The Super Bowl will be different this year. Fans and players best be prepared for conditions most wouldn't associate with the big game. The team that hoists the Vince Lombardi Trophy at MetLife Stadium may need a weather-resistant game plan.
Part of the compromise the league made when it allowed for serious bids from cities like East Rutherford was the possibility for less-than-ideal weather. If a major snow storm hits the area, the NFL has contingency plans in place that could include rescheduling the game, per Gary Myers of the New York Daily News.
As long as the game is played, teams will have to adjust their approach accordingly.
Here's how each of the four remaining teams rank in regards to their suitability for cold and snowy conditions.
1. San Francisco 49ers
This Niners team has already proven they can play and win in bitter cold. During the Wild Card Round, Colin Kaepernick hit the frigid Lambeau Field with his arms bare and no fear of the intense cold. He said this, per Taylor Price of 49ers.com, after the Niners' 23-20 win:
"I’ve played in cold weather games. It’s more mental than anything."
The 49ers defense also responded by holding the Green Bay Packers to just 281 total yards. Michael Crabtree emerged as a big-game performer in the passing game, despite the blustery conditions.
He had eight catches for 125 yards.
San Francisco is the best team top to bottom, and their recent success in a cold-weather game should only give them confidence in the Super Bowl if things are nasty.
2. New England Patriots
Aside from the fact that the Patriots play their home games at cold and windy Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., the team's new style on offense is frigid-weather friendly.
The Patriots have adapted their offensive game plan. It now highlights its studly offensive line and its depth at running back. In most seasons, Tom Brady would lead a pass-happy Pats offense, but during the latter part of this year, New England has become a power-running football team. Due to all of the absences of playmakers at wide receiver and tight end, it was a necessary adjustment.
LeGarrette Blount went nuts on the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional playoff round. He had 166 yards on the ground and four touchdowns. Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen are also capable of making an impact from the backfield.
Brady hasn't thrown the ball 30 times in the Pats' last three games.
Behind the running game and a resurgent defense that hasn't given up 30 points in five games, the Pats are built for the cold.
Oh, and if there are plays that need to be made in the passing game, is there another quarterback more capable than Brady?
3. Seattle Seahawks
Big-time run game? Check. Nasty defense? Check. Experience playing in inclement weather? Check. So why is Seattle only third on this list?
While ground games are usually the key to success in cold weather, teams still need to be able to depend on their quarterback and receivers to produce in the passing game. Seattle has had issues moving the ball through the air. You'd have to think these issues would persist if it reached the Super Bowl and the conditions were less than ideal.
ESPN's Chris Myers shares his concern for Seattle's aerial attack:
What's the fuss about?
Russell Wilson hasn't passed for 250 yards since the team's Week 13 win over the New Orleans Saints. His completion percentage over that time is just 56 percent, and the Seahawks are 3-2 in that span.
Yes, Seattle has the core game to play well in the cold, but the 49ers and Patriots have better personnel to make the necessary plays with the pass.
4. Denver Broncos
The Broncos punched the San Diego Chargers in the mouth in the divisional round. Denver employed a power-running game that seemed to catch the Bolts off-guard.
We know the team has the means to succeed against a Chargers team that was prepared for the pass and ranked 12th in the league against the run during the season.
Against either the 49ers or the Seahawks—teams that rank ahead of San Diego against the run—can the Broncos have as much success on the ground?
The answer to that question is no.
Denver has the least effective run game of any of the four teams left in the playoffs. It ranked just 15th during the regular season. Denver is at its best when it can run a timing-based offense with an emphasis on short passes. That may not be possible in the Super Bowl.
Thus, they are last on the list.
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