2014 Super Bowl Handicapping: Overrated and Underrated Factors
by Trevor Whenham - 1/27/2014
As we get ready for the Super Bowl, handicappers have many factors to consider. Some of those factors are very overrated in terms of their importance to the outcome of the game compared to the attention they get. Others are underrated and don’t get the attention they deserve. Here are four that fit into each category for your 2014 Super Bowl handicapping:
Weather: This is getting preposterous. I am so sick of hearing people talk about how wrong it is for this game to be played in this weather. It’s as if there has never been a game played in less-than-perfect conditions before. These teams are from Denver and Seattle, so they are certainly familiar with less-than-warm-and-sunny temperatures. Besides, the forecast for Sunday is actually shaping up to be relatively decent. There will be some cold people in the stands, but I have little sympathy for them. The players on the field will be fine, and this won’t have nearly as much of an impact on the game as people seem to think it will. Barring a massive change in the forecast, I am planning to ignore the weather pretty much entirely in my handicapping.
Richard Sherman: Sherman’s storyline has dominated the first week of the lead up to this game. Forget about it. Sherman is a big factor in this game — he is the key to a secondary that Peyton Manning will test relentlessly. The whole Michael Crabtree story has elevated Sherman’s significance well beyond what it should be in the eyes of the public, though. Ignore all of the debate and just focus on his potential on-field impact.
Peyton Manning: As I write this, the teams haven’t even started giving interviews in New York yet, and already I am sick to death of hearing about the Denver quarterback, the role of this game in his legacy, how the weather will affect him, and so much more. Don’t get me wrong — I respect Manning immensely, and could even accept the argument that he is the most significant single player in the game. He’s just one player, though, and given all of the attention he has received already — and the 10 times more attention he is going to receive — many bettors are certain to give him more credit regarding the outcome of this game than he deserves.
Playing on the road: We have heard all year about how the Seahawks are a much different — and lesser — team when they are not playing in front of the 12th Man at home. While there is some truth to that, it shouldn’t be factored in too much here. For starters, they have the same 6-2 road record that Denver has. They also aren’t going to face anything resembling a hostile crowd here. If anything, a Super Bowl crowd can be described as apathetic. Neither team is going to have a dominant presence in the stands. This is as much of a neutral-site game as you can possibly have. That is also a disadvantage for the Broncos since their home crowd isn’t exactly docile, either.
Denver defense: Most people are focusing on the most obvious storyline here — the No. 1 offense of Denver squaring off against the No. 1 defense of Seattle. While that is unquestionably going to be significant, it’s also important to look at the Denver defense. They were able to stifle and frustrate the New England offense last time out, and Seattle has never been accused of being a truly outstanding offense. If the Seattle defense has a good day, then it will rest squarely on the shoulders of the Denver defense to keep Seattle off the board and keep the game close enough for their offense to pull out the win. This is an injured unit, and Seattle has the advantage of two weeks to prepare to face them. Your opinion of Denver’s chances defensively should have a lot to do with how you expect the game to turn out.
Halftime adjustments: Coaches play a particularly big role in the Super Bowl for two reasons — they have to keep their team focused through the craziest week of the year, and they have a longer-than-normal halftime to make adjustments. Denver has had some problems in key games maintaining momentum into the second half. Can they get past that here, or will Pete Carroll and company have an edge here?
Betting action: Betting action was extremely lopsided early on, and the line very quickly shifted from having Seattle slightly favored to having Denver as favorite. Some action has come in on Seattle since, and while that hasn’t yet caused big line movement, it has stabilized things. It is very likely barring an injury that the spread will be less than three points, so the movement leading up to the game won’t be as significant as it could be regardless of what happens. Watching what the public does in the coming week, though, and how the sharp money responds to that action, could give us some very valuable insights into how to decode this challenging matchup.
Demaryius Thomas: While Manning and Sherman are getting the bulk of the attention at this point in the strength-versus-strength matchup in this game, Thomas may actually be the biggest factor. His two worst games of the year have come in Denver’s last two losses, so if you can knock him off of his game it has an impact on the whole team. He typically lines up on the opposite side of the field as Richard Sherman, so a first clue to Seattle’s concerns about Thomas will be if they play with their positioning. If Thomas can have a good day then Denver could as well, so this is a key player to evaluate as you prepare for the game.
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