SRO Super Bowl Preview

SRO Super Bowl Preview
January 31, 2014, 2:45 pm
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Depending on how torn up you still are over the Patriots, or how much you enjoy re-runs of America’s Funniest Home Videos (Sunday, 7 pm on ABC), I guess there’s a chance that you won’t be watching the Super Bowl on Sunday night. And if not, that’s fine. You probably didn’t click on this link anyway. Enjoy your evening with Tom Bergeron, but just know that he could never walk a day in Bob Saget’s shoes.
 
This preview is for the New England football fan that’s ready and willing to withstand the emotional burden of Super Bowl XLVIII. You know, the prospect of Peyton Manning achieving the next level of NFL immortality and rendering more than decade of entertaining criticism insignificant.
 
Not to mention . . . well, that’s pretty much it.
 
But that’s enough.
 
Still, that shouldn’t keep you away from the biggest game of the year. Your last chance to watch meaningful football for another seven months. Maybe the only chance you’ll ever have to see Queen Latifah sing “America the Beautiful” in a luxurious winter coat.
 
You can’t miss that.
 
So, here’s your CSNNE/SRO Super Bowl Preview:
 
SUPER BOWL XLVIII
 
Date: Sunday, February 2
 
This will be the first Super Bowl ever played on Groundhog Day. If Roger Goodell sees his shadow, that means he’ll add six weeks (and eight games) to next year’s schedule.
 
Time: 6:25 pm EST
 
What happened to the good old days when they used to start the game at 6:18 or some other weird time?
 
Obama. That’s what.
 
Place: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
 
One more reminder that this year’s game is in New Jersey and not New York, because folks in the Jerz are pretty sensitive about that — and I can’t say that I blame them. They’re hosting the game, so they should get the credit, even if the NFL is bending over backwards to use Manhattan as the host city.
 
Who: Denver Broncos
 
This is Denver’s seventh appearance in the Super Bowl, which ties them with New England for second-most all-time. Only Pittsburgh and Dallas (8) have played for more titles.
 
The Broncos are 2-4 all-time in the Big Game. With a loss on Sunday, they’ll set a new record most Super Bowl losses. With a win, they’ll tie the Redskins, Raiders and Patriots on the all-time list with three. The only teams with more Super Bowl rings are the Steelers (6), Cowboys (5), 49ers (5), Packers (4) and Giants (4).
 
This will be the first Super Bowl appearance for Broncos assistant coach Papa John.
 
Who Else: Seattle Seahawks
 
This is Seattle’s second ever trip to the Super Bowl. In their only previous appearance (SB XL), the Seahawks fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 21-10, in one of the most poorly officiated Super Bowls in recent memory.
 
Weather: 29 degrees, with a 20 percent chance of rain.
 
Sort of a downer. It would have been fun to watch these guys play through a mega-snow storm or sub-zero wind chills. That said, I’m not sure we can rule out the possibility that this is all a hoax. It would shock no one to learn that Goodell secretly paid off the National Weather Service to spin this week’s forecast into a giant mirage, and the storm of the century is really on the way.
 
But it’s more likely that weather won’t be an issue.
 
Spread: Broncos (-2)
 
The line could and probably will move between now and kick-off. There’s always a ton of late action on the Super Bowl. But if it stays like this —
 
According to Vegas Insider, this will be only the fifth Super Bowl ever with a spread under three points.
 
In Super Bowl V, Baltimore was favored by 2.5 over Dallas, and won 16-13
 
In Super Bowl VII, Miami was favored by one over Washington, and won 14-7.
 
In Super Bowl XVI, San Francisco was favored by one point over Cincinnati, and won 26-21.
 
In Super Bowl XLVI, New England was favored by 2.5 over the Giants, and the game was never played thanks to a recent visit to Lacuna.
 
Three interesting notes on these four previous sub-three-point Super Bowl spreads:.
 
1. No blowouts. Seven points was the most one-side final score.
 
2. Three of the four were decided in dramatic fashion, with Super Bowl V coming down to a last second field goal, Super Bowl XLVI turning on John Taylors famous touchdown catch and Super Bowl XLVI—arlhjlkhj
 
3. All four games finished under the total. The over/under for Sunday is 48.5.
 
Note: 48.5 is also the over/under (on a scale of 1-10) for how beautiful Latifah looks.
 
Ten Very Important People:
 
1. Peyton Manning: The heralded TV pitch man is looking to become the first quarterback in NFL history to win a Super Bowl with two different teams.
 
This record sort of popped out of nowhere, didn’t it? I can’t believe the football world never made a bigger deal out of the fact this had never happened. Then again, it’s not like we ever had a real chance to think about. Kurt Warner is the only other QB to ever get as close as Manning is right now. And if Peyton takes care of business, that’s a pretty big deal.
 
Quick Quiz: Other than Manning and Warner, can you name the 11 Super Bowl winning quarterbacks who’ve also started a playoff game for another team?
 
(Answer: Len Dawson, Ken Stabler, Joe Montana, Jim McMahon, Doug Williams, Jeff Hostetler, Mark Rypien, Brett Favre, Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson and Drew Brees.)
 
2. Richard Sherman: Whether you’re rooting for him or against him, you can’t wait to see what he does on sport’s biggest stage.
 
Either way, the only thing that could make Sherman a more polarizing figure at this point in the game is if he comes out of the closet during pre-game introductions.
 
3. Marshawn Lynch: A Seahawks win will be worth it for Lynch’s postgame interview alone. Assuming he gives one. Maybe he’ll just disappear. But in the off chance that Lynch is simply overcome by the victory and puts his media beef aside, it could really be something special. The world will be a better place.
 
4. Wes Welker: Can’t shake the feeling that the ball is going to find Welker at a key moment late in the game. And I hope it does. For all that Welker’s achieved as a player, he deserves a chance — not only to win a Super Bowl — but to make a historic catch and erase that choker tag from his legacy.
 
It wouldn’t change anything about what happened in New England, but you know it would take a weight off Welker’s shoulders. Then he’ll only be left with the weight from Andre the Giant’s football helmet.
 
5. Russell Wilson: Wilson is going to do his thing. He’ll be steady, calm and collected. But there will be a handful of times where Wilson will have no choice but to step and make a play. A big play. And his success rate in those rare instances will likely be the difference between victory and defeat. No pressure though.
 
By the way, if the Seahawks do win, get ready for the Russell Wilson takeover. Endorsements, magazine spreads, commercials. It won’t be long before he’s hosting SNL.
 
6. Terrence Knighton: Nickname Pot Roast. Mission: Thwart Operation Beast Mode. Knighton is one of the best run stopping defensive tackles in the league, and should be ready to roll after having a full two weeks to digest Shane Vereen.
 
7. Percy Harvin: He played only 38 offensive snaps this season, and totaled four catches for 38 yards. But Harvin will be ready for Sunday, and he’s the biggest wild card in this Super Bowl deck.
 
Who knows what to expect? It’s probably not fair to set the bar very high. But at the very least, whenever he’s on the field there’s, there will be that potential for him to do something big, and change the game in a way that fewer players can.
 
8. Black and Decker: Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker gave themselves this nickname last season, and it should really be used more often.
 
They were the No. 1 receiving tandem in the league this year (in terms of yards), and while Welker and Julius Thomas will get plenty of love underneath, Black and Decker is Denver’s best chance to crack the Seahawks superhero secondary.
 
9. Michael Bennett: Bennett is one of only two members of the Seahawks defense to make this list, and that’s ridiculous. Every player on that defense deserves his own write up — Thomas, Cam Chancellor, Cliff Avril, Bobby Wagner . . . But Bennett’s the guy Denver will key in on.
 
He led the Seahawks with 8.5 sacks in this regular season. He has a sack and a half so far in the playoffs. He’s an impact player on the defensive line, but it won’t be easy against Denver.
 
The Broncos offensive line surrendered only 20 sacks all season. The fewest in the league.
 
10. Champ Bailey: A 15-year veteran. An all-time great and a first ballot Hall of Famer. One of the coolest and most humble superstars of his generation. However, Bailey’s never won a Super Bowl. He’s never even played in a Super Bowl. So if the Broncos somehow win, and Peyton’s second ring starts to bum you out, just think about Champ Bailey’s first ring. He deserves it.
 
 
Three Biggest On-field battles:
 
1. Pete Caroll vs. John Fox: This is John Fox’s third Super Bowl. He was there once as the Giants defensive coordinator and again as the head coach of the Panthers, and in both he cases he lost. But those experiences had to have help Fox this week — and he it certainly helps that his quarterback has been there a few times, too. On the other hand, this is Carroll’s first trip to the Super Bowl in any capacity, and same goes for most of his team.
 
For that reason, and a few others, I’d rather have Fox on my side heading into a Super Bowl. I’d rather have Fox in a schematic chess match. But the specifics of this game change that a little.
 
Pete Carroll may not be the perfect coach, but he’s the perfect coach for these Seahawks. He pushes all the right buttons. He’s done unbelievable job of transforming this team into a Pete Carroll team, and there isn’t a coach in the league better suited to lead them on Sunday.
 
2. Beast Mode vs. Pot Roast: Marshawn Lynch is going to take it at Terrence Knighton early, and those first few runs will set the tone. The same way it did with LeGarrette Blount and Knighton in the AFC Championship.
 
If Lynch gets out early and starts picking up that swagger, it will be contagious inside the Seahawks huddle. Otherwise, it’s all on Wilson, and while that’s not the worst option in the world, Beast Mode is far more enticing.
 
3. Peyton vs. Sherman: It’s the No. 1 offense in the NFL vs. the No. 1 defense, and an answer to the age old: Does good offense beat good defense, or is it the other way around? After Sunday, we’ll know for sure. At least until next time, when we’ll forget this game even happened and have the same old conversation again.
 
But within that broader match-up, Peyton Manning vs. Richard Sherman is the one we’re all watching for. Just the first time that Manning let’s a duck fly in Sherman’s general direction, and pretty much every time after that.
 
One Prediction:
 
I like the Seahawks.
 
Their defense is just on another level. They haven’t allowed more than 20 points in a game since Week 9.
 
The Broncos haven’t faced a defense like this — so dynamic, balanced and generally insane — all season, and to do so for the first time, on this stage, under those conditions, where even the slightest mistake can cost you the season, is a tough task. I think the Broncos are going to make a few mistakes.
 
And while the Seahawks offense shouldn’t have a field day, they’ll keep the ship afloat and do enough to put Seattle over the top.
 
Final Score: Seahawks 24, Broncos 20
 
MVP: Russell Wilson
 
Winner of the AFV’s weekly $10,000 prize: “Dog flushes cat down the toilet.”
 
Follow me on Twitter: @rich_levine