This season the Seahawks racked up an average 72.83 penalty yards per game, the highest total in the NFL. Not far behind are the Broncos in the sixth position with 62.2 penalty yards per game. This would lead one to think that flags will be flying on Sunday, but no one wants to see a game decided by the officials (think Tuck Rule/Tom Brady Rule). Pass interference and unnecessary roughness usually prove the most costly and controversial, but both teams also must keep an eye on false starts and offensive holding. Playing on the biggest stage in sports won’t make it any easier to keep cool, but it should be essential in controlling the game.
Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has been slurping Skittles after touchdowns since high school, when his mother would supply him with a pack after all his scores. As his legend has grown in Seattle over the past few seasons—carrying the team with his bruising runs and occasionally entertaining with his loquacious press conferences—so too has the city’s love of Skittles. This week the candy company inked an endorsement deal with Lynch and rolled out special edition Seattle Mix, filled only with blue and green. For the Hawks to win, Lynch has to be productive especially in the redzone. I’m hoping to see plenty of Skittles rain down on Sunday.
Score: Seahawks 26, Broncos 24 MVP: Russell Wilson
3. Wes Welker
Welker is considered one of the most dependable wideouts in the league despite his tendency for dropping fourth quarter passes. Sure, Brady underthrew him a little bit on that fateful play in the final minute of Super Bowl XLVI, but Welker’s late game drops have become increasingly frequent as he has aged. This is certainly a legacy game for Welker; if he manages to pull down at least eight receptions with a touchdown or two in a Broncos victory, the likelihood of his enshrinement in Canton will soar. Otherwise, he risks being remembered as a merely good slot receiver lucky to have played with two of the all-time greats.
4. Pete Carroll
Few coaches have ever culminated the turn around from laughing stock to champion. Mike Shanahan has proven that the inverse of that evolution is possible, but Carroll winning a Super Bowl after ruining Jets and Patriots squads in the 1990’s would be quite the anomaly. Plus, no 62-year-old will ever be as animated as Carroll should he win this Sunday.
5. Champ Bailey
The Broncos longest tenured player is the winner of this year’s “veteran who has never won whom everyone would be happiest for” award. For his 15 years in the league, Bailey has routinely been one of the league’s best cornerbacks, having been selected for 12 Pro Bowls. It’s starting to look like Denver’s decision to trade four years of Clinton Portis’ prime for Bailey was a prudent one. With the memorable nickname of Darrelle Revis or the provocative spirit of Richard Sherman, Bailey can often be forgotten in discussions of this generation’s premiere shutdown corner. However, a championship ring would nicely underscore a decade and a half of uninterrupted dominance.
Score: Broncos 35, Seahawks 30 MVP: Champ Bailey (Just kidding it’ll be Peyton, but this would be way more fun)
6. The Weather
Since May 2010, when New York – New Jersey won the bid to host Super Bowl XLVIII, much of the talk has been about the weather. That conversation intensified last year when the Farmers’ Almanac predicted blizzard-like conditions for the spectacle. For how much hype that the weather has received over the last few years, it has certainly taken a backseat this week to other stories such as the Richard Sherman saga. That is because as of Wednesday night, the weather forecast appears to be in the mid 30’s with only a 20 percent chance of precipitation. Instead, it appears the wind will be more of a factor, with gusts expected to be between 10-15 miles per hour for Sunday night. That should favor the defensive side of the ball, and also the team that has a stronger running attack. Therefore, advantage Seattle?
7. Peyton Manning
Manning has long been criticized for his performances in cold weather. Whether some of that blame is justified or unfair, the stats do not appear to be in Manning’s favor. He is 1-2 when the temperature drops below 20 degrees, 1-5 when temperatures are between 20 and 29 degrees, and 7-7 between 30 and 39 degrees. Many football fans remember his poor play in the AFC Divisional playoff game last year when he fumbled and threw two interceptions, including a backbreaking one in overtime to all but end the Broncos’ season. With temperatures expected to drop below 30 degrees in the second half, how will Manning respond to the frigid weather conditions?
Score: Broncos 24, Seahawks 21 MVP: Peyton Manning
8. Battle of the Badgers
With many experts dubbing this the most evenly matched Super Bowl ever—Nate Silver said mathematically the game should result in a tie—expect the game to come down to the final drive, influenced by two (well actually, three) former Wisconsin Badgers. If the Seahawks have the ball last, they will bank on former Badger Russell Wilson, who has proven his mettle, orchestrating 10 game-winning drives in his first two NFL seasons. In addition, Wilson has been receiving play calls from another former Badger quarterback, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Meanwhile, although Denver’s Knowshon Moreno is the more recognized of the team’s 1-2 running punch, fellow back Montee Ball (another ex-Badger) has seen a more prominent role of late. If the Broncos have a late lead, Ball could be their go-to guy. Which former Badger will have the ball last and lead their team to the Lombardi Trophy?
Score: Seahawks 23, Broncos 20 MVP: Russell Wilson
Only four Broncos (0 Seahawks) have made Super Bowl appearances, with Peyton Manning the lone Super Bowl champion. The past 40 title games have all featured rosters with more combined experience between the two opponents than this year’s contest. Will early-game nerves play a part in which team comes out on top?
10. Minnesota Connections
The Vikings season may not have gone as planned, but there are plenty of reasons for Minnesotans to watch the big game on Sunday. Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker, who grew up in nearby Cold Springs, is the only Minnesota native that will be playing in the Super Bowl. The Gopher product was drafted by Denver in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Conversely, the Seattle Seahawks will include a bevy of former Minnesota Vikings. Although ex-Pro Bowl wide receiver Sidney Rice is on IR, there should be four active Seahawk players on Sunday that used to wear purple. Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin, backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, and special teams contributor Heath Farwell were all part of the NFC North Champion team that fell one game shy of the Super Bowl in 2009. Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell was also calling plays for the Vikings during that postseason run four years ago. In addition kicker Steven Hauschka is a former Viking, but was cut by the team in 2008 after losing his training camp competition with Ryan Longwell. It should also be noted that the Seahawks underwear will be provided by Eagan-based WSI Sports.
Score: Broncos 24, Seahawks 13 MVP: Peyton Manning