10 biggest storylines heading into Super Bowl at MetLife StadiumManning's legacy, coaches with ties to New York to be featured at NFL's biggest game
There are contingency plans to move the game up to Saturday or move it back to Monday or later if there is a blizzard that cripples the metropolitan area, but obviously that will be a last resort and cause all kinds of logistical problems. The NFL gambled on the weather when the owners voted back in the spring of 2010 to award Super Bowl XLVIII to MetLife Stadium as a thank you to the owners of the Giants and Jets for building the privately financed $1.7 billion stadium.
It's the first outdoor cold weather Super Bowl, and while the NFL wouldn't mind some flurries - it will make for a pretty television picture - a snowstorm that would cause safety concerns for fans getting to the game and then impact the game itself is not going to be good for the league, the fans or the teams.
Super Bowl week Monday through Saturday should not be an issue, even if it's exceedingly cold. There's lots to do in New York for visitors and the league has come up with Super Bowl Boulevard on Broadway from 34th to 47th streets running from Jan. 29-Feb. 1.
The NFL has played two Super Bowls in Detroit and one in Minnesota, cities that tend to be much colder than New York in the winter without quite as much for fans to do. So, Super Bowl week in New York should be fun. The difference, of course, is those games in Detroit and Minnesota were played in domes.
As long as Feb. 2 doesn't bring extreme cold or a lot of snow, then this could be a Super Bowl to remember.
The weather, of course, will be the major story in the days leading up to the Seahawks playing the Broncos in what should be a great game.
Here's are my top 10 storylines relating to the game:
1. Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, of course, is the dominant personality and player in this game. He needs to win his second Super Bowl to enhance his legacy. He's been the best regular season quarterback in NFL history. This season he set records with 55 touchdown passes and 5,477 yards passing. But he is just 1-1 in the Super Bowl and 11-11 overall in the playoffs. Quarterbacks are ultimately judged by their rings and Manning has just one. Eleven quarterbacks have multiple Super Bowl rings, including Manning's younger brother Eli. As great as Manning has been in his career and as great as he's been this season, he really does need to win another ring. He is 37 years old and this is likely the best chance he will get. But even if he doesn't win this game, his ability to come back from four procedures on his neck, including major surgery before the 2011 season that sidelined him all year, makes him one of the best comeback stories of all time.
2. Richard Sherman, the Seahawks All-Pro cornerback, guaranteed he will be a major story with his post-game rant on national television after the NFC Championship Game victory over the 49ers. Sherman is a good guy and very active in the community and he's a smart guy, too - he went to Stanford - and his rant was a product of his emotions moments after a huge game. He's a good enough player that he does not need to draw attention to himself and away from his team by acting this way. He surely realizes it by now. He will draw huge media crowds next week and his potential matchup against Demaryius Thomas, the Broncos most dangerous receiver, could be the most important in the Super Bowl.
3. Russell Wilson, the Seahawks second-year quarterback, has not been putting up big numbers lately, but he is a threat running the ball and creating extra time with his legs to find receivers. And, he is still very capable of making big-time throws. His 35-yard fourth down touchdown pass against the 49ers put Seattle ahead in the fourth quarter. He will present a much different challenge to the Denver defense than Tom Brady did in the AFC Championship Game. The Broncos were successful by getting pressure up the middle. Brady can't run away from the defense. But Wilson is dangerous when he gets outside the pocket. He is very good throwing on the run.
4. The Broncos and Seahawks were 13-3 in the regular season, tying for the best record in the NFL. The Broncos were the No. 1 seed in the AFC and the Seahawks were the No. 1 seed in the NFC. It's only the second time in the last 21 Super Bowls that the No. 1 seeds will play each other. It's happened four years ago when the Saints played the Colts and before that it was all the way back to Super Bowl XXVIII between the Cowboys and Bills after the 1993 season.
5. The Broncos had the No. 1 ranked offense this season. The Seahawks had the No. 1 defense. The Broncos scored an NFL record 606 points, an average of 38 points per game. The Seahawks gave up 231 points, an average of 14.5, the fewest in the league. That means Denver scored an average of about 24 more points per game than Seattle gave up. Defense usually wins championships, but Manning's offense has been so prolific this season it might make that theory outdated. Manning was held to 20 points in a loss to the Chargers, the only time the Broncos were held under 28. The Seahawks gave up a season-high 34 in a loss to the Colts, the only time they gave up more than 24 points in a game.
6. Seattle's Pete Carroll was the Jets defensive coordinator from 1990-93 when Bruce Coslet was the head coach. Coslet was fired after the '93 season and Carroll was promoted to head coach. The Jets were 6-5 and in contention in 1994 to win the AFC East when they lost the now famous "Fake Spike" game to Dan Marino and the Dolphins. The Jets didn't win another game that season, finishing 6-10. Carroll was then fired by Leon Hess, a move that shocked him. He was replaced by Rich Kotite. Carroll then spent two years as the 49ers defensive coordinator, three years as the Patriots head coach, taking over for Bill Parcells, before he was fired, and then nine years as the very successful coach at USC before he was hired by the Seahawks in 2010. The Jets didn't give a chance to show what he could do as a head coach. Obviously, he turned into a pretty good one.
7. Just like Carroll has a strong connection to New York, so does Broncos coach John Fox. If things had worked out a little differently, he would have been the Giants head coach. Fox was Jim Fassel's defensive coordinator with the Giants from 1997-2001. Before the 2000 season, the Giants gave Fassel just a one-year contract extension. His mandate was to make the playoffs after the Giants were just 8-8 and 7-9 in the previous two seasons. In 2000, the Giants got hot late and not only made the playoffs, they made it to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the Ravens. If the Giants had not finished strong and qualified for the postseason, Fassel likely would have been fired. His replacement would have been Fox. Instead, the Giants gave Fassel a long-term contract extension and after the 2001 season, Fox was hired as the head coach of the Panthers. He was in Carolina nine years, making it to the Super Bowl in his second season, and then was fired. He was immediately hired by the Broncos in 2010.
8. Giants GM Jerry Reese had a Super Bowl countdown clock put up in a hallway outside the locker room this season. It was supposed to provide motivation. Instead, the Giants started 0-6 - their worst start since 1976 - on their way to a 7-9 season. The Jets overachieved and finished 8-8. As a result, there is still no team that has played the Super Bowl on its home field. It was considered a realistic goal for the Giants. Not so much for the Jets. Well, at least the game is being kept in the Manning family. Two years after Eli Manning won the Super Bowl on Peyton's then-home field in Indianapolis, Peyton will try to win the Super Bowl on Eli's home field.
9. It's small consolation, but for the Jets sake, at least the Patriots didn't get to the Super Bowl. The AFC was assigned to work out at the Jets facility in Florham Park with the NFC team at the Giants facility in East Rutherford. When the Giants and Jets made their bid to the NFL to host Super Bowl XLVIII, they asked that the AFC team be at the Giants facility and the NFC team work out at the Jets. Their reasoning was obvious: The Giants had no desire for division rivals Dallas, Philadelphia or Washington to spend a week at their facility and the Jets felt the same way about the Patriots, Dolphins and Bills. But the NFL rejected that part of the proposal. When the Super Bowl is in an NFC city, the NFC teams works out at the facility of the host team and the NFL usually finds a college to host the AFC team. The arrangement is flip flopped when the game is played an AFC city. Since this is an unusual circumstance with an NFL facility available to each team, the Giants and Jets gave it a shot to keep their rivals out of their building. If the Patriots had defeated the Broncos in the AFC title game, then Bill Belichick and Tom Brady would have spent a week in Florham Park. Surely, the Jets are much more comfortable hosting Fox and Peyton Manning and the Giants have no real rivalry with the Seahawks.
10. Just one more item about the weather: If the Giants and Jets wanted to spend another $400 million on their stadium, they could have had a retractable roof. That likely would enabled them to get another Super Bowl and perhaps other major events like the NCAA Final Four or the NBA All-Star game as well as major concerts and events in the winter. But they decided that any financial benefit to having a retractable roof would not be worth the $400 million it would cost to build it. As a result, there's going to be a lot of nervous people checking the weather forecast for Feb. 2.