In the lengthy buildup to Super Bowl XLVIII between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos, various storylines have had time to evolve and shape expectations of the nation's biggest sporting event.
The biggest focal point so far has been the weather. Much debate has been had about whether or not the forecast should see so much media coverage, but there is no question Mother Nature could swing the advantage in one direction or the other.
Outside of the weather, matchups in the game itself and the potential impact of the outcome have taken precedence in media days leading up to the game. It can be time consuming to stay up to date on all the latest updates, so a one-stop shop of the biggest things to know is necessary.
When: Sunday, Feb. 2, at 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
Let's get this out of the way first.
The weather is a major deal. For one, it could have a long-term impact on the chances certain northern teams have of hosting the big game. It may also drive down attendance this year, as major prices to sit in the cold are not appealing when one takes into account how great the viewing experience is from the comforts of home.
But more importantly, the weather plays a huge factor on the game itself. Fans surely know the narrative that Peyton Manning struggles in cold weather. At one point it was projected to snow, which would have effectively grounded the league's best passing attack.
Now, things are much brighter. According to Weather.com, things will be chilly, but precipitation is no longer a major factor:
Kickoff temperature should be in the upper 30s or low 40s. A west to northwest breeze around 10 mph may linger into the game, but we're not expecting wind to be a major factor. We can't rule out a sprinkle or patchy drizzle, but the chance of this is low.
The novelty of a snowy Super Bowl is likely a major draw for fans, but it simply does not appear to be in the cards.
An Element the Seahawks Have Yet to Encounter
Cornerback Richard Sherman and the Seattle defense that was elite in all phases this season have yet to encounter anything like Manning and his host of weapons.
While the task of taking on Manning for the first time this year is daunting in itself, another underrated factor is about to come into play in a major way—Denver's no-huddle attack.
The Seattle defense is great when it can rotate in pass-rushers to keep guys fresh. A regular pace also gives the secondary time to read the offense.
One problem—the Broncos ran the no-huddle more than most teams this year, and Seattle rarely saw it, as ESPN's Ryan McCrystal points out:
Interesting Super Bowl storyline… SEA defense only saw 62 no-huddle plays this season (3rd fewest)… DEN offense ran 537 (2nd most)— Ryan McCrystal (@Ryan_McCrystal) January 28, 2014
The Seahawks are well aware of this problem, as linebacker K.J. Wright details, via Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times:
The most challenging thing with the no-huddle is you can’t really pick up on the indicators that they do. Usually when a team comes out we can see where they are lined up, certain (receiver) splits. That’ll be the most challenging part that we can’t really pick up on what play is about to come.
As if Manning needs an advantage in any regard, he seemingly gets one here as the Seattle defense has yet to truly see the no-huddle—especially one led by perhaps the greatest quarterback of all time.
Peyton Manning Retirement?
At the age of 37 and after four neck surgeries, no one could blame Manning if he chooses to hang up the cleats after the big game—should the Broncos win.
Manning's retirement has of course been a hot topic in the weeks before the game, but he sounds noncommittal about his football fate, via Jarrett Bell of USA Today:
I know there have been a number of players who have walked away as champions. I'm sure that's a great feeling for those people. John Elway. Ray Lewis did it last year. Michael Strahan. In talking to Ray Lewis and talking to John Elway, they couldn't play anymore. That was all they had to give. They truly left it all out there.
Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman does not buy the dance from Manning:
I don't believe it for a second, and I can tell you few people around the NFL believe it. Almost everyone thinks Manning is gone if he wins and plays well in the victory. In fact, many believe Manning is gone, win or lose.
The belief around football is that Manning is saying he hasn't made up his mind because he doesn't want to be the story of Super Bowl week. Imagine the pressure on the Broncos if Manning came out and said, "Yeah, I'm gone after this, dude. See ya." It would be one of the biggest stories in Super Bowl history. Manning is a lot smarter than that.
All valid points, especially when one takes into account the fact Manning has never been a distraction and is often labeled as the smartest player in the game.
After breaking a variety of records and dragging his body through a lengthy career, Manning calling it quits is not outlandish in any way. As Manning surely understands, it is better to go out on top than to come back and disappoint.
Above all else, keep an eye on Manning's storyline.