Super Groundhog Sunday

In case you have been living in a cave your whole life or don’t know a lick about American culture, let me inform you that this Sunday, is Super Bowl Sunday. Not only that, but this Sunday is going to make history, regardless of what happens on the gridiron. That’s right, this is the first time the Super Bowl lands on one of the most obscure holidays ever thought up by mankind: Groundhog Day. The most exciting part about Groundhog Day every year is whether or not the most famous rodent in the world, Punxsutawney Phil, will see his shadow.  Everyone is on the edge of their seat because nobody knows for sure whether or not the glorified gopher will indeed see his shadow and predict the continuation of winter (Phil is able to “communicate” with the Groundhog Club President, a grown human, believe it or not). Similar drama will be found in New Jersey on Sunday. We have the two best teams in football going head-to-head and everyone will be on the edge of their seat because no one knows who will win, a true toss-up for a Super Bowl. Of course, this drama will be relayed to us via our television sets, and not an adult who communicates with a groundhog. Unlike Bill Murray who had many Groundhog Day redos, the Broncos and Seahawks will only get one shot to take home the Lombardi Trophy. While I was tempted to make predictions on Punxsutawney Phil’s important prediction, I decided to tackle predicting the football game instead. I give my sincerest apologies to groundhog enthusiasts everywhere.

 When Denver has the ball:

This is the first Super Bowl to feature the No. 1 offense in scoring and points versus the No. 1 defense in scoring and points. The unstoppable force meets up against the unmovable object. Despite the high flying stars on both sides, like most football games, this matchup will be won in the trenches. If Denver’s O-line can protect Peyton Manning, he has the ability to pick apart anyone, even the Seahawks. Also, if the Bronco O-line can help establish the run, it will open even more lanes for Manning’s receiving corps. The Seahawks will try to counter this by being physical up front and being physical with the Denver receivers. One thing that could help decide the game is how tight the officials decide to call it, pass interference calls or defensive holding calls early in the game will give an advantage to the Broncos, but if the officials keep the laundry in their pockets, it will favor the Seahawks.

 When Seattle has the ball:

While this side of the ball is not getting many headlines, it will be just as important on Sunday. Seattle features an offense that relies on running the ball with Marshawn Lynch, play-action passes and the playmaking of Russell Wilson. This unit has been efficient but has struggled to produce at times. Denver has good stats against the run which would suggest they will be able to handle the Seahawks run game, but the Broncos don’t face many rushing attempts in a game due to teams trying to keep up with Denver’s prolific offense. Don’t expect this to faze Seattle as they will attempt to run the ball all day long and then go for the home run pass when the Broncos aren’t expecting it. While it will be a tall order to contain Lynch and Wilson, Denver appears up to the task as they have been playing their best football as a defensive unit in the playoffs.

 Denver will win if:

Scoring early and often, and keeping ahead of the Seahawks on the scoreboard will be the key to winning the Broncos third Lombardi Trophy in team history. Denver will be happy if this game is a shootout as Seattle doesn’t quite have the offensive firepower to keep up. If they can get Seattle’s offense out of their comfort zone early by forcing the Seahawks to throw the ball, that will bode well for Denver’s chances.

 Seattle will win if:

It is a simple but proven formula: ground and pound. The Seahawks will look to run the ball and shorten the game by limiting Manning’s possessions, and then, when he does have the ball, attack him and his receivers. Any kind of inclement weather will also favor Seattle, whether it is cold, wind or snow, as their ground and pound formula can win regardless of the field conditions outside.

Prediction:

This Super Bowl is as close to a toss-up as we have had in recent years. I don’t think anybody truly knows who is better; it will all be decided on the field this year. Ironically, the first Super Bowl where weather is a real factor tips the scales of this game in a big way. Relatively good conditions clearly give Denver an advantage, while worsened conditions give Seattle the advantage. In any other year, I feel Denver would be a slight but clear favorite. I am not very confident in the Broncos’ chances if the game is played in a blizzard à la Detroit-Philadelphia earlier in the year. The bottom line is, today’s NFL is built to favor good offense. So in a match of No. 1 offense versus No. 1 defense, I’m still going to give the edge to the offense. Despite the conditions, I think Denver will find ways to score points and do enough on defense to hold off Seattle. The prediction: Denver 31, Seattle 24.