<
>

NFL Nation Says: A tainted Super Bowl?

Philadelphia and Detroit battled the elements this past weekend. We could see similar weather on Super Bowl Sunday. Howard Smith/USA TODAY Sports

So the Northeast got a little snow this past weekend -- and we lost our doggone minds! Grocery store shelves were cleared. Parents panicked over school cancellations. And football literati gathered in small groups, frowning and fretting anew about this enduring threat to the integrity of their championship game.

Yes, Super Bowl XLVIII will be played outdoors in North Jersey. And if the area gets a repeat of this past weekend's weather on Feb. 2, then OH MY GOD THE UNIVERSE COULD BE TURNED UPSIDE DOWN!!!! Think of it. The teams might have to -- gasp! -- adjust! Their flexibility might actually be tested! A well-rounded team, virtuous in any historical analysis, could have the advantage! A one-trick team might be exposed!

Sarcasm aside, it's difficult to understand the distress we're hearing about a potential cold-weather/snowy Super Bowl. It might be a drag for the fans at MetLife Stadium, and surely there are players and coaches who would prefer a more predictable environment. But if this past weekend suggested anything, it was that the weather variable could add a new level of entertainment without corrupting the championship.

Snow hit four Northeast NFL cities Sunday, and two of them -- the Baltimore Ravens' 29-26 victory over the Minnesota Vikings and the Miami Dolphins' 34-28 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers -- produced wild finishes. Overall, the day brought an NFL-record 90 touchdowns as defenses struggled to keep up. That's entertainment, at least for the majority of football fans.

Did the weather reverse any expected outcomes? More specifically: Did the better team lose because of a snow- or cold-induced calamity? The only game that could come close to qualifying for that discussion was the Philadelphia Eagles' 34-20 victory over the Detroit Lions, who fumbled seven times (losing three) in the snow and whose quick defensive linemen had trouble changing direction because of poor footing. Still, that's a long way from thinking the Lions would have won on a clear Philadelphia day.

What the Eagles did in that game was a preview of what any Super Bowl team should be capable of. They trailed 14-0 in the third quarter before making a number of adjustments, among them to utilize the zone-read running game they had abandoned to start the game. Their first such run came in a fourth quarter in which they would rush for 223 yards and score 28 points.

What do we want from the Super Bowl? (Other than guacamole and cool ads, of course.) We want to see a heavyweight fight between two elite competitors, and we want that brawl to confirm that the best team is crowned champion.

What are we worried that weather could do? Cause mistakes that will change the outcome? De-emphasize the attributes that brought the team to North Jersey in the first place? If so, is there anything different between those outcomes and, say, a dome team benefitting from a Super Bowl site indoors? Or a cold-weather team losing its advantage by playing for a championship in 80-degree weather?

Perhaps a team that breaks down in the elements, or is outsmarted by a better-prepared opponent, isn't the championship contender it appeared to be. Maybe inclement weather will serve as a truth serum of sorts, stripping teams of gimmicks and luster and forcing a battle of fundamentals, strategy and effort.

That's just one take, of course. How do players around the league see it? ESPN's NFL Nation sought their answers: