What more can you ask for in Super Bowl XLVIII next Sunday at MetLife Stadium outside New York -- other than some warm weather (I actually prefer it snows as that makes for great TV) -- between Denver and Seattle? It's the top two seeds in each conference, which hasn't happened since the 2009 season when Peyton Manning's Colts lost to the New Orleans Saints. It's also just the sixth time since the merger that the top-rated offense will face the top-rated defense (defense is 4-1 in the previous five).
There's also the story line of whether Manning could retire should he win a second Super Bowl ring to match brother Eli. That could depend on what a physical tells Peyton in March. Of course, his boss John Elway walked away on top after winning back-to-back Super Bowls in the late 1990s. Sportsbook.ag has a Manning retirement prop: “yes” is -1500 he will play next year and “no” +800.
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Generally Denver was a 1-point projected favorite over Seattle on the early Super Bowl line heading into conference championship weekend. Now it's Broncos -2.5 most places. I think it's fair to say that Denver looked much better last Sunday than the Seahawks did. The Broncos were never much threatened by the Patriots in the 26-16 win, while Seattle had to rally with 10 fourth-quarter points against the 49ers. Colin Kaepernick's three giveaways in the quarter are likely what cost San Francisco the upset, including the interception in the end zone on a potentially winning pass to Michael Crabtree that has turned Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman into probably the second-biggest star in this Super Bowl behind Manning. Don't think for a second that Sherman, a clearly intelligent guy from Stanford, didn't plan all those antics with Crabtree and especially Erin Andrews. He knows what sells and lands marketing deals. Sherman is essentially trying to become the Deion Sanders of this generation. Name the last defensive back who really took the NFL by storm in popularity since Deion?
Currently Denver is taking a sizable lean on the line, so you can even find it at 3 points at some places, including Bovada to name one. The total opened around 48 and has moved slightly down. I think this is somewhat of an overreaction to all those first cold-weather Super Bowl stories out there. It wouldn't surprise me to see it drop as low as 46 or 45.5 if early forecasts of freezing temperatures at kickoff are accurate. Denver is also taking a solid lean on the moneyline, currently at -130.
One prop I love because of the potential weather is on what the first score will be. A touchdown is the -165 favorite at WagerWeb, with a field goal or safety at +125. I love field goal in this case (don't rule out a kicker winning SB MVP honors for the first time because of the weather and Denver's Matt Prater and Seattle's Steven Hauschka are two of the league's best). A field goal was the first score in both conference championship games. A Seattle field goal being the first score is +300, while a Denver field goal is the same price. A Broncos touchdown is +160 as the first score and a Seattle one +170. I also can't believe that the final score as a field goal is the +150 underdog with a touchdown a -200 favorite.
Seattle and Denver didn't play in the regular season -- they did in the preseason, but who cares? -- as the only AFC teams the Seahawks played were from the AFC South while the Broncos took on the NFC East. I don't find common opponents a huge deal in the NFL compared to a college bowl game, but these were the common foes between the two teams: NY Giants, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans.
Seattle was 4-1 in those games. The Seahawks played the AFC South four weeks in a row starting Week 3. They beat visiting Jacksonville 45-17 (as 19.5-point favorites, largest spread of season for an NFC team), won at Houston 23-20 in overtime (one-point favorites), lost 34-28 at Indianapolis (three-point favorites), won at home against Tennessee 20-13 (11-point favorites), and in Week 15 won 23-0 at the Giants at MetLife Stadium (9.5-point favorites). The NFC West has lost four straight in the Super Bowl.
Denver was also 4-1 in those games. The Broncos won at the Giants 41-23 in Week 2 in possibly the final Manning Bowl (as 3.5-point favorites), 35-19 against visiting Jacksonville in Week 6 (26.5-point favorites, the largest spread in the NFL in decades), lost 39-33 in Week 7 at Indianapolis in Manning's return (six-point favorites), beat visiting Tennessee 51-28 in Week 14 (13-point favorites) and won 37-13 at Houston in Week 16 (as 10-point favorites). While Denver set the NFL record for points during the regular season, its past five games have gone under. Seattle hasn't allowed more than 20 points in a game since Week 9.
For my 2014 free Super Bowl picks, I love the “under” as the Broncos offense has looked mortal in the playoffs, and Seattle isn't built to score a lot. I would take Seattle at anything over a field goal and Denver at anything under as I expect the final margin of victory to be right at three points. I love a field goal as the first and last score.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews