There are any number of compelling storylines surrounding Super Bowl XLVIII, but one of the biggest has to be the matchup between the NFL's best offense and defense from 2013.
In the Super Bowl, everything is magnified, and the game (and the stakes surrounding it) can impact a team's performance like no other in sports.
With that in mind, what could MetLife Stadium hold in store for this Clash of Titans on February 2?
On paper, the matchup is a football fan's dream. Strength on strength. The unstoppable force versus the immovable object. Peyton Manning and Denver's record-setting offense against the Seattle Seahawks and the NFL's stingiest defense.
It's "The Legion of Boom" meets "The Omaha Express."
It's also not without historical precedent.
Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, the NFL's top defense and top offense have met in the Super Bowl five times.
|Year||SB||Top Offense||Top Defense||Winner/Score|
|1985||XIX||Miami||San Francisco||SF (38-16)|
|1990||XXIV||San Francisco||Denver||SF (55-10)|
|1991||XXV||Buffalo||New York Giants||NYG (20-19)|
|2003||XXXVII||Oakland||Tampa Bay||TB (48-21)|
To this point, anyway, the old axiom "defense wins championships" has held true.
In four of the five "No. 1 vs. No. 1" Super Bowls played to date, the team with the league's top defense has prevailed. The last time it happened, back in 2003, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers laid waste to the Oakland Raiders 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVII.
However, fans of the Broncos can at least take heart in the fact that the San Francisco 49ers, the only top offense to beat a No. 1 defense, won by the largest margin in Super Bowl history.
Of course, that was against Denver in Super Bowl XXIV, but still.
History may be on the side of Seattle, but the weather just might even the score.
Make no mistake: With the East Coast being pounded by yet another winter storm, Roger Goodell and the execs in the NFL offices are freaking out.
Fear of wintry weather has hung over this Super Bowl since the venue was announced. Jon Erdman of The Weather Channel recently reported that "the potential exists for an East Coast snow event late next week into next weekend."
This far out, that's about as exact as the forecast is going to get, but the long and short is that it's going to be cold, and it might snow.
If the weather does go sideways, the extent will determine any edge gained on the field.
If it's really windy, then Denver could be in trouble. More than anything, high winds will ground its vertical passing game. It's not a good idea to try to throw a 25-yard out into a 35-mph headwind.
It's not a good idea to run into the teeth of that Seattle defense either.
Which team would benefit more from inclement weather in Super Bowl XLVIII?
However, if things get a little slippery out there, then the edge would swing to Manning and the Broncos.
Throwing a lot in a snowstorm may seem counterintuitive. Assuming you can grip the ball and see, not necessarily.
Manning's greatness at this point in his career lies in putting the ball in a spot. His accuracy on timing routes more than makes up for his lost arm strength.
Well, when the play starts, the receivers know where they are going. The defensive backs, on the other hand, are reacting—waiting for the receiver to make his move so they can quickly turn and...
There's a reason why the Vikings vs. Ravens and Lions vs. Eagles games in Week 14 of the 2013 season featured 76 points of combined scoring in the fourth quarter alone.
The weather started bad that day and got worse as the games went along. By the fourth quarter, players were falling left and right, which led to big play after big play.
Denver gets enough big plays as it is without Mother Nature handing it more.
Of course, bad weather also means the revival of the old "Peyton Manning in the cold" argument, despite the fact that he played just fine in cold weather only a few weeks ago, throwing for nearly 400 yards and four scores at home against the Tennessee Titans in Week 14.
With all that said, though, the Seahawks and Broncos couldn't care less about the five previous meetings between top-ranked offenses and defenses in Super Bowl history.
In fact, players like Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson and Denver linebacker Danny Trevathan would probably like to remind some folks that they are indeed playing.
And for all the hand-wringing, the weather may be fine, if a bit chilly. Even if it isn't, it's the weather. The league has discussed moving the game to Saturday or Monday, but short of a blizzard, the financial implications of such a move make it highly unlikely.
No, this game will be decided by the players. One play at a time. Manning and the league's best receivers against Richard Sherman and the NFL's best secondary. Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch against a stout Denver run defense.
It's a fascinating matchup, and one that should make history in its own right.
Regardless of the weather.