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Super Bowl XLVIII Preview: And the Winner is...
By Matt Horkman

From 1977-2001, Denver and Seattle were both apart of the AFC West. The teams have played just three times since Seattle left the AFC in '02, making Seattle’s rivalry with Denver (and the rest of the AFC West) somewhat lost to time. However, for fans and former players, Seattle and Denver will always be apart of the old-school AFC West. In fact, in 1983, Seattle actually won the franchise’s first postseason game over Denver in the old Kingdome.

The teams will renew their rivalry this Sunday, though instead of being an obscure rivalry for those living in Mountain and Pacific time zones, the rivalry takes center stage in the country’s largest market.

Cold Weather Super Bowl

The decision to play the Super Bowl outdoors in a cold weather city has been controversial. Most of the media’s reaction is hyperbolic. Football is not an indoor sport. It is an outdoor sport. The media’s fascination with cold temperatures is worthy of an eye roll. 

Extreme temperatures can affect the game. It certainly can influence the mental part of the game, but 25-40 degrees isn’t very cold. To be sure, that’s probably freezing too many of you living in warm climates, much as somebody in a colder climate may find 85-95 degrees incredibly hot.

Nevertheless, you can still run in 35-degree weather. You can catch the ball just fine in 35-degree weather. You can also throw a tight spiral with 35-degree temperatures. We don’t seem to care about the cold in NFC and AFC championship games. Did the 2007 NFC championship game -- played under subzero temperatures -- make for sloppy football because of the weather?
MetLife Stadium

The odds of the cold affecting the players are quite low. The wind, however, is a different story. Not only do windy conditions affect the kicking game, but it’ll also impact the passing game. This could prove detrimental to Denver, which relies heavily on the arm of Peyton Manning, though the current forecast calls for winds of 5-15 miles per hour.

The weather won’t likely impact the game. It may impact the many stars that attend the game, but football isn’t about attracting celebrities and millionaires. It should never be about that. It should be about the enjoyment of the game. People who live in Northeast Wisconsin brag about attending the Ice Bowl whether they were actually there or not. I suspect several Giants fans, who were fortunate enough to attend New York’s '07 victory over Green Bay, brag about their experience on that day.

In many ways, I suspect the weather will enhance the game. More important, if this goes over well enough, I wouldn’t doubt the game ends up in bigger cities, possibly the Baltimore and Washington D.C. area. Denver sure looked like an excellent backdrop for a football game two weeks ago.

Embrace the Heel

Another media fascination is the epic rant from Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman following Seattle’s victory over San Francisco in the NFC championship. After the play, Sherman made choke gestures toward the 49ers' sideline and gave his now-infamous interview with FOX sideline reporter Erin Andrews.

Cries of poor sportsmanship invaded the public forum. Those concerns may have validity to them. How can society preach sportsmanship to young kids when NFL stars don’t show it? As is normally the case, though, there’s another side to the argument.

Try to comprehend just how crazy you have to be in order to play football in the NFL. The intensity levels somebody must achieve, especially a defensive player, is an intensity that few individuals can obtain. That’s why these guys make millions of dollars. The game isn’t for everybody.

There’s a reason why the NFL mandates a 10-minute cool down period before the media can interview players in the locker room following a game. The players need to unwind. They just spent three hours of their day absorbing the physical and mental toll of playing in the NFL. What FOX and Andrews captured with Sherman was raw emotion following an epic clash between two teams.
Richard Sherman
Perhaps Sherman took it too far, but there’s clearly some sort of conflict between him and Crabtree. The conflict between them is nobody else’s business but theirs. These two grown men don’t like each other. Let them settle their dispute on the field, which it appears they did.

Nevertheless, the media quickly began casting Sherman as the villain of these playoffs. Following the aftershock from his postgame interview, Sherman felt compelled to defend himself because of the backlash. His family and friends have also defended him. They all claim Sherman isn’t a villainous person.

I don’t know Sherman as a person, but I‘ll take their word over judging somebody on a 30-second interview. Fair or not, Sherman is this game‘s villain. He can fight it or he can channel Ric Flair and unleash his heel persona on Sunday. I think he’s going to take the latter route.

And that’s exactly what Seattle head coach Pete Carroll wants.

Never underestimate the mentality a team has going into a game. Seattle and San Francisco hate each other. It clearly came across with how the teams played. The Seahawks won’t be able to channel that type of mentality when they play Denver, as they simply don’t despise the Broncos enough.

Knowing much of America wants you to lose is something the Seahawks can use to rally around one another. It means becoming a villain, but if that’s what it takes to take home the Lombardi Trophy, then I suspect we’ll be hearing from Mr. Sherman quite a bit following this game.

Who Wins?

Based on talent, Seattle is a better team. They’re bigger, tougher, stronger, and faster than Denver is. The Broncos do have Manning under center, which makes them dangerous, especially with their receiving corps.

Still, throughout the year, the NFC has been the superior conference. I believe all six of the NFC playoff teams would have given Denver a good game in the Super Bowl. I can’t say the same for any of the AFC playoff teams versus Seattle.

The Seahawks are more battle-tested, especially after playing New Orleans and San Francisco. Playing the 49ers tested their toughness and mental will, while playing the Saints twice prepared them for facing an elite quarterback.

Like Manning, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees relies on timing to establish his rhythm. Brees finished the year with a 68.6 completion percentage, which topped the NFC and was slightly better than Manning’s 68.3 completion percentage. In two games against Seattle, however, Brees completed just 58.2 percent of his passes. By harassing New Orleans' receivers downfield, the Seahawks prevented Brees from establishing a rhythm. 

A similar result will occur on Sunday, though the Broncos will fare a little bit better than the Saints did. Still, Seattle’s defense is good enough to hold Denver’s offense in check. Moreover, the combination of quarterback Russell Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch will prove too difficult for Denver to control. I expect an entertaining game with Seattle dictating its flow with ball control.

Lynch is your MVP and the Seahawks wipe away memories of Super Bowl XL with their first Super Bowl victory in franchise history.

Seahawks 27 Broncos 20

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