Breakfast Table: Super Bowl 48

From: Scott Pianowski
To: Mark Stopa
Sent: Wed, Jan 29, 2014 12:42 pm
Subject: Super Bowl Breakfast

This should be a fun one. An elite offense. An elite defense. Reminds me of the Pirate Bowl a decade ago, Raiders and Bucs. That was also the first Breakfast Table Super Bowl, by the way.

Sometimes I think the information cycle of the Internet drains the fun from these games. Mike Salfino has been Bah Humbugging the matchup, as he is wont to do (as Jonah Keri once said, Mike could ruin a Ferrari on Christmas morning). Okay, maybe Denver's offense is more impressive in a historical sense than Seattle's defense, and I grasp Mike's point about offense primarily driving outcomes. But that doesn't mean Seattle can't win this game, or heck - potentially win, decisively.

I've made my pick, but that's going to wait. Take your first run down the slopes. How do you feel about the game being outdoors in New Jersey? Is Peyton Manning playing for his legacy, or is that an overplayed angle? How much money did you win on the Pro Bowl?

Super Bowl Breakfast is served.

From: Mark Stopa
To: Scott Pianowski
Sent: Wed, Jan 29, 2014 7:24 pm
Subject: Re: Super Bowl Breakfast

If you were starting a team from scratch and could only choose one, would you want the Broncos offense or the Seahawks defense? Which unit is more dominant? It's easy to say the Broncos since they set so many records, but this article suggests Seattle is historically elite, too.

Forced to choose, I suppose I'd pick a dominant offense. But if offense dictates outcomes, why have the top offenses typically fallen short against the elite defenses in the Super Bowl? Raiders/Bucs is one good example, but so are Giants/Bills and, arguably, 49ers/Dolphins. That's Gannon in an MVP season, Kelly in his prime, and Marino in arguably the best QB-season ever, all losing the Super Bowl. Is there something to this, or just random noise?

The Pro Bowl? Only true degenerates bet on that. (I lost $100...Mike Tolbert.) Seriously, we can't talk Super Bowl without looking at prop bets. Other than betting the winner, how are you spending your greenbacks this Sunday?

I'd feel more confident with my wagers if I knew how the weather would be. (Trying to predict the weather now is tomfoolery. If weather were predictable this far in advance, half of Atlanta wouldn't have been stranded last night.) Are you with me here, or is the weather factor overplayed? For me, playing a top defense like the Seahawks will force Denver to have near-perfect offensive execution. Peyton makes that possible anywhere, but the worse the conditions, the harder that will be. I'd like the Broncos much more if it's 45 degrees and not windy in NYC when we wake up on Sunday morning.

It's a shame some see Peyton's legacy as hinging on this one game (particularly when random things like weather could so significantly impact the outcome). But a second ring would mean a lot for his argument on the all-time QB chart. Where would you put him then? Above Montana? Elway? Brady?

I wrote several weeks ago that a Denver Super Bowl win would put Peyton's 2013 in the conversation for the greatest single season in sports history. Chris Liss scoffed at that argument at the time, yet now agrees. What's your take there? Would an MVP, Super Bowl MVP, passing yards record and passing TDs record put Peyton's 2013 on the level of Jordan's '95-96 (MVP, Finals MVP, Bulls went 72-10), Gretzky's 86-87' season (regular season MVP, 183 points was 73 more than anyone else, won Stanley Cup), or Orel Hershiser's 1988 (Cy Young, NLCS MVP, World Series MVP, Gold Glove, 59 consecutive scoreless innings)? What's the greatest single-season performance you've seen in your lifetime? (Sorry, Pedro - titles matter when answering that, right?)

Let's not ignore the other side of the ball. How do you see the Seattle offense matching up with the Denver D? If the Seahawks win, will it be on Russell Wilson's arm or Marshawn Lynch's legs? I see an angle there, but I'll save it for the reply.

I won't object if Adriana Lima emerges in lingerie again, but I've never quite gotten the obsession with Super Bowl commercials. We need one of the polls you post on your Yahoo! chats ... Super Bowl commercials: Must watch or food/bathroom time.

Give us the winner and a final score. Your followers are waiting at the window.

From: Scott Pianowski
To: Mark Stopa
Sent: Fri, Jan 31, 2014 1:19 pm
Subject: Re: Super Bowl Breakfast

I'd take the Broncos offense over the Seahawks defense if the question were predicated on the long haul, season to season. Offensive continuity is a better bet. Think of all the dominant defenses in your lifetime, and marvel at how quickly most of them disintegrated. That said, this isn't the long haul, it's one game.

Go back to the classic Marty Schottenheimer quote - he'd take Joe Montana for one game but John Elway for one play. I'd take the Denver offense for a year, but I might take Seattle's defense for one game. Okay, for this game.

I'm picking the Seahawks, 27-23. It's really a toss-up and I'm not fighting for Seattle life or death by any means. But they're a difficult matchup for the Broncos, certainly the hardest one Denver has come across this year.

Think of what defenses have to do to challenge the Broncos: you have to be physical, you have to press the flanks some of the time, and you have to be destructive with your base front. Seattle can do all those things. The Seahawks are also an execution defense more than a scheme defense, so Manning's greatness pre-snap - solving the puzzle before the play starts - is partially negated here. I don't blame most opponents for trying to trick the Broncos - what else are you going to do when you're dramatically outmanned on talent - but Seattle is the rare opponent who can take on the challenge straight up. The Seahawks also have ridiculous secondary depth, which is critical if you want a puncher's chance against Denver.

I don't enjoy the ring-obsession when discussing NFL players, but I don't completely write it off, either. We have to downgrade Warren Moon some for never winning a Divisional Playoff game, and we have to downgrade Dan Marino (at least a little bit) for making just one Super Bowl. To be clear, this is not the driving factor in how I evaluate them, but it means something.

Peyton might be the best quarterback of all time, anyway. His regular-season resume certainly trumps Brady's, always has. If Manning retires with three Super Bowl trips (and trips definitely matter) and two wins, I'd probably take that over anyone else. And his 2013 year would also go down as the most dominant in any sport, bookended from the opening seven (sorry Baltimore) to the win at New Jersey.

Happy endings aren't promised, of course. The stupid Giants ruined the story for the 2007 Patriots. The current Broncos remind me a little bit of that Patriots team - an unstoppable juggernaut for about two-thirds of the way, but not the same wrecking crew out the door. Denver only scored 50 points in the AFC Playoffs. There were some speed bumps in the late stages of the year. Heck, San Diego won in Denver.

I'm not in love with the Broncos defense. All those injuries, for one thing. It's a shame Seattle doesn't have a game-changer to throw to (we can't treat Percy Harvin like the 2012 version), but Russell Wilson's mobility and improvisational skill is going to be a factor. Wilson made two legendary plays in the victory over San Francisco, plays that were largely screened by the emerging narrative at the end. The Broncos are better off keeping him in the pocket, if they can - reign in the home-run factor and make it difficult for Wilson to find throwing lanes.

I'm not the target audience for the commercials. I accept this. But Sunday is going to be a blast.

From: Mark Stopa
To: Scott Pianowski
Sent: Sat, Feb 1, 2014 8:10 am
Subject: Re: Super Bowl Breakfast

Who says the 2007 season didn't have a happy ending? My favorite sign/poster of all-time is from the Giants fan who held up 18-1* at the end of that Super Bowl (the * a reference to the Spygate scandal). Anyway, the 2007 Giants ruining the Patriots undefeated season is another example of a top defense beating an elite offense ... but that's not even the biggest reason I like the Seahawks.

If we gave a number ranking between 1 and 100 to each team's offense and each squad's defense, wouldn't the rankings look something like this:

Broncos offense: 99
Seahawks defense: 98
Seahawks offense: 70
Broncos defense: 38

It might be fair to quibble with me a little about each of these numbers. Maybe the Denver O is a perfect 100, fine. Maybe the Broncos D is closer to average (50). OK. But there's really no denying the Seahawks disparity in talent when they have the ball is far greater than any small edge the Broncos enjoy when Peyton is under center. And it's not like Denver has an elite coach to bridge that gap - John Fox isn't going to unveil a coaching masterpiece on Sunday, and his conservative game theory won't help the less-talented team, either. (How crazy is it that Pete Carroll is the best coach in the Super Bowl?)

Anyone picking Denver, you tell me - how are they stopping Seattle? If I'm the Seahawks, I double Terrance Knighton on nearly every play - he's their only good player (and it's never hard to double-team a DT, especially when there's nobody else to fear). Danny Trevathan and Shaun Phillips are only average, as is the ghost of Champ Bailey. Who else does Denver have on D? They're so injury-riddled that Jeremy Mincey played 16 snaps in the AFC Championship Game and he was cut by the Jaguars in December.

I can see Marshawn Lynch or Russell Wilson winning the MVP - it probably depends on how Denver plays defense and who happens to score the TDs. Either way, Seattle is going to score. That's why I'd bet both Lynch and Wilson as MVP at 4:1. If Seattle wins, one of them will likely win MVP, and the return if you have both is around 2:1 - far better than simply betting Seattle to win. (On that same rationale, I'd bet Peyton to win MVP if I liked Denver - if they win, he's going to be MVP, and the return is better.)

I'd also take a chance on "over" bets involving the Seahawks. Lynch over 200 yards at 35:1? Sign me up. I like Percy Harvin more than you do, too - he was a big part of the game-plan against the Saints until the concussion.

If I'm wrong and Peyton wins, there's no denying him as the best QB of all-time and his 2013 as arguably the greatest single-season in sports history. I just don't see it happening. Seahawks 31-20.

Enjoy the game, amigo. And thanks for including me at the Table. It's been a blast.

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