The Super Bowl is still 18 days away, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to write a preview of The Big Game. In fact, only suckers wait until the conclusion of the conference championship games to write their preview article. So prepare yourself for your first Super Bowl XLVIII Preview:
Super Bowl XLVIII Promises To Be A Classic
The NFL was at its best on championship Sunday, providing us with a delicious appetizer in preparation of Super Bowl XLVIII. In the early game, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning staged yet another all-time classic, and then Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick gave us a glimpse of the next great quarterback rivalry in the late game. One thing’s for sure: after two great battles following yet another remarkable season, the two best teams in the league will be meeting this year at MetLife Stadium.
After winning games in Denver and Seattle to get here, I don’t think either team is going to be afraid of the elements in two weeks. You will hear many doomsday predictions for the weather in this game, but truth be told, neither team is at a disadvantage in the first cold-weather Super Bowl. Many narratives will be written about this year’s game, so let me be the first to remind you that this game features [a matchup of two former Jets head coaches in the stadium where the Jets play their home games/rematch of Super Bowl XXIV/Brady against the team he grew up loving/the teams from the only two states in the country to legalize recreational marijuana/]!
One topic of discussion you’ll certainly hear this week: if victorious, many would conclude that OLDQB is the greatest quarterback in NFL history. With multiple MVP awards and multiple Super Bowl rings on top of some pretty incredible statistical accomplishments, it would be hard to argue otherwise. And consider: [Manning would become the first quarterback to win Super Bowls with two different teams and the first quarterback to win the Super Bowl and lead the league in passing yards in the same season./Brady, who win or lose will to become the first quarterback to ever start in six Super Bowls, surpassing John Elway, would join Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw in the four ring club with a win. Brady would also become the only quarterback to ever win Super Bowls more than a decade apart, an incredible accomplishment.] And while the stakes may not quite be the same for YOUNGQB, a Super Bowl victory would perhaps be the foundation of a Hall of Fame career.
Expect the battle of OLDQB vs. YOUNGQB to be the loudest talking point in the media over the next two weeks. And with good reason: [If games is not NE vs. SF, then...never before has a Super Bowl featured two quarterbacks farther apart in age. [Manning is nearly 13 years older than Wilson/Manning is nearly 12 years older than Kaepernick/Brady is 11 years older than Wilson, a distance which eclipses Super Bowl XLIII starters Ben Roethlisberger and Kurt Warner (who are just under 11 years apart) from for the biggest gap in Super Bowl history.] [If game is NE vs. SF, then... Brady is 10 years older than Kaepernick, making this just the second Super Bowl in history between quarterbacks a decade apart. The first, Super Bowl XLIII between Ben Roethlisberger and Kurt Warner, was arguably the most entertaining game in Super Bowl history.]
No one doubts that these are two great quarterbacks, but they are different in so many ways. For OLDQB, his team has been built around him: OLDQB takes up an enormous chunk of AFCTEAM’s salary cap, and with good reason: he’s one of the best to ever play the game and has, in many ways, single-handedly willed his team to New Jersey. For over a decade, OLDQB has been expected to carry his team to the Super Bowl every year, and he makes the entire offense around him better. And one could argue that that was never more true than this season.
For NFCTEAM, the quarterback is just a piece of the puzzle. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, quarterbacks selected outside of the first round of the draft are practically paid peanuts. As a result, not only has NFCTEAM been able to build an offense around YOUNGQB, but NFCTEAM also has a suffocating defense. That will probably come in handy against OLDQB, and let’s be honest: other than the quarterbacks, NFCTEAM has the better roster (in fact, even with the quarterbacks, NFCTEAM has the the better roster, at least if you check out what the wise guys have to say in Las Vegas).
And while I hesitate to put too much emphasis on the outcome of one game, many will view Super Bowl XLVIII as a referendum on the quarterback position. If OLDQB wins, the old narrative will be emboldened: it takes a pocket passer to win it all. The read option, the flavor of the month last season, was largely contained in 2013. Yes, NFCTEAM still uses it from time to time, but can they win the Super Bowl with that style? More likely, for NFCTEAM to win, it will be the result of a great passing day from YOUNGQB. And here’s a stat you might not have known: No quarterback has ever won the Super Bowl while rushing for over 400 yards in a season: that might be a bad omen for NFCTEAM, as YOUNGQB rushed for over 500 yards in 2013. Being able to run isn’t a bad thing, of course: YOUNGQB also averaged over five-and-a-half yards per carry — but quarterbacks must be able to pick apart defenses with their arms first and foremost. A win by OLDQB will preserve Aaron Rodgers‘ name atop the record books: with 356 rushing yards in 2010, he’s the leader for rushing yards by a quarterback in a season he won the Super Bowl.
But a win by YOUNGQB would flip the narrative on its head. Will the AFCTEAM linebackers look silly trying to contain him? If YOUNGQB lights up AFCTEAM on the game’s biggest stage, the mobile quarterback doubters will be silenced. And, depending on whom you ask, the following is either a huge deal or completely irrelevant. With a win, YOUNGQB will join Doug Williams as the only African American quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl.1 A loss puts YOUNGQB in good company as far as making it to the big game — Steve McNair, Donovan McNabb, and Kaepernick last season — but a win would mean something special to some people.
And don’t think owners around the league aren’t noticing the background of these two head coaches. While hiring hotshot offensive coordinators has become the latest trend to fill head coaching vacancies (look at Ken Whisenhunt landing in Tennessee), take a look at the coaches that have made it to East Rutherford. AFCCOACH is not just a former defensive coordinator, but a retread, after an up-and-down tenure in C[arolina/leveland] that ultimate saw him fired. Meanwhile, NFCCOACH comes from the Pac-12, the league that is seemingly serving as a training ground for NFC head coaches. Don’t be surprised if more owners don’t start looking to the college coaching ranks (Houston already hired Penn State’s Bill O’Brien): with a win, NFCCOACH would become the first former college head coach to win the Super Bowl since Barry Switzer and Jimmy Johnson did it with the 1990s Cowboys.
Whatever happens, Super Bowl XLVIII will be can’t-miss TV. The old guard AFCTEAM, led by renowned master AFCQB, versus the nouveau riche NFCTEAM. This humble sportswriter’s opinion? No disrespect intended to YOUNGQB, who may go on to win a Super Bowl one day. But on Sunday, OLDQB will show he’s still get enough left in the tank to win one last championship.
Prediction: AFCTEAM 24, NFCTEAM 23.