Thursday 22 February 2018 / 03:25 PM

Super Bowl XLVIII: The Ultimate Preview

I’ve been nervous about writing this all week. I mean, just look at the title: The Ultimate Preview. What kind of bar am I trying to set for myself here?

If you’re a football nut like me, you’ve spent the last seven days devouring Super Bowl news like a homeless guy burning through a pack of shoplifted cigarettes. From Ten Easy Tips for your Super Bowl Party to Duff McKagan (Guns ‘n Roses) comparing his NFC Championship game experience to seeing Led Zeppelin live in concert at the Kingdome in 1977, seriously, I’ve read it all.

How can I encapsulate every tidbit of analysis into one stinking article?

I can’t.

So what I’m going to do here is divide this piece into three parts:

First, we’ll do a set of bullet points so that everyone who’s been living under a rock for the past month can get up to speed on the nitty gritty concerning the #1 American sporting event of the year.

Then, for the sports nerds (nothing wrong with that, just sayin’) we’ll break down the keys to victory for each team.

And finally, I’ll stir up the pot a bit with my own personal opinions concerning the top stories surrounding Super Bowl XLVIII.

But first:

Since this is an Aussie website, and most of you poor saps will have to work on Monday and watch the game with earphones on in your cubicle, check out this easy guide to disguise your beer can in the office.

Try not to get yourself fired.

The five things you need to know about Super Bowl XLVIII to not look like a total idiot:


Sounds like the title to a cheesy blog post, but here we go:

  • For the first time ever the team with the most yards and most points (Denver Broncos) will be facing off against the team that allowed the fewest yards and the fewest points (Seattle Seahawks). This is also only the second time in the past 20 years that two #1 seeds have reached the championship game.
  • Much of the buzz this week has been surrounding whether or not Peyton Manning will challenge Richard Sherman. In two playoff games Manning has thrown for 630 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. Also in games, Richard Sherman has allowed zero receptions.
  • Superstition favors the Seahawks. Seattle will wear their away whites, and the “away” team has won eight of the last nine Super Bowls. Similarly, the Vegas underdog is (5-1) over the past six Super Bowls, and the Broncos are favored by three.
  • The age difference between opposing quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson is the greatest in NFL history for a Super Bowl. #18 has got 12 years and 250 days on #3.
  • This will be the first outdoor “cold weather” Super Bowl. As of right now the forecast calls for temperatures just above 0°C, with a low chance of snow. Peyton Manning is (0-4) in playoff games where the temperature is under 4°C at kickoff. Russell Wilson has only played one game in his career under similar conditions; it was at MetLife Stadium in week 15 of the regular season. Seattle beat the NY Giants 23-0.

But guess what? None of that stuff matters come Sunday. The team with the most points will take home the trophy.

One more ring for Peyton? How do they get it done?

The Broncos offense is statistically the greatest of all time. In 2013 they shattered the record books and seemingly scored touchdowns at will. But there’s one more stepping stone that Denver needs to hop over before they can truly cement themselves as the best there’s ever been.

And it’s not that they need to win the Super Bowl, per se. They need to challenge and beat an elite defense.

During the regular season the Broncos faced only two teams that ended up in the top ten in Total Defense: the NY Giants and the Houston Texans. Neither of these teams boast an “elite” defense by any stretch of the imagination.

Not only is Seattle the best defense in the league, but also their secondary is perhaps the greatest of all time. Free Safety Earl Thomas is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Strong Safety Kam Chancellor racked up 99 tackles with three INTs and is one of the biggest hitters in the league. Richard Sherman led the NFL this season in opponent passer rating and interceptions (8). And the guy nobody’s heard of, Byron Maxwell – guess what? He was second in the NFL in opponent passer rating after Sherman.

Now, on the other side of the ball here we’ve got the only offense to have four different players catch 10+ touchdowns in a regular season (Demaryius Thomas 14, Julius Thomas 12, Eric Decker 11, Wes Welker 10) and Manning threw for 55 total.

So Denver’s got the tools. But the first thing they must do is find a weakness in the Seattle secondary if they hope to be able to play their game.

In the AFC Championship Denver used quite a few different “pick” plays to combat the Patriots’ press coverage and free up receivers, and they’ll need to employ a similar strategy against Seattle.

The Seahawks’ defensive-backs love to push right up on the line of scrimmage and get physical with receivers to disrupt their timing. Seattle doesn’t play a lot of zone, so instead of finding soft spots in the coverage, Denver’s WRs will need to beat their guy one-on-one. In order to give Manning enough time to adjust for the disruptions in timing patterns, the offensive line will need to hold off the pass rush from Seattle’s front four.

The second thing they need to do is slow down Marshawn Lynch. Lynch has ran for 100+ yards in both playoff games this postseason, ripping off a long TD run in each contest. The Broncos have been amazing against the run the last two games, only allowing an average of 64.5 yards, but stopping Beast Mode will be their biggest challenge to date.

Lastly, protect the ball. Seattle forced more turnovers (39) than any other team in the NFL; they also led the league in turnover margin (+20). The Hawks thrive off taking the ball away and leaving a short field for their offense. Denver (turnover margin of 0) can’t afford to give up possession in key situations.

Seahawks can’t rely solely on the Legion of Boom.

Seattle may have the best secondary in the league, but they haven’t faced a player this season quite like Peyton Manning. Sure, they topped Drew Brees on a pair of occasions, but this was at home with the advantage of the raucous 12th Man crowd.

Peyton Manning will get his yards, but the key for the Seahawks will be keeping him out of the end zone. Seattle was #2 in the league in Red Zone defense, allowing touchdowns only 39% of the time that their opponent got within the 20. They’ll need tough goal line stands that force field goals if they want to outscore the league’s top offense.

But the Broncos are going to score. Even if Richard Sherman doesn’t allow a single catch, the Broncos are going to score. So there’s a huge onus on the Seattle offense to not only put points on the board, but to sustain long drives that keep Manning on the sidelines.

It goes without saying that Seattle is going to hand the ball off to Lynch and ride the Beast, but unless Wilson can get Seattle’s air attack back on track the Broncos will be able to put eight in the box and stuff the run (just as they did against New England).

It appears as though Percy Harvin will finally be ready to make a real impact for the Seattle offense. After trading away their first round draft pick to the Vikings to get him, Harvin has missed nearly the entire season after undergoing a hip surgery in the off-season.

While Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate have stepped up and made plays, neither are nearly as explosive as Harvin – who is also a devastating kick returner. The Seahawks must get him involved in the offense and give him a chance to work in the open field.

A strong game by Harvin will force Denver to key less on Lynch and open up running lanes.

Finally, the Hawks need to follow the blueprint for beating every great quarterback. Not even Peyton Manning can pass the ball when his ass is on the ground.

Seattle’s defensive line needs to get Manning on the run early. Once he’s out of the pocket, Manning isn’t nearly as effective and since he’s not the best runner in the league he is far more prone to throwing dangerous passes when under duress.

Legal Disclaimer: The following opinions are those of the writer and do not reflect in any way, shape, or form the opinions of the Commentary Box Sports management.

So, yeah, this is where you, the reader, need to utilize the comments section down below to let me know that I’m either a freakin’ genius or an absolute f-ing moron.

After all, if we can’t argue about sports with our friends, what’s the point in having friends?

The first thing that I want to talk about is all this “one more title for Peyton’s legacy” garbage.

I really don’t understand what all the boo-hooing is about here. Even if I weren’t a Seahawks fan, I wouldn’t be rooting for the Broncos to “win one for the gipper!”, so to speak.

Peyton Manning has been to the playoffs more times than any other NFL quarterback. It’s not as though he’s never had the chance to win other rings. This is 13th postseason run, and in eight of those opportunities he lost in the first round. And he wasn’t playing on crappy teams either. The Colts were the dominant force in the AFC for a decade, full of talent on offense and defense.

He’s had plenty of chances and blew most of them. I could care less if he retires with only one ring or not. I’m sorry, but Peyton Manning’s story is not one of an underdog.

I feel bad for great players who loyally stuck with their mediocre franchise and never got to win (or even play in) the Super Bowl. Players like Tony Gonzales, LaDanian Tomlinson, Eric Dickerson, Earl Campbell, Cris Carter, Warren Moon, and, of course, Barry Sanders.

These are players worth rooting for. But Manning? Not so much.

Next up … the Richard Sherman drama.

I’ve already voiced my full opinion on this matter, so I will keep it short and sweet.

Who cares if he talks trash? He’s a football player, not your kid’s kindergarten teacher. And to all the ignorant bozos from the “fly-over” states: all this freaking out and n-word name-calling is going to make Sherman millions.

His jersey sales have skyrocketed in such enormous proportions that he’s now in the top ten in the NFL for the entire season, the only defensive player with such a distinction. Next up, massive endorsement contracts.

I personally find Sherman’s brashness refreshing in an increasingly politically correct world.

A lot of people are talking about Sherman taking the focus away from the team and being a distraction to the Seahawks. Please. You wouldn’t find a single coach who wouldn’t want Sherman on their team, and his teammates love him. There’s no locker room controversy in the Emerald City. Ask any of the players and they’ll all say the same thing: “That’s just the way he is.” And notice that they always say it with a smile.

I just hope that Manning does throw #25’s way come Super Bowl Sunday. Inasmuch that I feel both the Manning and Sherman storylines are well overblown in terms of their relevance to the actual game, I, just like most fans out there, do want to see who wins the match-up between the top quarterback in the league and the self-proclaimed best cornerback in the game.

And finally, let’s head to Greenville, South Carolina, where Bob the Orangutan put his Super Bowl predicting powers on the line.

Bob has accurately predicted the past three Super Bowl winners by making a choice between two t-shirts.

When asked which shirt he’d rather wear on Super Bowl Sunday, Bob reached out and with his lanky monkey fingers firmly said, “Go Hawks!”

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Michael Airhart

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