Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 12:10 AM
So, what exactly is the "script" that Super Bowl XLVIII gonna follow this Sunday evening?
Are the Denver Broncos - a 2 ½-point betting favorite at this very moment - going to cap off a glorious gridiron season with MVP-to-be QB Peyton Manning chuckin' a few touchdown passes ... or are the Seattle Seahawks gonna hunker down on "D" and give the wild fans in the great northwest their first-ever Super Bowl crown?
Well, we are - finally - just a mere few days away from finding out what gives in the final football game this season and let's just say come Super Bowl time you often expect the unexpected ... just check out a batch of things that have happened in the prior 47 Super Bowl tilts, okay?
Still, in today's Jim Sez Super Bowl-flavored column we wanted to dig a little bit deeper into some of the key factors and strategies here for SB XLVIII and so let's have at it!
THE SUPER BOWL XLVIII REPORT - KEY FACTORS/STRATEGIES
1 - WHAT INFLUENCE WILL THE WEATHER REALLY HAVE ON SB XLVIII?
If you happened to catch the comments of former New York Giants/Jets head coach Bill Parcells the other day, then you know this Hall of Famer believes the wind at MetLife Stadium (much as it did Parcells' days at the old Giants Stadium) might be a major factor ... and we agree.
In fact, if there is a strong or swirling wind here, than the aforementioned Manning likely will make some major changes/adjustments to the Broncos' game plan here with more quick out patterns run by his receivers and even more screen passes too.
Folks, it's no old wives tale that at one corner of the field at MetLife Stadium the wind really can pick up a football and move it indiscriminately 5 or 10 yards away from the intended target - one or two of those wind-blown balls by Manning could get picked by this ultra-aggressive Seattle secondary and thus be a Super Bowl difference-maker.
And wind might not be having an effect on just Manning and Seahawks QB Russell Wilson as the kicking game could be impacted too.
Consider that Denver head coach John Fox and Seattle sideline boss Pete Carroll could well opt to go for it on fourth-down plays should the win/cold make field goals of say 50-or-so yards even harder than usual.
2 - WHAT HAPPENS IF EITHER TEAM GETS BEHIND BY TWO (OR MORE) SCORES?
Okay, so the common sense approach is to claim the run-first Seahawks will be in much more trouble should the NFC champs get behind 14-0 or 14-3 in the early stages of the second quarter but we'll take a contrarian view here and say nothing will change with Seattle's offensive approach.
As we stated in yesterday's Jim Sez column, we fully expect Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch (50 carries so far in the two prior post-season wins against New Orleans/San Francisco) to get a major chunk of carries here and so even if the 'Hawks get down early, expect to see lots of the Skittles-chewing Lynch here as smash-mouth football first and foremost remains the Seattle strategy.
If Denver gets behind - let's say - 14-0 here, than it'll be interesting to see if the Broncos abandon their lesser-known ground game and make Manning throw it down-after-down. Gotta say that we think it'll be a major mistake if either team gets away from its strengths and one of Denver's strengths is RB Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball can/will get you 125-or-so total rushing yards should you give them their opportunities.
P.S., keep in mind Seattle's pass rush will stalk down Manning (yet to be sacked this post-season) if all he is doing is throwing the football down two-or-more scores - so it could really have a detrimental effect on the orange crushers.
3 - WHO ARE SOME OF THE OFF-THE-RADAR PLAYERS THAT COULD BE MAJOR DIFF-MAKERS HERE?
Okay, so all week long we've been hearing about Manning and Seattle CB Richard Sherman and the aforementioned RB Lynch but how about a guy or two on both sides that could be major impact players here?
Here's our short list:
DENVER - OLB Danny Trevathan might have been the Broncos' leading tackler this year (128 total stops) but have you heard a peep about this game-wrecker all this week? The fact of the matter is Trevathan goes sideline-to-sideline as well as any backer this side of Carolina's Luke Kuechley and he could well be plastering his way onto Mr. Lynch all game long here. Plus don't sleep on Broncos' TE Jacob Tamme who was Manning's old buddy in Indianapolis and has proven to be a nice red-zone target. While the Seahawks concentrate their defensive efforts on the likes of wide-outs Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and slot receiver Wes Welker, it could be Tamme who dents the end zone a couple of times here.
SEATTLE - You may not have been aware but Seahawks PK Steven Hauschka drilled home 33-of-35 field goals in the regular season (including 14-of-15 from beyond 40 yards out) and he's added six field goals in as many tries this post-season although many folks only remember Hauschka seemingly not getting on the field quick enough for what would have been a Seahawks' FG try in the recent NFC Championship Game win against San Francisco. Note that Hauschka banged home field goals of 49, 44 and 24 yards in Seattle's easy 23-0 win at the New York Giants in Week 15 play - so he has a late-season familiarity/comfort level at this MetLife setting that could be a positive here.
Hey, let's feed you some key spread stats here on both the Broncos and the Seahawks:
Note that Denver is a rock-solid 10-6 ATS (against the spread) away from their Mile High City since the start of the Manning Era in 2012 and go back one more year to the start of the 2011 NFL campaign when coach Fox took over and you'll see the AFC champs are a collective 16-9 versus the vig away (that's a spiffy .640 winning rate).
On the flip side, Seattle is 6-2 against the odds away from the Emerald City this year and date back to the start of the Russell Wilson Era a year ago and you'll see that the Seahawks are a tasty 12-6 ATS away (a .667 rate) - and go back to the 2010 season when head coach Carroll came aboard and you'll notice the Seahawks are 18-16 ATS away and that includes a shabby 2-7 spread mark away in Carroll's first year on the job there.
Finally, there were some folks wondering - for what it's worth - what happened when these two teams met in the Preseason and here's the skinny:
On Saturday, August 17th in an NFL Preseason Week 2 game, Seattle scored a 40-10 knockout home win/cover against 5 ½-point pup Denver. The highlight of that Seahawks' win was a 107-yard kick return for a touchdown by Jermaine Kearse who also nabbed a 12-yard scoring strike from QB Wilson - meanwhile Manning completed 11-of-16 passes for 163 yards with one TD and no INTs (an 11-yard scoring strike to WR Wes Walker).
Jim Hurley, Master Of The Only True National Sports Information NETWORK
THE NBA REPORT
CLEVELAND (16-29) at NEW YORK (18-27) - 8 p.m. ET, TNT
Maybe the New York Knicks - here playing the seventh game of their current eight-game home stand - have righted the ship with back-to-back-to-back wins since Friday night when Carmelo Anthony dazzled the Big Apple crowd with a franchise-best 62 points. Hey, it might take another super-human effort from Anthony here should the Knicks find themselves being short-handed as a shoulder injury to G Iman Shumpert and ankle woes troubling both C Tyson Chandler and reserve F/C Kenyon Martin could have boss-man Mike Woodson scrambling for able bodies right here.
On the flip side, Cleveland heads into the Super Bowl host city off a 100-89 home loss to 2 ½-point pup New Orleans - okay, so the absence of board-banger Anderson Varejao (knee contusion) didn't help there but the Cavs are hoping he's green-lighted for this tilt at Madison Square Garden but the key is whether or not star G Kyrie Irving (21.5 ppg) can beat the Knicks to the hoop off the dribble drive - that's been a major New York weakness this 2013-14 campaign.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (32-15) at GOLDEN STATE (27-19) - approximately 10:35 p.m. ET, TNT
There wasn't much "Christmas cheer" the last time these Western Conference rivals squared off on the evening of December 25th as Clippers' star F Blake Griffin was wrongfully ejected with 10-plus minutes remaining in the game that host Golden State won 105-103 - toss aside the hostilities there and you'll see a major key in Golden State's holiday victory was 10 made triples with half of them coming from star guards Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry but you might have noticed where Curry sank just 2-of-7 trifecta attempts in Tuesday's 88-85 home loss to 8-point dog Washington. One key here - providing both teams keep their cool and have their respective players on the court and not ejected here - is on-the-rise Clippers G Willie Green who scored 13 points in an earlier-week double-digit win in Milwaukee - he may be no Chris Paul (out with a shoulder injury) but he's given Doc Rivers' squad some instant offense lately.