We’ve broken down the game and went over the matchups to watch in this week’s Super Bowl between the Broncos and Seahawks. Now let’s go over some of the uncertain elements that could end up playing a part in Sunday’s game. Here are five X-factors to watch for in Super Bowl XLVIII.
For good or bad, the weather is going to play a role in this game; we just won’t know what that is until game time. The current forecast is for cold temperatures, a slight chance of precipitation, and relatively light winds. If that forecast comes to fruition it shouldn’t have a major effect on the game, although Denver quarterback Peyton Manning has been known to struggle in cold weather, although he was fine in a few cold weather games during the regular season. However, if that forecast changes, it’ll likely change for the worse, as any kind of precipitation or increased wind speed would effect both teams, although the Broncos would likely suffer more than the Seahawks in poor weather conditions.
KNOWSHON MORENO’S RIBS
Moreno suffered a rib injury in the AFC Championship game, and while x-rays were negative and he returned to practice late last week, how close he is to 100% is known only to him and the Broncos. Even with Montee Ball taking on a larger role late in the season, Moreno is an essential part of Denver’s offense and the Broncos need him to be at his best, especially if the weather forces the Broncos to put more emphasis on their running game. If he’s not at full strength, it could really hurt the Broncos; Ball has been fine late in the season, but there’s no substitute for what Moreno has done for the Broncos this season with regard to rushing, receiving, and pass protecting. If it’s clear early in the game that the rib injury is affecting him, it’ll put the Broncos at a significant disadvantage.
Harvin has been Seattle’s x-factor all season, as he’s struggled to get on the field and stay on the field following a hip injury. Harvin missed the NFC Championship Game, but he’s been practicing throughout Seattle’s preparations for the Super Bowl and is expected to play on Sunday. He has just one reception all season, so the Seahawks are accustomed to playing without him, but if he’s on the field the Broncos will have to account for him, which is something few teams have had to do against Seattle this year. Even if he doesn’t get a lot of touches, Harvin will draw attention from the defense and open things up for other players, which means there’s a good chance he ends up having an effect on the game.
Holliday has had a relatively quiet season, returning just one kickoff and one punt for touchdowns, but he has the ability to be a game changer for the Broncos. Denver has been weary to put him on punt returns as of late because he is a ball security risk, but he’s on the field during kickoffs, and unless the Seahawks can kick it out of the end zone on every kickoff they’ll have to worry about tackling Holliday, which can be tricky due to his lightning fast speed. Holliday is equally capable of taking one to the house for a Denver touchdown as he is of fumbling the ball away to give the Seahawks an extra possession, and if he does either of those, the smallest player in the Super Bowl could have the biggest impact on the game, making him an x-factor to watch.
The focus of the Super Bowl has been on the showdown between the Denver offense and the Seattle defense, and deservedly so. The Denver defense and the Seattle offense have received a little attention too, but the kicking game has been completely overlooked. If this game is as close as it’s expected to be any missed kick could be monumental and change the complexion of the entire game. Denver place kicker Matt Prater has made 25 of 26 field goals this season; with his only miss coming from 52 yards away, although he’s had the benefit of kicking in the thin Denver air for much of the season. Seattle place kicker Steven Hauschka has been equally impressive, connecting on 33 of 35 field goal attempts. However, both kickers will not only have to deal with the pressure of the game, but unpredictable weather conditions, including wind. Hauschka may have an advantage over Prater if the weather becomes a factor for the kickers, but both kickers will have to battle trough rough conditions in the biggest game of the year, and a miss by either one could end up costing his team the game.