Super Bowl XLVIII is finally upon us, less than 24 hours away. Everything that has been discussed leading up to this point will finally come to fruition — or at least, have the potential to come to fruition. All week, the storyline has been that it’s the National Football League’s top offense versus the top defense: the perfect matchup.
But there’s more to this game than underlying storylines and matchups between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks, whether it’s how Bruno Mars will perform during the halftime show or if choosing to play in an outdoor stadium in February will turn one of the biggest games of the year into a frozen mess. Either way, there are expectations on Sunday, and every year, it seems that the game rarely fails to entertain the millions of viewers who tune in.
Alongside the rapt anticipation and endless possibilities, here are four things to watch for on Super Bowl Sunday:
1. Peyton Manning vs. Russell Wilson
How could you not want to see this quarterback matchup? Manning, who’s looking for his second Super Bowl ring, has dominated since week one this season, when he threw then a record-setting seven touchdowns.
He’s also a fan favorite, likely to be named the National Football League’s MVP this season, and is coming off of a record-breaking year. Manning’s 5,477 yards and even more impressive 55 touchdowns each set new league records, and his performance throughout 2013 into 2014 was one for the ages. If that isn’t enough, Manning’s post-season success this year has epitomized why he’s the best — consistency is key.
Whereas Manning has the experience and statistics on his side, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is the opposite: young, talented, and inexperienced. Though Wilson is in just his second NFL season, he’s led the Seahawks to two consecutive playoff berths, but this will be his first Super Bowl. Wilson can beat you with his arm and his feet, making him elite and difficult to defend against.
He’s the kind of dual-threat quarterback that Manning isn’t (albeit beating people with just his arm has worked out pretty well for the four-time league MVP). This isn’t the first time that an established veteran quarterback has matched up against a promising young rookie in the biggest game of their careers, and Manning and Wilson will assuredly put on a show worth watching.
2. The Richard Sherman
Prefacing Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman’s name with “the” seemed only fitting after his post-game interview following the NFC Championship game. Sherman is one of the best — if not the best — cover corners in the game. Sunday just so happens to match him up against the league’s best offense that’s led by the league’s best quarterback.
Sherman’s eight interceptions during the regular season topped all other defensive players, and that wasn’t by accident — he has terrific instincts, a feel for the ball, and an ability to read routes like no other corner. In terms of the NFL’s defensive playmakers, Sherman’s up there: He can change a game at any one point. And if there’s a chance of getting another post-game interview with the self-proclaimed “best cornerback in the game,” that’s a reason to tune in by itself.
3. Seahawks looking for their first title
The last time a team from Seattle won a championship (in the American big three: football, baseball, and basketball) was in 1979 — the Supersonics. Despite the city’s lack of recent success, the fans have never relented, and there’s no doubt that the Seahawks faithful will roll into New Jersey in the bunches in hopes of seeing something that hasn’t happened since before some of the players on the current roster were born.
Seattle fans have a bit of a reputation as being crazed yet passionate, and this fiery nature might be just what the team needs to break the city’s championship drought. Fans will travel a lengthy 2,800 miles to get from Seattle to East Rutherford, New Jersey, but it will all be worth it if their beloved Seahawks bring home a championship. It’s only fair after the city dramatically lost the Supersonics when the team moved to Oklahoma City.
CenturyLink Field, Seattle’s stadium, has garnished quite the legend amongst the NFL as being a true “12th Man.” CenturyLink can’t play a part in Sunday’s championship, but you can bet that the thousands of fans who make up the 12th Man will have a similar role in New Jersey at the Meadowlands, the home of the Giants and Jets.
4. The weather
This sounds mundane, but ever since the venue for Super Bowl XLVIII was announced as New Jersey-New York, weather became an immediate concern. Playing the game at an outdoor stadium in the dead of winter (a very cold and snowy winter) was considered crazy at the time — and it still does seem crazy.
According to a recent weather update, New Jersey’s Sunday forecast appears to be on the warmer side (relatively speaking, that is), somewhere between 30 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. There isn’t anticipation of snow or other precipitation, but the frigid temperatures could still have a drastic effect on the game. The colder the temperature becomes, the more that favors the Seahawks, because they can placate the frozen temperatures by using running back Marshawn Lynch between the tackles and burning up clock while keeping the game in a manageable situation.
The warmer and more playable the conditions are, the Broncos gain the edge. Denver has lived and died by Manning’s production this season — if the weather severely limits his ability, that in turn limits the team as a whole. Having an outdoor Super Bowl in a cold state was a bit reckless in terms of foresight and planning, whether in the consideration of the thousands of fans attending or just quality of play, but if there’s one thing the NFL got right, it’s that it certainly will make the game more interesting.