With Super Bowl XLVIII now less than a week away, the hype for the game should reach a whole other level over the next several days.
Which means what, exactly?
A lot more talk about Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. More talk about the weather in New Jersey and how it was a mistake to hold the Super Bowl in a cold-weather location. And lastly? More debate over Peyton Manning's ability to play in cold-weather environments.
Manning will again be the center of attention leading into kickoff. Pundits and media members will further disseminate and dissect statistics that portray Manning in a negative light when he plays in cold-weather environments.
The weather forecast for the Super Bowl calls for the temperature to be under 35 degrees with winds between 5-15 mph.
The No. 1-ranked offense which obliterated passing records in 2013 won't be lighting it up for 400 yards as Manning did in the Broncos' 26-16 victory over the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game—not with rain and possible snow during the game versus the No. 1-ranked defense in the league.
Which means one player becomes every bit as important as Manning come game day—Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno.
Moreno is an unheralded part of the Broncos offense. While the focus is on Manning and the Broncos' receivers for the success of the offense, Moreno is no slouch. The fifth-year veteran running back ran for over 1,000 yards and ranked fifth in the NFL in yards from scrimmage.
It isn't far-fetched to say that Moreno is one of the top backs in the NFL. Due to Knowshon's ability to protect Manning as a passer and his ability to catch the football out of the backfield, the Broncos are able to be multidimensional with their offensive play-calling.
Pat Kirwan of CBSSports.com stresses the importance of the screen game in the Broncos' offensive game plan:
Denver has completed nearly 100 passes to running backs and relies on the screen game to slow the pass rush and take advantage of the deep drops linebackers take when facing the Manning attack. Seattle plays a different style of linebacker coverage than most teams and is very aggressive hunting down running backs waiting for the screen game.
Moreno has 93 first-down conversions without a single turnover on the season. To say that he is reliable would be an understatement.
Moreno's 60 receptions on the season were the fifth-most of any running back in the NFL. If the Broncos wish to combat the weather conditions on Sunday, they will be forced to rely on a quick-hitting passing game, which means Moreno will prove to be vital in this scenario.
|Knowshon Moreno Regular Season Statistics|
|Yards From Scrimmage||1,586||5th|
|Receptions||60||5th amongst RBs|
|Receiving Yards||548||5th amongst RBs|
Other than the fact that the Seahawks possess the best defensive backfield in all of the NFL with All-Pro players such as Sherman and Earl Thomas, since Manning's arrival in Denver, the Broncos have never been a deep-passing team. Manning has thrown just 72 pass attempts over 20 yards this season. That's just four deep pass attempts a game.
Do you really think the wind will help improve those numbers come Sunday?
This game isn't about Manning's legacy, as much as the media would like to make it the focal point of this game.
This game isn't about the Broncos' record-breaking passing offense putting on another record-breaking performance, because they won't in this game.
It's about the Broncos winning the Super Bowl. It's about the Broncos hoisting their third Lombardi Trophy in franchise history.
When Manning won his lone Lombardi Trophy in 2007 with the Indianapolis Colts, he did it in terrible weather conditions. Super Bowl XLI was flooded with rain all throughout the game. Despite soggy weather conditions, the Colts would end up defeating the Chicago Bears, 29-17.
Although Peyton won Super Bowl MVP, he relied on a superb running effort by Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai in the victory. Rhodes and Addai combined for 190 rushing yards and a touchdown on 40 carries to help lead the Colts to a Super Bowl title.
Super Bowl XLVIII will likely take place in even worse weather conditions.
If Manning and the Broncos aspire to hold up the Lombardi Trophy yet again, the Broncos' running game will have to replicate the one that helped lead the Colts to a championship seven years ago.
Which means Moreno—not Manning—will be the difference between the Broncos winning their third Lombardi Trophy or going home as Super Bowl losers for the fifth time in franchise history.