The players for all but four NFL teams will be watching games on television this weekend unless they’re hunting or playing golf. Meanwhile, the two NFL conference title games will determine which two teams meet in Super Bowl XLVIII. (Six Roman numerals, gotta be a dandy.)
Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports joined Bill Littlefield.
BL: Let’s start with Sunday’s early game between Denver and New England. Everybody is touting the quarterback rivalry between the Broncos’ Peyton Manning and the Patriots’ Tom Brady. But Brady has won 10 out of the 14 games in which these two have met. Hammer versus nail. Not much of a rivalry is it?GD: Oh, I don’t know. Football’s a team game obviously. Brady’s had Bill Belichick as his coach, and Manning has had — [Tony] Dungy’s OK, Jim Caldwell’s not.
But also, Belichick and Brady have a great defense, and Manning really hasn’t had that. I just feel bad for him that everybody’s talking about, “His playoff record is so bad, and Tom Brady owns him.” It’s really not right to pin that record on Manning. He’s put up exceptional numbers, even in the postseason.
BL: The Patriots have experienced roster problems created by multiple injuries, murder charges — things of that nature. But they’ve had big contributions from some unexpected players. Tell me about some of them.
GD: Well, that’s what Belichick does. You know, Belichick has a genius for finding diamonds in the rough. LeGarrette Blount, the last time anybody heard of him he was punching out a player at Boise State — kind of been on the scrap heap a little bit and goes to New England and gets recreated there. As far as receivers go, I mean Belichick finds Julian Edelman in college playing quarterback [at Kent State], makes him a receiver. He sees things people don’t see. It’s a vision. He’s not the most personable guy I’ve ever seen, but he’s got a great vision for spotting football talent.
GD: And not just the league’s elite head coaches, but the sport of football’s elite head coaches. This is a guy that’s won a national title in college, and a guy that’s two games away from winning a Super Bowl. If he does it — and big if — but if he does it, he’ll join Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer — not that Switzer’s a very good coach or could even spell “cat” —but he’ll join those two guys as the only two people to have ever won a Super Bowl and a national title. But in addition to that, you know, he went to Seattle, which historically has not been good, and he’s got them as a juggernaut.
BL: Seattle’s not only a juggernaut, they’re the only one of the four remaining teams never to have won a Super Bowl. Does that serve as motivation at this point?
GD: I don’t think so. I would imagine that half the people on that team, maybe more, don’t know that. And the half that do know don’t care. History like that is for people like us to talk about. My experience from talking to people in the middle of the battle is that they don’t think about that stuff. It’s on the outside. They’re going to want to win the Super Bowl because they’re going to want to win one. It’s got nothing to do with the fact that this franchise never has won one.
Now, after it’s all said and done, I’m sure that they would be proud to be the first, but at this exact moment, I can’t imagine that inspires them more than the idea of just winning one for themselves.
BL: It’s been forever since the 49ers made the Super Bowl. What’s it been? Like a whole year?
I don’t mind saying this — he might be the greatest football coach of all time.
BL: All right, Gregg, time to earn your money. Which two teams will meet in Super Bowl XLVIII?
GD: Seattle wins at home because they’re at home. Denver’s gonna win because the weather’s gonna be great, and it just happens to be at home. But I’ve already looked at the weather forecast, and it’s going to be 60, sunny and no wind in Denver. That means Peyton Manning throws for 6,000 yards, so it will be Denver vs. Seattle in the Super Bowl.