Whether you’re a fan of the Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks or any other team in any other city, Super Bowl XLVIII is bound to be sheer entertainment.
Entering the big game, it’s safe to assume you’ll be watching from home. Ticket prices have skyrocketed, and while you won’t be on the 50-yard line, you’ll have chips, dip and beverages of your choice at your disposal for four quarters.
From the perspective of the neutral fan, consider the commercials a top priority. It’s a given that they’ll be a hot topic come Monday, and knowing your favorites will create for plenty of banter around the water cooler at work.
But for the purpose of this piece, we’re keeping it on the field. Everybody loves a good Budweiser Clydesdale, but NFL fans have been looking forward to this for months, and there are a handful of things we all want to see when the clock strikes zero.
One of the biggest storylines entering Sunday is the inclimate weather, and while it may not be the most exciting of narratives, it’s one we can’t ignore.
For the first time in 48 years, the Super Bowl is being held at an outside venue. MetLife Stadium is the home of the big game, and it just so happens to be during a brutal winter on the vulnerable East Coast.
As fun as it would be to watch a Super Bowl take place in the snow, and I think we can admit that the kid in us wants to see it, a “no excuses” kind of game must take place on the field. Poor weather conditions offer an advantage to strong defensive squads — especially against pass-dominant offenses — and nobody wants to hear about wind and precipitation in the post-game pressers.
“No excuses” must continue to be the theme, and it goes without saying that fans in Seattle wouldn’t have it any other way.
Call this obvious, but a contest full of three-yard gains just won’t cut it for the casual fan.
Whether you’re rooting for one team or the other, impact plays (on both sides of the field) get the crowd going. There’s a time and a place for running it up the middle, but a look downfield or a game-changing kick return will turn a stale setting into legitimate euphoria.
A Beast Mode run will also suffice, assuming you’re not a fan from Mile High City.
Pressure on Peyton Manning
When it comes to Peyton Manning, no reasonably minded fan is going to question the quarterback’s legacy. He’s one of the top figures to ever play behind center, and his track record, although a bit underwhelming in the postseason, shows just how good he’s been throughout his illustrious career.
As good as Manning has been, one thing is clear: He’s yet to meet true pressure. During the regular season, the future Hall of Famer threw for 55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards — both NFL records. Those numbers are intimidating to defenses, but his offensive line (and his quick release) limited opponents to just 18 sacks on the year.
For as good as the Hawks are on defense, they’re unimposing when it comes to sacks. The team was just 18th in that category in the regular season, but getting pressure on the opposing QB is a whole different story.
Peyton Manning: Sacked or under duress on 14% of dropbacks this season, lowest in NFL; Seahawks pressured QBs on 32% of dropbacks (led NFL)
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 23, 2014
Seattle will matchup well in the secondary, but giving Manning too much time in the pocket will lead to big plays. We want to see both teams at their best, and making Manning work will force him to prove how good he is under duress.
Peyton Manning vs. Richard Sherman
We all know that Super Bowl XLVIII is a matchup of offense versus defense. Seattle boasts the NFL’s best defense in terms of points and passing yards allowed, while the Broncos are No. 1 in points and passing yards gained.
This is a battle of one great team against another, but what we really want to see is Peyton Manning challenge Richard Sherman all game long.
Richard Sherman is arguably the best corner in the league, and in the minds of the 12th man, there’s no debate. The problem with elite cornerbacks is that we don’t often see them showcased, as opposing quarterbacks are smart enough to target other areas of the field.
Come Sunday, fans league-wide will want to see Manning prove he’s the league’s best passer by not shying away from the game’s best corner. Not only have the two been hyped leading up to the big game, but Sherman has done whatever necessary to rock the boat ahead of time.
In a presser during the off-week, Sherman was quoted saying, “His passes will be accurate and on time, but he throws ducks.” Manning responded as Manning-like as possible, stating, “I do throw ducks. I throw a lot of yards and touchdown-ducks. So I’m actually quite proud of it.”
Neither quote should be looked at as the most inspiring or heated displays of trash talk, but nonetheless, we want to see these two showcased on the biggest stage football has to offer.
A Close Game
This one is a given.
No football game, especially for neutral admirers, is as entertaining when it’s a blowout. Fans from Seattle and Denver will be satisfied with a lopsided win, but with all eyes on MetLife Stadium, a game-winning drive leaves a lasting impression.
Looking back in recent history, the previous three Super Bowls have been decided by just 13 points combined. Dating back to 2008, five of the six matchups have been decided by less than a touchdown.
This one has the potential to come down to the final posession, and if all goes according to plan, that’s exactly what we’ll get. Nothing beats crunch time in big games — just see the NFC championship for proof.