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A preview of Super Bowl XLVIII

NFL Columnist

Published: Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Updated: Tuesday, January 28, 2014 22:01

As difficult as this may be to fathom, there is much more to Super Bowl XLVIII than the much-presaged Richard Sherman-Peyton Manning matchup. Sure, the idea of the best, loudest cornerback in the league going head-to-head against one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time is quite intriguing and can put goosebumps on the skin of the most impassive of fans. But really, the Sherman-Manning clash could end up being nothing more than a glorious footnote in the story that culminates with either the Seahawks or Broncos hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. After all, 49ers gunslinger Colin Kaepernick tested Sherman just twice all afternoon in the NFC Championship, and even those two attempts proved to be one too many.


            I was very indecisive as to what my Super Bowl preview would actually consist of. I considered doing an A-to-Z list of big-game tidbits, a strictly quantitative report, or a breakdown of each squad’s starters. And we all thought Peyton Manning had a load of options. Finally, I came up with a series of imperative questions for myself to answer, because, quite frankly, I like being “that guy.” I have no shame in admitting that I foresaw a breakout campaign from Brandon Weeden after seeing him in preseason action, or that Kaepernick was my MVP choice. By taking chances like those, I also take full credit for hypothesizing that T.Y. Hilton would become a (somewhat) household name, or that either the 49ers or Seahawks would be the final team standing in MetLife Stadium in February (which will hold court come Sunday night).


            After all, what’s the point of attempting to be an expert if you don’t put your knowledge to the test? It’s prediction time, peeps. My only worry is that, should I fail miserably in answering the questions accurately, I’ll come across as “mediocre.” Tell me, Michael Crabtree, how does that feel?


Who does history favor?

Whew, we’re starting out easy. History favors the Seattle Seahawks. We’ve seen the indisputable top offense against the clear-cut, most dominant defense a few times before in the Super Bowl and more often than not it’s the defensive-driven squad that has figured out the seemingly immovable offensive vessel en route to a victory. In 1985, a stout 49ers “D” forced Dan Marino into two interceptions, and the Dolphins managed just 16 points in a 38-16 final. In Super Bowl XXXVII, also known as Raiders-Buccaneers in 2003, Tampa Bay took three Rich Gannon offerings to the house for pick-sixes—the Bucs stifled the normally high-flying Raiders attack, taking home the top prize in a 48-21 statement. Then, in 2008, the undefeated and record-setting New England Patriots–only a month after putting up 38 points against the Giants in the regular season finale met their match against a New York defense in the Super Bowl that was as hot as could be. You get my gist. The Seahawks have history on their side.





Will the strengths cancel each other out?

For the most part, yes. Of course, Manning and that insanely deep offense are going to score points, and I wouldn’t be absolutely stunned if the total points for the game was in the 50’s or 60’s (The official over/under is 47; you know which way I would lean). But the Broncos offense and the Seahawks defense will cancel each other out in the sense that whether Seattle or Denver dethrones the Ravens as league champs depends on which “lesser unit” plays at a higher level. Translation: As impossible as it’s going to be to blink when Peyton has the rock and is doing his best to outwit Seattle’s defense, this Super Bowl will come down to Russell Wilson, Champ Bailey and their respective companies. No matter how much guys like Sherman, safety Earl Thomas and defensive end Michael Bennett can befuddle the Broncos’ “O,” Seattle has no shot if Russell Wilson proves to be nothing better than a game-manager. On the flip side, if Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas somehow tear up that elite secondary, it still depends on how the Denver defensive front handles the two-headed rushing dose of Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch. Seattle’s defense: obviously great. Denver’s offense: just as impressive. Seattle’s offense and Denver’s defense, meanwhile, are both mediocre and ranked somewhere in the middle tier of the NFL. Which is why the x-factors are Broncos like defensive tackle Terrance Knighton (a.k.a. Pot Roast) and linebacker Danny Trevathan, plus Seahawks such as Lynch and that entire offensive line.


Who can potentially be this year’s wideout darling?

Every Super Bowl, it feels like a wide receiver that wasn’t exactly the focal point of the opposition’s gameplan comes out of irrelevancy and threatens to win MVP with how well they perform. Think of David Tyree, Mario Manningham and Jacoby Jones as examples. With the Broncos’ pass-catching quartet of Julius Thomas, Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, and Eric Decker being so explosive and notorious, I’m looking at a Seattle receiver to break through to the point that they get a call from the “Dancing with the Stars” executives this offseason. Perhaps Doug Baldwin, the undrafted Stanford graduate who had 6 catches for 106 yards versus the 49ers last week, can be that man. I’m putting my money on another undrafted dude, however. Jermaine Kearse, who Russell Wilson has turned to often this year in late-game situations and in the red zone, has a tremendous opportunity to make a name for himself this Sunday. Remember, it was Kearse and not Baldwin or Golden Tate, who hauled in the game-winning touchdown versus San Francisco. What you got for an encore presentation, Jermaine?

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