The likes of Peyton Manning, Marshawn Lynch, Richard Sherman, Russell Wilson, Wes Welker and Danny Trevathan will unquestionably affect Super Bowl XLVIII. But there are other factors a bit outside their control that could decide the outcome of the game.
The Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks appear to be two evenly matched football teams. One has a great offense with a good defense, and the other has a good offense with a great defense. The spread continues to be very small, with Bovada favoring the Broncos by three points.
That's why the outcome of these X-factors may determine the winner.
When: Sunday, Feb. 2, at 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
TV Info: Fox
Live Stream: Fox Sports GO
Spread: Denver by 3 points, per Bovada
Who Wins Special Teams Battle?
Special teams can sometimes be the difference between winning and losing the Super Bowl.
Adam Vinatieri proved invaluable for the New England Patriots; Desmond Howard won MVP of Super Bowl XXXI; and Thomas Morstead's onside kick turned the tide for the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV.
Both the Seahawks and Broncos have fantastic kickers.
Matt Prater made 25 of his 26 field-goal attempts, including his record-breaking 64-yarder. On the other side, Steven Hauschka missed just two of his 35 field-goal attempts.
You never want to leave points on the board, especially in the Super Bowl. A missed field goal here or there could spell doom for either Seattle or Denver.
Trindon Holliday could also prove a spark for the Broncos on kick returns. One big play from him, and they could have an easy seven points, or at the very least, be set up in scoring position without having taken a snap.
How Will Officials Impact the Game?
Officiating in the playoffs has been emblematic of the how referees have performed throughout the whole of the 2013 season.
Carolina Panthers safety Mike Mitchell had some choice words for the officiating crew during his team's 23-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, per ESPN.com's David Newton. Mitchell said, "I can't wait to play them [again] with a new set of refs in a new game."
There was also the mess of the NFC Championship, where there were more than a few blown calls, none bigger than the fumble at the goal line that Jim Harbaugh was unable to challenge.
It's unlikely that this game will turn into Super Bowl XL, which featured some of the worst officiating you'll ever see in such a high-profile clash.
Super Bowl XLVIII may have one or two calls that, while they don't decide the outcome of the game, do impact it in such a way that it takes away from the action on the field.
You wouldn't want to see it happen, but this year hasn't inspired any sort of confidence that the game will be without incident.
Will Weather Actually Play a Role?
I personally love having the Super Bowl in New Jersey in February, but there's no question that the weather could impact how the game unfolds. The colder and snowier it is, the more it's going to be a physical, grind-it-out game.
And that favors the Seahawks. They have the better defense, and Lynch is a much better running back than the combination of Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball.
If Russell Wilson gets into trouble, Seattle can simply shift more of the offense over to the "Beast."
There's also the little issue of Manning's performance in cold weather games.
No. 18 doesn't think it would become a factor, per Newsday's Kimberley A. Martin:
We've practiced in this and had to play in these types of conditions at different points in the year. So any time you can have a similar situation you can simulate during practice which it might be during a game, it always is a good thing.
NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah brought up a very good point when the Broncos played the New England Patriots earlier in the year in cold, windy weather at Gillette Stadium. Manning was having much more trouble than Tom Brady:
Brady throws a much tighter ball than Peyton…easier to control in these conditions. Arm strength disparity is very obvious too.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) November 25, 2013
Manning won't become a terrible quarterback in the event that it's snowy and/or windy at the Super Bowl, but his throws could be effected just enough to allow that predatory Seahawks secondary to make some plays.
Of course, the weather may not be all that bad at all, and none of this will play into the outcome.