an excellent chance to win.

Experience

This is all about the Seahawks. The Broncos have some Super Bowl experience, especially at Head Coach and at Quarterback. That’s more than enough experience to know what to expect come Sunday. The Seahawks, as mentioned previously, have zero players who have ever played in the Super Bowl. However, the way that Carroll prepares this team leads me to believe that they won’t be caught up in the moment or get tight. This is a loose bunch and the Seahawks are the second youngest team in the NFL. Sometimes being “too dumb” for the moment is a good thing. I expect the Seahawks to play with their usual swagger and youthful exuberance.

Health

The Seahawks are undoubtedly one of the healthiest teams to ever enter the Super Bowl. Seattle’s starting 22 from the beginning of the season is intact, minus Brandon Browner who was suspended due to “Adderall”. Sure.  The Broncos are missing quite a few key players who would have made all the difference in this matchup. Denver will not have the services of Von Miller, their other worldly linebacker, Ryan Clady, starting Left Tackle, and Chris Harris, starting cornerback. While the Broncos have recovered from the Clady and Miller injuries it is tough for me to look past the Chris Harris injury. Harris was the Broncos best CB this season. While the Broncos still have Champ Bailey, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Tony Harris and Quentin Jammer, I’m just not 100 percent convinced that the Harris injury won’t end up costing the Broncos at some point during the Super Bowl.

Reasons the Broncos will win

Peyton Manning. I could probably come up with 20 reasons why the Seahawks will win the Super Bowl; however, I can only really come up with one for the Broncos. This whole season has been nothing but Peyton Manning. He is the leader. He is the reason the Broncos are where they are. The defense has been decimated by injuries, the Head Coach had heart surgery during the season and the Broncos just kept churning out blowout after blowout. If the Broncos are going to win the Super Bowl it will be because of Peyton Manning. The defense is good enough to slow down the Seahawks. The coaching is good enough to prepare a game plan capable of taking down the Seahawks. However, without Peyton Manning performing like PEYTON FREAKING MANNING I can’t imagine the Broncos winning Super Bowl XLVIII.

Reasons the Seahawks will win

The Seahawks, in my opinion, have been the best and most consistent team all season. They have the best defense since the 2002 Buccaneers and defense has usually beaten offense in the Super Bowl. The weather probably favors the Seahawks style of football and they should be able to run the ball on the Broncos. Seattle has the better coach and is willing to take the risks that are necessary to win the Super Bowl. Pete Carroll won’t be afraid to pull the trigger on a big 4th down or special teams play if the situation calls for it. Russell Wilson is the coolest guy in the room and has the clutch gene. The Seahawks have Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas. The Seahawks have BeastMode. The Seahawks play in the NFC, which is by far the more difficult conference. The city of Seattle seems destined to win a championship because the NBA stole the Super Sonics and Kevin Durant away from them. Seattle dominated the Grammys. This is Seattle’s year.

The Pick

You should know the pick by this point in the article. I picked the Seahawks to defeat the Broncos before the season started. Why would I go against my gut now? It would be silly. While I believe that Peyton Manning will have a fine game and that the Broncos will lead the game at halftime, I really don’t think that the Broncos can take down the Seahawks. Seattle is the most complete team in the league and has one of the best defenses I have ever seen. They will be the Super Bowl Champions come Sunday night. Break out the microbrews Seattle; the Seahawks are coming back to you as champions of the National Football League.

Seahawks 26 – Broncos 21 

Gambling

Don’t worry, we didn’t forget about the most important part of the Super Bowl: GAMBLING!!!!!!! Here are all of my picks for the game.

Seahawks ML +105

Seahawks +2 -110

Under 48.5 -110

Seahawks Over 23.5 Points -110

Broncos 1st Quarter -.5 +135

Seahawks 4th Quarter -.5 +130

Broncos Over 3.5 Points 1st Quarter -110

SEA scores last -110

Team to Score first loses game +150

Russell Wilson Under 212.5 Passing Yards -110

Russell Wilson No Interceptions Thrown +100

Julius Thomas Under 53.5 Yards -125

Peyton Manning Over 288.5 Yards -110

Percy Harvin to score first touchdown +1550

Marshawn Lynch Over 91.5 Rushing Yards -110

National Anthem Over 145.00 seconds +145

Seattle Wins by 5-8 points +624

 

 

 

 

Topics: Pete Carroll, Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson, Super Bowl, Super Bowl XLVIII, USC

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