The time for hype, speculation and discussions about a certain running back not giving the press enough of his time is just about up. The No. 1 offense and an underrated defense of the Denver Broncos will face off against the No. 1 defense of the Seattle Seahawks, a team with a young quarterback who will be looking to take a first step toward greatness.
Much has been made about how the cold weather and perhaps even a snowstorm would affect Super Bowl XLVIII. Turns out that the conditions at MetLife Stadium at kickoff should be just fine for a game of football. Thus, it's the players who will have the biggest impact on the final game of the season.
Just as it should be.
Super Bowl XLVIII preview: Watch the rough stuff
Former NFL Vice President of Officiating Mike Pereira appeared on Thursday afternoon's edition of the radio program Mike's On: Francesa on The Fan to speak, in part, about what both teams can expect from the refs on Sunday. “Letting the kids play” as some put it will not be on the minds of the officials on Super Sunday. Rather, they will, as Pereira explained, be told to call the game the same “as they would in Week 6.”
That could mean good times for both passing attacks. Seattle led the NFL with 13 pass interference penalties during the 2013 campaign. They were also flagged for defensive holding calls on 10 occasions. Not far behind was Denver, who had 10 P.I. penalties.
Expect Manning, in particular to be well aware of the numbers regarding Seattle's defensive penalties, and to test the refs early on. His getting a big call that leads to a touchdown in the first 5-10 minutes of the game could rattle the defensive backs of the Seahawks, something that could make things much easier for one of the all-time greats to play the QB position.
Super Bowl XLVIII preview: Tall order
Seattle defensive back Richard Sherman made headlines a couple of weeks back; first by making one of the greatest defensive plays in Conference Championship Game history, and then by cutting multiple on-the-field promos that probably made some WWE Superstars jealous. Sherman and company will have to be at their absolute best AND get some help on Sunday, because athleticism will only mean so much against Denver's big receivers.
Julius Thomas stands at 6-5. Both Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are 6-3. Don't forget about Wes Welker who, at only 5-9, will create his own openings due to defenders not being able to keep up with him over the middle.
The Seattle secondary has gotten plenty of attention, and deservedly so, during Super Bowl week. It's the team's pass rush that could make or break the Super Bowl hopes of the Seahawks. Seattle registered just three sacks in their two playoff victories. Manning's jersey remained relatively clean in January, and he could be in for a monster day if that again occurs on Sunday.
Super Bowl XLVIII preview: On you, kid
Fans and analysts alike can say whatever they want about the importance of Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch. Denver's run defense hasn't gotten enough love from the national media over the past week, and I honestly can't see Lynch putting in a MVP performance. That means, as with many of the Super Bowls of the past several years, it's all going to come down to QB play.
Russell Wilson, in his second year, had a fine NFC Championship Game, but fine probably won't be good enough, especially if the Seahawks are, as the Patriots were two Sundays ago, trailing by multiple scores in the second half. Wilson, about to finish his second pro year, could be asked to win the game on the biggest stage of them all.
Yes, he has done just that in the past, but not in front of a worldwide audience and not with a title on the line.
Super Bowl XLVIII preview: Prediction
Manning, as with other great QBs before him such as Brett Favre, knows which records he holds and how close he is to obtaining others. It's not at all unbelievable that he would want to continue playing past this winter. His body, as we could find out in March, may have other plans.
The Seahawks are, for my money, the better overall team, but I wasn't impressed with how they looked in their two playoff games. Denver is playing better, and the Broncos have destiny on their side via a future Hall of Famer looking to forever silence any remaining doubters.