Everything is bigger at the Super Bowl.
It's a weeklong circus up here in New York, so it stands to reason that, for this Super Bowl edition of The Hoagie Scale, I come up with something bigger than the footlong to measure it by. Right?
I mean, at this point, we might as well call this game, between the NFL's best offense and its best defense in the city that never sleeps (OK, the game is in Jersey, I get it, but trust me all the action is in NYC), like a 5-foot long catering tray, right. This Super Bowl between Denver and Seattle is more like a food cart in and of itself. We've got more to savor than we could ever fit on one roll, no matter large it may be.
It's that rare year when both of the top seeds reach the final game and it's being played, purposely, in cold -- potentially bitterly cold and snowy -- conditions in what is undoubtedly a trial balloon to see if more already ridiculously wealthy owners who have had new stadiums built within the past decade can eventually get their hands on one of these February jewels. It may be a one-off; it may be a signal that Robert Kraft and Jeffrey Lurie and a few other owners within a couple hundred miles of this place might be getting their own Super Bowls down the road.
Regardless, the biggest game of the year is worthy of this stage and all the weather talk just adds to the hype for a game that doesn't need any more hype. So, yeah, I'm going to head across the street to the Carnegie Deli now and go destroy a Woody Allen sandwich in honor of this monstrosity of a football game, and the final Hoagie Scale of the season. Cheers.
Super Bowl XLVIII: Seattle at Denver
Sunday, Feb. 2, 6:25 p.m. ET (FOX)
Why To Watch: Come on, the entire world is watching. OK, sure, more people will watch a World Cup Final (but that's only played every four years). And, maybe, more people will watch the Champions League final in the spring, but damnit, this is 'Merica, and this is our greatest sports-meets-culture-meets-commerce spectacle. It gets no bigger than this. And we've got Peyton Manning fighting for his "legacy" as perhaps the greatest quarterback, playing in MetLife Stadium with The Manning Family in attendance. And a chance to win his second Lombardi on the field where baby brother Eli plays his home games (he would tie Eli on the family Lombardi scoreboard in the process). Denver coach John Fox came back from a heart condition that could have proven to be possibly fatal had it not been addressed so quickly in-season -- a man who survived a season with Tim Tebow as his starting quarterback only a few short years ago, winning a playoff game with him -- and now stands four quarters from winning his first title. Denver exec John Elway, someone who for so long was dogged by the choir of doubters saying he would never win a championship, has a chance to get a ring as a team official after ending his playing career with back-to-back Super Bowl wins.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll could join a very rare group of men to win a national title in the NCAA and a Super Bowl as head coach as well. Russell Wilson could become one of a very few small quarterbacks -- below 6-feet -- to get a ring, joining his idol, Drew Brees, who did the same just a few years ago, at Peyton Manning's expense, no less. Richard Sherman, who somehow became a "controversial figure" because he had the temerity to gloat a little bit in an on-field interview, will have more eyes on him than ever to continue to show why he is in fact the best corner in football. Marshawn Lynch, who now himself is some sort of "controversial figure" for not really wanting to talk to the media, well, he could end up being one of the key elements in this game, given Seattle's intent to run the football. Percy Harvin, limited to 33 snaps all season due to a hip surgery and subsequent re-injury and then a concussion, could be uniquely poised to play his first full game of the season in the Super Bowl, and do so as a game-changing, X-factor weapon at tailback, receiver and on special teams.
Oh, and did I mention the weather yet? Have you heard about that? We might get some flurries and the like, and who doesn't love some snow football, within reason? Given the NFL's track record, I wouldn't bet against them getting a game that is plenty aesthetically pleasing enough, all the while looking and feeling and being different than any Super Bowl that came before it.
What To Watch For: I still believe a man they call "Pot Roast" will end up playing as significant a role in this football game as anyone not named Manning. If the Broncos can get another herculean outing from defensive tackle Terrance Knighton against this physical and relentless Seattle rushing game, then the Seahawks are in trouble. If Knighton can collapse the pocket on the interior -- his battle with top center Max Unger is one of the matchups most critical to this outcome -- and contain Marshawn Lynch and those inside runs, then Denver's defense starts to look a lot more menacing, injuries along their front seven have limited that group, but if Knighton is their best player on defense, that's a great place to start … Seattle LT Russell Okung will be another vital character in the trenches. Only one team in the NFL ran the ball to the left side more than the Seahawks this season (Seattle did it 105 times) and Carroll will want to try to impose his team's will on Denver from the onset. ... How many snaps for Harvin, and in how many different locations? If they manage to get the ball in his hands 12-15 times I like their chances, and I have a feeling he changes field position in this game drastically at least once in the return game. ... Will Sherman switch sides to try to man-up on Demaryius Thomas, or will Carroll be content, as he usually is, to play sides? Seattle's depth corners like Byron Maxwell have been huge, but they are thin back there, and should even a nickel or dime corner go down early in this game, the matchups that Manning could exploit in the spread game could be the difference. He will be looking for someone to pick on at the line of scrimmage. ...
Carroll is going to blitz Manning. Not much that is said during the week leading up to this game matters, but when Carroll spoke about how quickly Manning releases the ball and how well he's been incubated in the pocket in the playoffs, and the need to make him uncomfortable and moving around, well, there was a certain conviction to that. Seattle will still play plenty of coverage, yes, and mix it around, but they will get the secondary involved in the pass rush, too, in key junctures. ... Would imagine Wes Welker will be beyond motivated for this game after beating himself up, wrongly or not, for some drops/failing to make a play in some past Super Bowls with New England. ... Expect Seattle to shake things up and try for some deep shots to Golden Tate early, especially if Jack Del Rio seems inclined to crowd the box against the run. ... Would imagine we see Harvin in the backfield with four receivers split out wide more than a few times. ... With six months of offseason ahead, and no games that matter until September, do the Seahawks cut loose and put Wilson in run-first positions more often than we have seen? I would think Denver's defense would be vulnerable to that, and the Broncos aren't loaded with burners on that side of the ball. ... Seattle linebackers, Bobby Wagner in particular, will have a big say in this game, and Knowshon Moreno will be tested early as they swarm to the football and try to set a physical tone with him. ... How often do the Seahawks double Denver tight end Julius Thomas -- and are they content to use both safeties, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, on him at various times? ... What are the odds this comes down to Manning, against the best defense in the game, down a few points in a two-minute drill, for all the marbles? Last time out in that circumstance, his pick-six to New Orleans' Tracy Porter ended the game for all intents and purposes. In this, the greatest year of his historic career, how wild would it be to the game come down to his arm in the dying seconds?