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Peyton Manning and the Broncos have a key matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend which could determine who wins the AFC West.
Forget about the Subway Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2 — that’s just not going to happen. The best we received from the Giants and Jets this year was the prestigious Snoopy Bowl on Aug. 24.
The Giants basically wrapped up their season with last week’s loss to the Cowboys and now the Jets are in a Geno Smith-induced free fall that has them on the verge of scheduling baggie day.
The Thanksgiving weekend traditionally begins the stretch when the serious Super Bowl contenders separate themselves, or, in the case of the Jets last year, when they provide comedy as dessert on Thanksgiving Night with the iconic Mark Sanchez Butt Fumble.
It’s only 64 days to Super Bowl XLVIII — remember, layers is the way to dress if you’ll be there — so let’s take a look at some of the issues that will determine who gets to play the first Super Bowl with hand warmers.
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The bone-chilling weather at MetLife Stadium this week could be a preview to what the Super Bowl will be like.
1. What’s the biggest game remaining to determine who gets the No. 1 seed in the NFC?
The Saints (9-2) at Seahawks (10-1) on Monday night. The Seahawks are coming off a bye and the Saints’ last game was a week ago Thursday night, so both will be well rested.
If the Seahawks win, they will just about clinch home field with a two-game lead and the tiebreaker on the Saints. If the Saints can snap the Seahawks’ 13-game home winning streak, they will be tied for the No. 1 seed and hold the tiebreaker. New Orleans is 6-0 at the Superdome, so this game could eventually decide who goes to the Super Bowl out of the NFC.
Interesting side note: Seahawks QB Russell Wilson has been most compared to Saints QB Drew Brees: Smallish players who find the passing lanes, rarely get balls swatted down and do a lot of winning. The Saints will find out what it’s like for the visiting teams at the Superdome battling all that noise when they play at Seattle, the loudest stadium in the league.
2. Okay, so what’s the biggest game remaining in the AFC?
It’s also this weekend: Broncos (9-2) at Chiefs (9-2). Denver beat K.C. just two weeks ago, so a victory in the rematch at Arrowhead would almost guarantee that the Broncos will win the West. The division winner will be either the No. 1 or No. 2 seed (depending on whether the Patriots can catch them) and the loser is locked into the No. 5 seed as the top wild card.
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Drew Brees is hoping he could lead the Saints to the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC.
3. Throw a little snow and sleet into last Sunday’s frigid and windy Giants-Cowboys game, and that could be Super Bowl XLVIII. What contenders are best equipped to handle the cold and miserable conditions?
Well, obviously Tom Brady is an all-weather quarterback going back to the Tuck Game and then the way his passes cut through the wind in Foxborough against the Broncos last week. Peyton Manning looks old and cold when the temperature drops. He really looked like he was suffering in the playoff loss to the Ravens in Denver last season when it was 13 degrees with a wind chill of 2.
Wilson played his final year in college at Wisconsin, where it gets awfully cold and it was never a problem. Brees and the Saints offense were inefficient against the Jets at MetLife earlier this month and it was 48 degrees. They are a different team when they play outdoors. Despite his disdain for the Super Bowl being played in his home state, Ravens QB Joe Flacco is used to playing in the Northeast winter. If the Panthers make it — they’re the hottest team in the league with seven straight victories — the cold should not stop Cam Newton from using his legs, but can he handle a little wintry mix? Don’t worry about the Chiefs. Andy Reid is only 1-4 in conference championship games, so he’s not making it to this Super Bowl.
4. What surprise is in store for the AFC Super Bowl team?
They will work out at the Jets’ gorgeous facility in Florham Park. It has a state-of-the-art field house to provide protection from inclement weather. One problem: It is not heated. Now, it’s warmer than it is outdoors on a chilly day, but not quite as warm as the fieldhouse the NFC team will work out in at the Giants’ extremely nice facility in East Rutherford. Their field house is heated. Well, at least the Jets save some money on the electric bill so they can pay Santonio Holmes.
5. What picture will be worth a million words?
If the Patriots make the Super Bowl, how much would you love to see pictures of Bill Belichick on the Jets’ practice fields, in their locker room and meeting rooms with Woody Johnson standing guard to make sure he doesn’t get into the executive offices? Can you just envision Belichick with his feet up on Rex Ryan’s desk?
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Tom Brady and the Patriots could be the team best equipped for a cold weather Super Bowl.
Actually, the coaching and executive offices are off limits to the Super Bowl teams. They get to use the practice fields, locker room and meeting rooms.
6. Can the Panthers come out of nowhere all the way to MetLife?
Back in Week 3, when the 0-2 Panthers played the 0-2 Giants, there were rumblings that coach Ron Rivera was soon to be out the door. They routed the Giants 38-0 and lost to the Cardinals, but have since won seven in a row. Newton is the most improved player in the league and a legitimate MVP candidate. He has 11 TDs and four INTs during the winning streak, which included back-to-back victories over the 49ers and Patriots. They are 8-3 and only one game behind the Saints. So, while the Saints are trying to catch the Seahawks, the Panthers are trying to catch the Saints. In a scheduling quirk, they have yet to play each other but meet Dec. 8 in New Orleans and Dec. 22 in Carolina. At the very least, they will get a wild-card spot.
7. What team that has been around for the entire Super Bowl era is the only team not to make it to the Super Bowl?
It’s the Lions, and the streak is not likely to end this season. The closest they came was in 1991 when they made it to their only NFC Championship Game and lost to the Redskins, 41-10.
8. Can Peyton return the favor?
Little brother Eli won his second Super Bowl on big brother Peyton’s home field in Indianapolis two years ago. Now Peyton is looking to win his second Super Bowl, on Eli’s home field at MetLife. Eli had to beat Brady to get his second ring. Peyton is likely going to have to beat Brady in January to get a shot at his second ring.
9. Will this be the last cold-weather Super Bowl?
I think this is a one-shot deal. It was a thank you from the NFL owners to the Mara and Tisch families for not only being longtime great owners, but also rewarding them, along with Woody Johnson, for building a new stadium.
But there is only one New York and I don’t think a game in Denver or Philly or Washington carries enough buzz for the league to put up with the logistical problems of staging the biggest sporting event in the world in cold weather. If anything, if this Super Bowl week turns out to be perfect, I think New York has a better chance of landing another one than any other cold-weather city has of getting a first one.
10. What’s the prediction on the playoff seeds?
NFC: 1) Seahawks. 2) Saints. 3) Cowboys. 4) Lions. 5) Panthers. 6) 49ers.
AFC: 1) Broncos. 2) Patriots. 3) Bengals. 4) Colts. 5) Chiefs. 6) Ravens.