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Superbowl XLVIII Preview

It's Superbowl time! After a highly successful run in last year's big game, NFL tragic (and sports writer) Ian Steven, @deevo82, is back with his preview - focusing on the plethora of prop bets on offer, rather than the actual match result itself.

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Superbowl XLVIII Preview

The world’s attention turns Stateside this evening as sport’s second most violent game – behind only shinty – stages its showpiece event which is part sport and part showbiz (and part paying your energy bills after last year) gets under way in the Big Apple.

The Superbowl transcends the barrier of fanaticism to connect more with the layman tentatively dipping a toe into the gridiron world in a bid to absorb some of the magic of the big day. More snack foods are consumed in the USA on Superbowl Sunday than any other day of the year – and if you have seen the girth of the average Texan then that truly is an extraordinary statistic!

There are some Yanks who don’t even give a hoot about the football on show but merely tune in to watch the commercials such is the lore of America’s sporting showpiece.

Tonight’s Superbowl is made even more special as it is the first final to be held outdoors in a cold climate although the weather gods have smiled favorably on the state of New Jersey (yes, that’s right – the New York Giants don’t even play in New York – the charlatans). There is a minimal chance of precipitation and wind speeds are not up to the usual Meadowlands levels which turns the stadium into a veritable swirling ball of air making it a tricky day for quarterbacks and kickers.

Apparently there is also someone called Bruno Mars singing songs at the half time show and you can even place a wager on what he (or she) sings first but that is getting way out of my comfort zone so let’s stick to the pigskin and enjoy what I think is going to go down as one of the most enthralling Superbowls in NFL history.

The teams:

Seattle and Denver are the ultimate clash in the big game as they are definitely the two best teams in the league and they share opposing philosophies. The Broncos are marshalled with an Oxbridge professor behind centre – a man so smart in Peyton Manning that his coaches don’t send him in play calls during a game; instead they offer “concepts” for the Alpha QB to mull over as he dictates his offense down the field.

Seattle are moulded in the style of dark alley brawlers – big, brash and physical. You had better bring it if you want to lace up your cleats for Pete Carroll’s men on a Sunday afternoon. Recent focus has been on the motor mouth of elite cornerback Richard Sherman but Washington’s finest can back up the bluster with the league’s best defense and a smash mouth offense that possibly like hitting more than the defense does.

This is a contest that genuinely should excite the fan as both teams match up so well it should be an interesting game. From a betting standpoint this should present some opportunities as it is unlikely that the game will develop into a one sided rout and both teams should be able to move the ball consistently but will struggle to get the ball into the end zone as defenses tighten up. I don’t think there will be much between the teams points wise at the end of the encounter but ultimately the experience of Manning will prevail in the second half as the former Tennessee Volunteer gets a handle on what the Seahawks defense is showing him.

What I think will happen is that defense will dominate the first couple of series as both offenses are cagey, trying to jab at their opponents whilst trying not to give up field position. The result is that the second half will be higher scoring than the first as adjustments will be made at half time and the tempo in the match will increase. Both defenses will also wear down and will start to give up yards in the ground game – especially with Marshawn Lynch bulling defenders out his way whilst refueling on Skittles.

The experience of Manning will win the timeout battle as well. There is not much he has not seen from a defense before and he gets his team so quickly to the line so he can get a good pre-snap read and adjust his play accordingly so that the play clock won’t be a factor. The Seahawks are from a more conservative school offensively under Darrell Bevell and with quarterback Russell Wilson in his sophomore season in the NFL, it is more likely the Wisconsin Badger is spooked by a coverage he has not seen before and calls a timeout.

More points scored in the second half 5 pts @ 1.9 with Paddy Power WON
Seattle first team to call a timeout 2 pts @ 1.83 with Paddy Power WON (I think)

The players:

Match ups are where we need to look for value with player props and the strength in depth of the Broncos skill players will really stretch the pass defense of the Seahawks. It is a given that the NFL’s best cornerback Richard Sherman will lock up Denver’s best wideout in Demaryius Thomas who will struggle to get the ball coming his way unless Manning thinks a quick screen would be the correct call but I doubt the Seahawks corner will play far enough off the line of scrimmage to make that happen.

Wes Welker will become the next focus for Pete Carroll’s men with his quick underneath routes. Seattle might ask their linebackers to bump the former Patriot when he comes across the middle but that will open the deep middle for Peyton to exploit and as a result I think Eric Decker and Julius Thomas will see most of the action come their way. Decker is a very composed receiver who can come down with the ball despite being under pressure. He becomes a definite threat when Denver gets close to the red zone and has worked his way into Manning’s trust by making some clutch grabs. Manning is so good with his play action fakes that if he reads zone and the linebackers cheat up, Decker should be open across the middle and I think he is the likeliest person to score for the Mile High outfit.

Julius Thomas is a former basketball player turned tight end who is very athletic and a match-up nightmare and probably will have 2-3 catches in the first series alone as Peyton checks down to a safe option whilst he gets a feel for what Seattle are doing.

Seattle are going to ride Marshawn Lynch hard and it is pretty likely the former Bill will end up with the most rushing yards in the Superbowl but the bookies all seem to think that as well so there is very little value for the risk involved. Denver will share carries between Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball which reduces their chances of being the top rusher in the big game.

With so much action coming over the middle, I fully expect Pro Bowl free safety Earl Thomas to be around the ball on a consistent basis and could make it into double figures for tackles. Denver will force Seattle to permanently be in a sub package due to the amount of receivers they have on the field and this will increase Thomas’s role in run support, especially if the Broncos read blitz and run away from it.

The key difference between the two teams will be the ability to score once a drive progresses into the opposition’s half and the Broncos will be more consistent moving the ball. Seattle will stagnate a couple more times than their opponents and as a result they will fall behind in the early points battle – having to settle for field goals as their momentum bogs down. This makes Steven Hauschka an interesting prospect as and over/under of 41.5 yards seems conservative especially with a low forecast of precipitation with 10 mph winds whilst kicking on AstroTurf. He could potentially kick 3-4 field goals during the evening which means a Seattle drive that stalls from around the 25 yard line backwards would bring Hauschka beyond the over/under.

Dermaryius Thomas under 5.5 receptions 2 pts @ 2.05 with Stan James LOSS
Eric Decker most receiving yards 2 pts @5.5 with William Hill and Bet365 LOSS
Eric Decker anytime touchdown scorer 1pt @2.56 with Betfair LOSS
Julius Thomas over 4.5 receptions 2 pts @ 1.91 with Skybet LOSS (4)
Longest field goal over 41.5 yards for Steven Hauschka 2 pts @1.91 with Ladbrokes LOSS (33)
Earl Thomas over 7.5 tackles and assists 4 points @ 1.95 with Stan James LOSS (7)

MVP: This one is a bit of a no-brainer if the Broncos run out winners of the Lombardi trophy which looks highly likely. Peyton Manning is the key cog in the Orange machine and will come close to putting up 300 passing yards even against a stingy Seahawks defense. The Manning family already have a legacy in the NFL with father Archie remembered fondly for his time spent in New Orleans as well as brother Eli earning two Superbowl rings with the Giants but Peyton has progressed one step further than his kin, and is legitimately discussed as being the greatest QB of all time. He will cement that legacy tonight. Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch are the likeliest candidates for the Seahawks but I can’t see past this being Denver’s day.

MVP Peyton Manning 3 pts @2.22 with Betfair LOSS

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