JOHN L. PITTS: Big game: Head, heart doing battle

JOHN L. PITTS

JOHN L. PITTS

CORINTH

When you’re a newspaper sports editor, you get this question a lot: “So, who’s going to win the big game?”

When it comes to the Super Bowl, my heart says Denver and my head says Seattle.

As a native Tennessean, I have a soft spot in my heart for Peyton Manning. As one of Archie’s sons, he has plenty of fans around here.

A second Super Bowl ring – he won his first with Indianapolis after the 2006 regular season – would cement his status as the greatest NFL quarterback. He’s probably that anyway, but the second ring wouldn’t hurt the argument.

And there’s plenty of evidence that a great quarterback can will his team to the Super Bowl. Recent champions such as New Orleans and Green Bay were teams with some obvious flaws that still won the big game behind mighty QBs.

And in a universe where all NFL teams labor under a salary cap, every team has obvious flaws. The salary limit forces teams to economize in some spots so they can splurge in others.

The art of NFL coaching is to minimize those flaws.

Look of a winner

But the history of the Super Bowl suggests that another kind of team is also well-equipped to win – one with a great defense and a quarterback who makes the big plays when needed and doesn’t make a big mistake.

Peyton’s brother, Eli, has two rings to offer in evidence of how well that can work. Trent Dilfer, the ESPN analyst who won his Super Bowl ring in Tampa Bay, is exhibit A of the kind of quarterback who can hoist the trophy after managing a great game.

And this is where my head tells me that Seattle, with its young QB Russell Wilson, sure looks like one of those teams that’s well equipped to win – a stout defense, a great running back and an offense that’s unlikely to beat itself.

Mostly, I’d like to see a close game. We’ve been blessed to avoid real ugly Super Bowl blowouts for a decade, but it’s funny how often a close-on-paper matchup goes haywire when the team that falls behind starts pressing.

John L. Pitts (john.pitts@journalinc) is sports editor of the Daily Journal.