Every year heading into Super Bowl Sunday the world directs it’s attention to the NFL. The fanfare is unparalleled. For all its beauty, this time of year can be cumbersome because everybody has an opinion about the big game. Perhaps most frustrating, is when you are the one standing around the water cooler with nothing to add to the conversation. It harkens back those painful memories of the cool kids at the school yard passing around some inside joke that you have been excluded from. This year, you can confidently approach any circle and toss your two cents in. We have outlined some of the top Super Bowl story lines to watch for this week as the big game approaches, so you can enjoy the game and the banter that comes along with it as the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots duke it out.
Will this be one last hoo-rah for the old dogs or will the new regime assert their dominance? It was exactly one decade ago that the New England Patriots won a second consecutive Super Bowl title. A feat that has not been matched since then. The Patriots were being labeled as a dynasty and rightfully so because it was their third championship in four years. They’ve remained competitive but have failed to win another ring since then. Their opponent, the Seattle Seahawks now have their sights set on becoming the first team to repeat as Super Bowl champions since New England last accomplished it.
Will Carroll have the last laugh over New England Patriots owner, Robert Kraft? Undoubtedly, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll still has a chip on his shoulder. After a mediocre start with the Patriots, Kraft fired Carroll just two seasons into his tenure. Kraft has hired only two head coaches since purchasing the franchise in 1994. Those two coaches are Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick, who will face each other on Sunday. Both have been incredibly successful as Carroll and Belichick are No. 1 and No. 2 respectively, in regular season and playoff victories since 2012. Since returning to the NFL three years ago, Carroll has led the Seahawks to the most wins in the NFL, but a victory in this game would be a feather in the cap of his coaching career.
Will the Patriots use the “Deflategate” controversy as a slap in the face to motivate the team or will the whirlwind surrounding the team be a distraction? The biggest circus surrounding the Patriots following their 45-7 rout against the Indianapolis Colts are that the Patriots game balls were underinflated during the AFC Championship. This should be a non-story but the NFL media will surely refuse to let it go. The referees inspect the footballs before kickoff and are constantly handling them during the game. If there was any change made to the balls’ air pressure, the officiating crew should have pointed it out during the game. Any enhacement in performance would be miniscule at best. A deflated football had nothing to do with the fact that Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount ran all over the Colts defense for 148 yards and three touchdowns.
The NFL has found that 11 of the 12 footballs were indeed deflated by two pounds per square inch. The results of deflated footballs can hardly be quantified. It would seem the benefits of deflated footballs would be negligible at best, but nobody will ever know.
The fact that it is even a question is what is troubling. It calls into question a team’s integrity. This isn’t the first time the Patriot’s integrity has been questioned. Back in 2007, it was discovered that the Belichick and the Patriots had secretly recorded the NY Jets coaching signals throughout the game. Through that investigation, the NFL also learned that the Patriots had also secretly recorded the St. Louis Rams practices the week of the 2002 Super Bowl.
A full investigation has now been launched by the NFL, but in reality there will be no repercussions handed down until after the Super Bowl anyway, so we should probably all collectively put a pin in “Deflategate”. The bad news for the Patriots is this black eye will still be there whether they win or lose. The Patriots dynasty under Belichick’s regime may always be looked upon as one of the greatest in professional sports history, but not without an asterisk.
Jason Burch contributed to this story.