Craig: Ten storylines for Super Bowl XLVIII

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 26, 2014 - 8:13 PM

Want some Super Bowl intrigue?  Here are X — 10, that is — developments to follow.


FILE - In this Jan. 15, 2014 file photo, the NFL logo at midfield of MetLife Stadium is illuminated by lights on television reporters' videocameras as members of the media are given a tour under a tarp used by crews to keep the turf dry ahead of Super Bowl XLVIII in East Rutherford, N.J. As the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks prep for their Feb. 2, 2014 showdown in the Super Bowl, a legal fight is playing out over the very turf installed months ago at the NFL title game's venue. Taylor Turf Installation Inc. is suing the MetLife Stadium's operators and the company that hired the suburban St. Louis company, seeking more than $292,000 that Taylor Turf claims it still is owed for hustling to install the stadium's playing surface last summer. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

Photo: Julio Cortez, ASSOCIATED PRESS - AP

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Twas the Sunday before Super Bowl XLVIII and we’ve neither seen nor heard Chris Berman. But do not worry, the NFL hype will soon make us all sick and tired of Richard Sherman.

Potentially one of the best matchups in Super Bowl history — Peyton Manning and Denver’s record-setting offense vs. Seattle’s No. 1-ranked defense led by Sherman and the “Legion of Boom” secondary — is a week away. Before Sherman — the loud, controversial, trash-talking and, oh yeah, tremendously talented cornerback — opens his mouth and swallows the Big Apple with 180 minutes of media access over three days, let’s take this quiet moment to look at X story lines for the big game:

I No. 1 offense vs. No. 1 defense

Manning and the league’s first 600-point offense faces a defense that ranked No. 1 in numerous categories, including points allowed (14.4) and passer rating (63.4).

Only five times since 1970 has the No. 1 offense met the No. 1 defense in the Super Bowl. The top defense has prevailed four times: Super Bowls XIII (Pittsburgh over Dallas, 35-31), XIX (San Francisco over Miami, 38-16), XXV (Giants over Buffalo, 20-19) and XXXVII (Tampa Bay over Oakland, 48-21).

The top offense won Super Bowl XXIV when the 49ers beat the Broncos 55-10.

II League MVP vs. Cap MVP

With league records for passing yards (5,477) and touchdown passes (55), Manning will extend his record with a fifth league MVP award on Saturday night. But if you are looking for the best value from a salary cap standpoint, look no further than Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

While Manning counts as $17.5 million against the salary cap, Wilson weighs in at a mere $690,000. And that, folks, is how Seattle has the best of both worlds: an elite quarterback and the cap space to stockpile quality and depth at every other position.

III Man vs. Mother Nature

The forecast for the first Super Bowl played outdoors at a cold-weather site is a high of 36, a low of 24 and a 30 percent chance of snow. Sounds like summer around these parts.

Fans at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., will receive a hat, lip balm, ear muffs, mittens, a cup holder, a radio, hand warmers, a seat cushion, a waist-wrap with hand pockets and tissues. No word on whether the fans will have to wipe their own noses.

IV Press coverage vs. pick plays

Last week, Patriots coach Bill Belichick accused former Patriot and current Broncos receiver Wes Welker of intentionally trying to injure New England cornerback Aqib Talib on a pick play in the AFC Championship Game.

The Seahawks better get ready for an even heavier dose of picks from bunched-up receiver sets. That’s offensive coordinator Adam Gase’s best strategy against a defense that has giant defensive backs who thrive on old-school power, press coverage and intimidation.

V “Beast Mode” vs. “Pot Roast”

Two of the better nicknames in Super Bowl history will bang helmets all day.

As good as Wilson is, Seattle’s identity is better defined by the tough between-the-tackle power of Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch. He had 22 carries for 109 yards and a touchdown in the NFC title victory over the 49ers.

Meanwhile, Denver’s defense is anchored well between the tackles, particularly with Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton, a 6-3, 335-pound boulder with twinkle toes. The unheralded free-agent acquisition from Jacksonville last offseason has helped hold Denver’s playoff opponents to an average of 64.5 yards rushing per game. His sack of Tom Brady on fourth-and-2 in the third quarter of the AFC title game also showed that Pot Roast has some burst as well.

VI Can Denver’s offense be balanced?

There aren’t many rookies to keep an eye on in this game, but one is Broncos running back Montee Ball. With 22 carries for 95 yards (4.3 yards per carry) in two postseason games, the Wisconsin product has helped starter Knowshon Moreno keep defenses off-balance enough to enable Manning to dominate while going virtually untouched in the pocket.

In the playoffs, the Broncos are averaging 31 carries and 39.5 pass attempts. Balance like that makes Manning unbeatable.

VII What will Percy do?

Seahawks receiver Percy Harvin is in the Super Bowl, but the Vikings still are significantly ahead when it comes to the perception of the trade that sent Harvin to Seattle.

The Vikings got three picks in return. One became cornerback Xavier Rhodes (No. 25 overall), who appears to be a starter for years to come. The second helped the Vikings trade back into the first round and select Cordarrelle Patterson, who appears more than capable of replacing Harvin as a receiver and kick returner. And the third pick is a third-rounder in this year’s draft.

Harvin, meanwhile, has played in two games all season because of a hip injury and a concussion. He also has done nothing to disprove the knock on him that he’s a supremely gifted athlete whose 184-pound body can’t withstand its crash-dummy style of play. But what better time to start changing perceptions and earning that $11 million a year than on Super Bowl Sunday?

VIII An X-factor in J. Thomas

The beauty of Manning’s greatness is elevating nobodies to somebodies. The latest greatest example is tight end Julius Thomas. The former fourth-round pick out of Portland State had one catch and one start before this season. But this year, after working with Manning after practice on a regular basis, Thomas had 65 catches for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns.

If the “Legion of Boom” silences Manning’s receivers, look out for the 6-5, 250-pound former nobody to make a name for himself on the game’s biggest stage.

IX What’s the over-under on “Omaha!”?

The Broncos are 2 ½-point favorites. But who bets on just the game anymore?

Here are two of the more unusual things you’re able to place a bet on this week:

• Will the announcers use the word “marijuana” during the game?

• How many times will Manning say “Omaha” during the game? The over-under on Omaha, by the way, is 27 ½.

X Good vs. evil?

Sorry, but we can’t make it through this without another Richard Sherman reference. Sherman said he took offense to the “Good vs. Evil” story line that’s developing, with Manning and the Broncos obviously being the good and the Seahawks being the evil.

According to Sherman, Wilson is too good to be considered part of the evil.

OK, we’ll grant him that. But after viewing Sherman’s on-field behavior following last week’s victory over the 49ers, how many of you wouldn’t mind Super Bowl XLVIII ending with Manning throwing a game-winning, last-second touchdown pass about one millimeter over Sherman’s outstretched arm?

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  • In this photograph taken with a fisheye lens, snow is accumulated on the seats and on the field of MetLife Stadium as crews removed snow ahead of Super Bowl XLVIII following a snowstorm, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. Super Bowl XLVIII, which will be played between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks on Feb. 2, will be the first NFL title game held outdoors in a city where it snows. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

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Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Utah 52 3rd Qtr 11:15
Orlando 45
Charlotte 66 3rd Qtr
Philadelphia 46
Brooklyn 35 2nd Qtr 8:49
Cleveland 33
Washington 39 2nd Qtr 8:41
Miami 36
Minnesota 39 2nd Qtr 5:29
Boston 41
Toronto 40 2nd Qtr 4:48
Detroit 49
Chicago 11 1st Qtr 5:13
Memphis 10
Portland 11 1st Qtr 5:51
San Antonio 18
LA Clippers 8:00 PM
Oklahoma City 9:30 PM
LA Lakers
Tampa Bay 0 2nd Prd 12:09
New Jersey 2
Anaheim 0 2nd Prd
Ottawa 2
NY Islanders 1 2nd Prd
Detroit 1
Boston 0 1st Prd 14:01
Winnipeg 1
Dallas 8:00 PM
Wilberforce 71 FINAL
Youngstown St 92
Jackson State 49 FINAL
Tulane 56
Siena 66 FINAL
Radford 76
Stillman 23 2nd Half 18:07
Alabama 34
Case Western Reserve 52 2nd Half 11:20
Bucknell 66
Niagara 28 2nd Half 17:23
Buffalo 43
SD Christian 40 2nd Half 6:23
UC Santa Barbara 57
Concordia (MI) 45 2nd Half 13:45
Central Mich 60
Northern Ill 29 2nd Half 12:40
Dartmouth 40
North Florida 47 2nd Half 14:13
Florida A&M 35
Hiwassee 47 2nd Half 11:43
Gardner-Webb 67
Tennessee St 30 2nd Half 15:44
Hampton 40
NC A&T 30 2nd Half 15:20
Kent State 42
Central Penn College 46 2nd Half 12:37
Liberty 59
Eastern Ky 35 2nd Half 15:59
Miami-Florida 27
Northern Ky 55 2nd Half 13:46
Morehead State 42
Northern Ariz 32 2nd Half 10:34
Norfolk State 52
MD-Eastern Shore 29 2nd Half 12:04
Old Dominion 40
St Marys-CA 33 2nd Half 17:59
St Johns 22
Clemson 35 2nd Half 14:46
South Carolina 39
Tenn Tech 45 2nd Half 10:25
Tennessee 39
Washington-MD 29 2nd Half 9:48
William & Mary 65
Bethune-Cookman 18 1st Half 2:51
Mercer 30
Furman 26 1st Half 3:30
Fla Gulf Coast 31
South Dakota St 28 2nd Half
CS-Bakersfield 24
Milligan 3 1st Half 14:48
Lamar 15
LSU-Alexandria 14 1st Half 11:50
ULM 10
Southern Utah 2 1st Half 14:53
Loyola-Chicago 12
Chattanooga 2 1st Half 15:50
Middle Tennessee 6
Seattle 5 1st Half 15:44
Minnesota 12
Lipscomb 12 1st Half 12:11
Princeton 13
Winthrop 8 1st Half 15:09
SE Louisiana 10
Dickinson State 7 1st Half 12:45
North Dakota 6
New Orleans 6 1st Half 15:49
Southern Ill 4
TX-Pan American 8:00 PM
Colorado State 8:00 PM
Alabama A&M 8:00 PM
Ark-Pine Bluff 8:00 PM
Texas Tech
Eastern Wash 9:00 PM
Idaho State 9:05 PM
Utah State
Arizona 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 10:59 PM
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
Ohio Valley 33 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
East Tenn St 48 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 61
Cal-Irvine 44 FINAL
Purdue 69
Campbell 63 FINAL
Stetson 76
Jacksonville St 70 FINAL
Charleston Southern 43
Louisiana 64 FINAL
Alcorn State 57
Denver 63 FINAL
Wright State 72
Blue Mountain 30 FINAL
Central Arkansas 71
Texas State 51 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 40
Albany 62 FINAL
Pepperdine 36
TX-San Antonio 53 FINAL
Houston 56
Yale 66 FINAL
Bucknell 73
Northern Colorado 56 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 69
Belmont 86 FINAL
Mercer 83
Massachusetts 66 FINAL
Georgia State 71
George Mason 69 FINAL
Winthrop 57
Portland State 33 FINAL
Princeton 104
Samford 52
Mobile 30 FINAL
Alabama State 66
Toledo 65 FINAL
Nevada 56
UMass Lowell 48 FINAL
(13) Duke 95
Nicholls 47 2nd Half 1:22
Texas Tech 73
St Marys-CA 28 2nd Half 12:23
Virginia 39
McNeese State 26 2nd Half 17:03
Rice 24
McMurry 32 2nd Half 10:31
Houston Baptist 48
NJIT 41 2nd Half 12:23
Seton Hall 55
(6) North Carolina 29 2nd Half 15:43
Maine 22
Lafayette 44 2nd Half 12:00
Stony Brook 46
Siena 40 2nd Half 11:17
Binghamton 31
Longwood 33 2nd Half 16:00
Clemson 38
Savannah State 31 2nd Half 15:22
Florida State 57
(19) Syracuse 45 2nd Half 11:55
(9) Baylor 52
Buffalo 31 2nd Half 15:57
Manhattan 23
Canisius 24 2nd Half 14:39
Michigan 52
Davidson 42 2nd Half 13:58
NC State 56
Northern Ky 43 2nd Half 16:03
Delaware 30
Saint Louis 30 1st Half 2:04
Austin Peay 35
(25) DePaul 33 2nd Half
(2) Connecticut 53
Ohio U 32 2nd Half
La Salle 40
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
Florida Atlantic 10 1st Half 11:52
Long Beach St 16
Miss Valley St 12 1st Half 10:30
Memphis 12
Ark-Pine Bluff 3 1st Half 12:30
UAB 11
Bowling Green 5 1st Half 15:57
Illinois State 1
Arkansas State 11 1st Half 14:10
Missouri State 10
ULM 2 1st Half 14:57
Wichita State 9
(16) Oregon State 8:00 PM
Southern Ill
Utah Valley U 8:30 PM
Pacific 9:00 PM
New Mexico St
No Dakota State 9:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Utah State 9:00 PM
Sacramento St
Bethesda (CA) 9:00 PM
Fresno State
LSU 9:30 PM
UC Santa Barbara
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon




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