January 29, 2014

ZAKOUR | Predictions For a Snowy Super Bowl

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By JOHN ZAKOUR

Bill Cowher — former Super Bowl winner as the coach of the Steelers — once said, “I’d like to have 75 degrees and sunny everyday, but that’s not football.”

You may have heard, but Super Bowl XLVIII is in New Jersey (not New York, despite what anyone says). Which means it might be cold. It probably will be cold. It could snow. Could blizzard, as well. But that is football. And I hope it does snow.

I hope it is the first winter wonderland Super Bowl, the first Super Bowl with the field painted white.

Snow and bad weather games are woven into the folklore of the NFL. And they are spoken about quite nostalgically. That is football. The Freezer Bowl and Ice Bowl are two of the most famous playoff games in NFL history. The Snow Bowl is up there as well. Both games are stories of teams not only overcoming their opponents, but Mother Nature as well. And they are epic stories. More recently, the miracle 2007 Giants pulling off the upset in Green Bay in the freezing cold, Vinateri’s legendary 45-yard kick through a snowstorm, the tuck rule game, the snow plow game, Mr. Lett forgetting the rules — all of these events contribute to the wealth of moments that make up the NFL’s history and culture. It is time the Super Bowl gets its own entry in the pantheon of bad weather moments.

There appears to be a contingency in the media that hates the idea of a cold weather Super Bowl (Mike Florio and Peter King are two of the worst offenders). There seem to be two main sources of complaint, in particular, which perpetuate their aversion.

The first is simply that it is going to be cold. The Super Bowl can’t be cold. It is supposed to be a party! This just strikes me as whiny media complaining that they will not be pampered this year. They may have to brave the elements while covering the greatest spectacle in American sports. Logistically, a Super Bowl in a snowstorm would be tough, but the NFL can handle it.

The second dogma of the opposition is that the elements could affect the game, and we do not want that sullying the most important NFL game of the year (or any game for that matter). Former Super Bowl losing quarterback Boomer Esiason, among others, has voiced this concern. Well yes, weather might affect the game. But both teams play in the same conditions, and guess what — every other round of the playoffs is susceptible to harsh conditions. The Packers and 49ers squared off in near subzero temperatures on a browned and frost-bitten Lambeau field. That is just football.

There is a high chance each year that the AFC championship could be in New England in the heart of a blizzard, as opposed to the comfort of a dome. The Super Bowl is just one game to determine the NFL’s champion, but if you are interested in truly crowning the best team in the league, this is not the sole determination. With one game, variance will always be high. A seven-game series is much more reliable, although still subject to craziness, and wholly impractical in the sport of football.

And maybe the Super Bowl will be a boring, sloppy slug fest. And if it is, fine — we will stick to warm and domes. But that is not football.

So, now that that is out of the way, let’s tie up all the loose ends of the NFL season.

MVP: Peyton Manning. The most valuable player this year was Peyton Manning. It is not a debate and I will not pretend it is. Here are his stats: 5,477 yards, 55 touchdowns, 68% completion against only 10 interceptions. Just take that in.

Defensive Player of the Year: Richard Sherman. Sherman posted the most impressive defensive statistical nugget of the year, leading the league with eight interceptions, despite being the least targeted corner in the league. On top of that, Sherman also featured the lowest QB rating when targeted.

Why him over Luke Kuechly, Robert Mathis, or NaVorro Bowman?

I do believe Sherman was just a little better at his position, while Kuechly or Mathis were probably more integral to their team. I do not believe in punishing Sherman for having great teammates — his performance was what it was. But more than that, Sherman seized the day. He made the most high profile defensive play of the year, tipping a Kaepernick pass away from Crabtree to his safety, and thereby sent his team to the Super Bowl. Is this rewarding him for playing on a good team? Maybe. But I am just a filthy writer.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Keenan Allen. Also warranting strong consideration was the running back duo of Giovanni Bernard and Eddie Lacey, but ultimately, I gave it to Allen. I docked the backs’ points for a positional adjustment, as running backs traditionally have fairly smooth transitions to the next level, while wide receiver is supposed to have a steep learning curve in the NFL. But Allen wrecked a curve like that girl in Orgo (you know the one). Allen broke out for 1,046 yards on 71 receptions, good for almost 15 yards per reception. That is stellar production for a rookie, and he helped revitalize San Diego’s offense. Even more impressive is the fact that he did not earn a starting spot until week three and still managed 1000 yards.

Super Bowl XLVIII is a tough call, and an intriguing matchup of contrasts. I am picking the Seahawks to win (and no, I do not think weather will be a significant factor). Their secondary has not really been solved all year, and although this Broncos team would be the team to do it, I am not sure it is something that can be schemed. It is just quality and skill. On the other side of the ball, while I certainly do not expect the Broncos’ defense to get lit up, the Seahawks and Marshawn Lynch will do just enough. Seattle 24, Denver 20.

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