When buying property, they say location is everything. But it's also generally accepted that it's pretty darned important in the world of sport too. And the NFL is no exception.
To understand why, you need only check out the results from this year's regular season. These reveal that of the 32 teams involved, a massive 25 of those played better at home than on their travels. A further three sides had identical records for playing home and away. While just four of the 32 teams performed better on the road than inside their own stadiums.
The Superbowl though, is of course the one game in the season when both teams are playing on the road. And this year, America's premier sporting spectacle will be taking place at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. Now you may have read reports that this year's Superbowl is being played in New York, but that's simply not true. The confusion comes from the fact that the MetLife Stadium is home to both the New York Giants and New York Jets. But the stadium itself is actually located in East Rutherford, New Jersey, some 10 miles away from Manhattan. Even NFL organisers are guilty of confusing (deliberately?) the two, by choosing a photo of the New York skyline to put on the cover of the official gameday program. It's an issue that's caused a lot of ill-feeling between local officials in the area, and understandably so. I mean, how many Yorkshiremen would enjoy being told they come from Lancashire? Enough said.
But the real issue we should be addressing is, what effect will playing away from home have upon our finalists? Well, this season, Denver and Seattle had identical away records of six wins and two defeats. But if we look back over three regular seasons prior to this, we find that, perhaps surprisingly, it's the Seahawks who fared better. From 2010 to 2012, Seattle had a +2 differential in terms of games won on the road compared to games won at home. That beats Denver's record of -1. So despite all the talk of Seattle's 12th man, and of the Seahawks being just a home team, it seems that's simply not the case.
Conclusion: Advantage SEATTLE.
Let's turn now to the fact that this game will be played at the home of the NFL's two New York teams, and ask which of our finalists plays better at this particular venue? Turning first to Denver, and this hasn't historically been an especially happy hunting ground for them. Looking at their road games against the Giants and Jets combined, the Broncos have an ordinary-looking win-loss record of 9-12. It has to be said though, that almost all those games were played a long time ago. Indeed, only one of them was played within the last five years, this season in fact, and it ended in a convincing 41-23 win for the Broncos over the Giants.
Seattle though aren't to be outdone by that, having also beaten the Giants in their own backyard this season, and by a perhaps even more impressive scoreline of 23-0. Their all-time record against New York teams comes in at 8-11, and that puts them right on a par with the Broncos.
Conclusion: No advantage
Finally, and probably most significantly, let's look at the issue of the weather. We've all heard about how certain hot-weather teams don't like playing in the cold and vice versa. But what about our finalists? Will chilly temperatures in New Jersey cause either of them to freeze? Well, according to weather forecasts (assuming they mean anything), we can expect temperatures of around 30 degrees Fahrenheit at the MetLife Stadium on gameday. Or to put it another way, just below freezing. And that doesn't bode well for the Broncos. Because according to the number crunchers, when playing during the postseason in temperatures of 40 degrees or below, Peyton Manning's performance goes into a nosedive. His passer rating, which averages 90.1 in play-off games overall, plummets to just 57.3 in the cold. And as a result, Manning has a play-off record of 0-4 in low temperatures.
Denver's iconic quarterback threw nine interceptions and just four touchdowns during those four post-season games. And if you want more recent evidence that Peyton's a warm weather specialist, then just drink this in... of Denver's three defeat's suffered this season, two of them came in temperatures below 40 degrees AND they resulted in Manning posting his two lowest quarterback ratings of the season. Search the internet hard enough, and you can find odds on the weather for the Superbowl, with the temperature quoted at 32 degrees, while the odds on there being snow are approaching evens. All of this does nothing to help the Broncos, who have been almost entirely dependent upon the performances of Peyton Manning. If he fails, they fail.
By comparison, the Seahawks' offense is based predominantly on a running game. And if this is indeed a cold and possibly snowy game, then you can be sure it will turn into a contest of running football. Just think back to this season's Philadelphia versus Detroit debacle, and you'll know exactly what I mean.
Conclusion: Advantage SEATTLE
Much depends on what the weather will be come gameday, and of course it goes without saying that anything can happen on any given Sunday. But overall, history suggests that it's Seattle, and not favourites Denver, who'll be lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy this year.