There are still six days left before the Super Bowl, and you've probably already heard enough about what this Super Bowl means for Peyton Manning, blah, blah, blah. Also, everything that Richard Sherman does is being chronicled and speculated upon.
It's impossible for any sort of narrative, injury, feud, drama, etc. not to be played up by the time the Super Bowl arrives. Reporters have two weeks of no meaningful football, so they're gonna find every single thing to write about in that time.
With that in mind, here are three stories to follow that aren't receiving a ton of attention, yet they could have a big impact on the outcome of the game.
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, according to Bovada
The Health of Matt Prater
Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com reported on Saturday afternoon that Denver kicker Matt Prater was sent home for the third day in a row while he suffered from a virus. The decision was made in order to help Prater get better but also to ensure that his teammates wouldn't get sick as well.
The Denver Post's Mike Klis reported that Prater was doing better than he had in recent days, and there wouldn't be a question as to whether he'd make the team's flight on Sunday:
Broncos K Matt Prater missed third consecutive practice with virus. He's getting close. Was sent home today. Will travel tomorrow.— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) January 25, 2014
The Broncos will need Prater at 100 percent by the time the Super Bowl rolls around. He was the most accurate kicker in the league this year (25-of-26), and his 64-yarder against the Tennessee Titans testified to his range.
With a game that looks to be as close as this, having a kicker you can rely on like Prater is an invaluable asset.
How Will the Seahawks Cover Julius Thomas?
Over the last two weeks, the Seahawks have faced two Pro Bowl tight ends. In the divisional round, Jimmy Graham was held to one reception for eight yards. In the NFC Championship, Vernon Davis wasn't much better, catching two passes for 16 yards.
Seattle knows how to handle athletic tight ends.
However, Denver has so many talented wide receivers that it may be hard to track Julius Thomas for the entire game. He's combined for 14 receptions and 161 yards so far in the playoffs.
The second-year tight end knows he's in for a fierce test, per The Denver Post's Irv Moss:
"This is for all the marbles, so I'm pretty sure it will be a tough game all around," Thomas said. "It's the Super Bowl, so it's going to be tough. ... I'm pretty sure you're going to see two teams playing as physical as possible."
The Seahawks will likely have Kam Chancellor come up from his safety position at times to try to take Thomas out of the game at the line of scrimmage. After that, guarding the tight end will probably fall to Bruce Irvin.
Both players would do well against Thomas, but Manning and John Fox will be doing their best to move him around the field and create matchup problems.
The Refs Aren't Going to Blow This, Are They?
NFL referees haven't made a great account of themselves this season. There have been a series of high-profiles gaffes, with one coming last week in the NFC Championship Game. Marshawn Lynch was ruled to have recovered a fumble, when in fact it was NaVorro Bowman who had come up with the ball.
While fans are unlikely to see the debacle that was Super Bowl XL, there could be one or two incorrect calls that end up impacting the game in a big way.
You never want to see it in a game of this magnitude, but humans are fallible, and in the pressure cooker that is the Super Bowl, sometimes even the best referees make mistakes.
The only question is whether or not those mistakes will grab headlines.