Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, January 27, 2014 at 8:54 AM
WE BEGIN OUR DAY-BY-DAY JIM SEZ ANALYSIS WITH A LOOK AT WHEN THE BRONCOS HAVE THE FOOTBALL ...
PLUS OUR COLLEGE HOOPS NOTEBOOK INCLUDES THE TOP TILTS TONIGHT (THAT'S #18 DUKE AT #20 PITTSBURGH) AND TOMORROW (#14 KENTUCKY AT LSU)
By Jim Hurley:
The Super Bowl teams have touched down in New Jersey - and they've already answered a gazillion questions (many of them either silly or stupid, or both) and we haven't even yet hit Tuesday's always circus-like Media Day ... egads!
No doubt that when the AFC champion Denver Broncos and the NFC champion Seattle Seahawks landed at Newark International Airport on Sunday afternoon/evening, respectively, they found out all about the rugged weather that everyone's been talking about for the past week or so.
Snow flurries and chilling cold greeted the Broncos right 'round 3:30 p.m. ET Sunday and bone-chattering temps greeted the Seahawks around 7 p.m. ET and yet the weather folks claim it will "warm up" to about 35 degrees on Super Bowl Sunday with a 35-or-so percent chance that we'll see "precipitation".
Right, everyone keeps talking about the weather but nobody's doing anything about it ... ha, ha!
Well, there's other things to talk about when it comes to analyzing Super Bowl 48 and in today's Jim Sez we'll kick off the countdown with a look at when the Broncos have the football and what QB Peyton Manning and Company faces and then we'll examine the Seahawks when they have the ball in our next column ... plus there's tons of key stats/figures to send your way all week long and then we'll have our SB XLVIII Preview in Friday's edition of Jim Sez.
Jim Hurley will have the Sides & Totals Winners of Super Bowl XLVIII when you check with us on game-day morning plus go ahead and continue to pile up the profits all this week with loads of NBA and NCAA Basketball winners right here online or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 - go ahead and pound the books today!
THE SUPER BOWL XLVIII REPORT
WHEN THE DENVER BRONCOS HAVE THE BALL
Keep this in perspective, if you will: The Broncos - as everyone knows - scored an NFL single-season record with 606 points this year (that's 37.9 points per game) but did you know that no other NFL team scored more than 444 points (see the New England Patriots) and so that means Mr. Manning and mates outscored their nearest offensive competition by some 162 total points ... wow!
Okay, so critics are quick to point out that Denver's registered modest point totals of 24 and 26 points in home playoff wins against San Diego and New England and now the Broncos must go head-to-head with the NFL's top-rated defense - the Seahawks allowed just 231 points in regular-season play (that's just 14.4 ppg) and in playoff home wins against New Orleans and San Francisco the Seattle stop unit surrendered just 32 total points.
Let's - for a moment - not get into any of the weather-related goodies here although we will say Manning's passes could take a major hit if there are any high winds inside MetLife Stadium (quite sure that New York Giants' QB Eli Manning's told 'em that already!) and instead concentrate on sheer offensive strategies for the Broncos:
Manning has completed 57-of-79 aerials for four TDs in his two playoff games this year and note he's thrown just one interception and has yet to be sacked - all wonderful stats but the real key has been the run/pass balance that this Broncos' offense has exhibited in the victories versus the Chargers and Patriots.
Denver's rushed the ball 62 times total in the two playoff wins and so that means there's been a 56-to-42 pass vs. run ratio and - truth be told - Broncos head coach John Fox and trusty offensive coordinator Adam Gase would love your basic 50-50 run/pass split here with the key being to keep this ultra-aggressive Seahawks defense off balance with an array of first-down chucks.
Hey, also don't forget one of the really key plays in the Broncos' AFC Championship Game win was that third-and-10 run by RB Knowshon Moreno for 28 yards to the Patriots' 11-yard line that helped on Denver's first touchdown drive that came in the second quarter.
If Moreno (37 carries for 141 yards and one TD this post-season and/or rookie RB Montee Ball (22 carries for an effective 95 rushing yards this post-season) can mix in those occasional chain-moving runs when Seattle's defense is thinking "pass" than you might see a couple of 7-or 7-plus minute drives here by the Broncs.
Don't overlook the following: The Denver offensive line has been absolutely brilliant in keeping Manning in the upright position and we believe the Seahawks will show more blitzes, more gimmicks on defense in order to rattle Manning's cage and so there is a real commitment to catching the ball for Manning's safety-valve receivers such as TE Julius Thomas, WR Wes Welker and even Moreno and Ball and remember in the AFC Divisional Playoff win against San Diego there were a batch of drops that really killed Denver drives (we can think of potential TDs by J. Thomas. WR Eric Decker and Welker or else that game could have gotten out of hand).
The Broncos have not had a pass play go for more than 37 yards thus far in the post-season but WR Demaryius Thomas (15 receptions for 188 yards and two TDs this post-season) - who might want to "chill" a bit in his talks about Seattle CB Richard Sherman - likely needs a stretch-the-field play early here in order to keep the Seahawks honest.
Prediction: First time the Broncos get on or just inside midfield, look for Manning to go deep to D. Thomas for a "home run" type throw and - if it works - it will have a major effect on how the Broncos move the ball with their short-to-medium range passing game.
Finally, don't sleep on the fact that Denver PK Matt Prater has missed recent practice time with an "illness" - Fox says Prater will be fine for SB 48 but if he has lost some strength or might not have the leg to get through some Meadowlands winds, you might see the Broncos opt to go for it on some fourth-and-short plays here - gut feeling is Moreno/Ball will find themselves in a few short-yardage plays that will help determine the outcome of this tilt.
One final note here on the Denver offense: The Broncos scored less than 30 points on five different occasions this year including those two aforementioned playoff games - and still Denver won four of those five games ... hmmm.
Next up - When the Seahawks Have the Ball.
COLLEGE BASKETBALL REPORT
Tonight, it's ...
#18 DUKE (16-4, 5-2 ACC) at #20 PITTSBURGH (18-2, 6-1 ACC) -- 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Let's just say the Pittsburgh Panthers have not gotten flustered by life inside the Atlantic Coast Conference - the lone loss on the docket for Jamie Dixon's team was a 59-54 loss/push at Syracuse two weekends ago but otherwise the Steel City kids have been terrific and now in comes gold-standard Duke into town and you wonder if Pitt's gonna get some "cold feet".
No doubt the Panthers have been riding a hot hand lately as senior F Lamar Patterson (averaging 17.9 ppg) comes off a brilliant 28-point game in the Panthers' 83-79 triumph at 4-point home up Maryland this past Saturday night.
Patterson may not get the hype going in that's accorded to Duke super-frosh Jabari Parker - the Chicago native is coming off a 14-point, 14-rebound performance in Saturday's 78-56 win against 9-point underdog Florida State - but you could say Patterson's been the ACC's best player in the month of January.
Key for the Blue Devils here: Find the open three-point shooters here - if Andre Hawkins, Rodney Hood or the aforementioned Parker gets an opening from downtown here than gun it against a Pitt defense that's played rock-solid perimeter defense all this year long.
Something tells us the first team to 60 points wins ... we shall see!
On Tuesday, it's ...
#14 KENTUCKY (15-4, 5-1 SEC) at LSU (12-6, 3-3 SEC) - 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Don't look now but John Calipari's Kentucky Wildcats have won seven of their last eight games since mid-December and that sole setback was a fluky 87-85 overtime loss at Arkansas.
The 'Cats are about to discover plenty about themselves here as they will play four of their next five games on the SEC road - Kentucky's also heading to Missouri, Miss State and Auburn between now and February 12th - and here they come off a resounding 79-54 win against 14-point road dog Georgia.
Note that Kentucky shot 50 percent from the floor in this easy-as-pie win (29-of-58 FG makes) with frosh Julius Randle contributing 14 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists and here Randle looks to show off his post moves against an LSU team that ranks a lowly 74th nationally in scoring defense (allowing 69 ppg).
Look for LSU's Johnny O'Bryant III - who scored a team-high 18 points in the Bengals' 82-80 loss at 2-point fav Alabama last Saturday night - to shoot it plenty here as he's connected on a sizzling 51.3 percent of his field-goal tries this year (that's 100-of-195 FGM).
NOTE: More Super Bowl XLVIII coverage and NCAA/NBA Hoops comin' your way all this week right here at Jim Sez ... and make sure you catch our Super Bowl Preview in Friday's column.