After a long season, the Super Bowl has arrived. With the game being played in New York, the only certainty will be the weather. It will be freezing at Metlife Stadium on February 2.
Another name for Super Bowl XLVIII should be the “Predictable Bowl”. Entering the season, this was the most foreseeable matchup for the NFL’s championship game. Both Seattle and Denver have led their respective conferences throughout the season, but in completely different ways. The Seahawks led the NFC with their ferocious defense and stellar running game, while the Broncos utilized their passing offense to dominate the AFC. This is the ninth matchup where top seeds with face each other in the history of the Super Bowl.
Quarterback: This season, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has broken almost every single season quarterback record. Russell Wilson, in his second year, has proven to be more than just someone to hand off to Marshawn Lynch. This year, Wilson has demonstrated his proficiency in passing as well. While not as great as Manning, Wilson has been helpful in getting Seattle to the Super bowl. Manning threw for 55 touchdowns as well as 5477 passing yards this season, each setting single season records. Peyton Manning has the edge in this matchup.
Running game: Marshawn Lynch, known as Beast Mode, vs. Knowshon Moreno. Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has been among the top running backs ever since Buffalo acquired him. Lynch tied with Jamaal Charles of the Chiefs to lead the NFL with 12 touchdowns. Lynch also finished sixth in total rushing yards. For the Broncos, Moreno finally had the breakthrough that the Broncos were looking for when they drafted him in 2009. Despite Moreno’s breakout season, the Broncos are still a pass-first offense; and Moreno, who will be limited by a rib injury, will not be as impactful as Lynch. Moreno has been stellar this season, but nothing can stop Beast Mode.
Receivers: Eric Decker is considered the third best receiver on the Broncos, yet Decker finished with 11 touchdowns and 87 receptions. Golden Tate, the Seahawks number one receiver after Percy Harvin, who was injured for most of the season, finished with just five touchdowns and 64 receptions. Broncos have an elite receiving core, while the Seahawks have receivers just adequate enough to stop opposing teams from solely focusing on Lynch. Percy Harvin returning from injury will certainly help Seattle, but Wes Welker, Demariyus Thomas, Decker, and Julius Thomas of the Broncos will give the Seahawks plenty of problems. Edge: Broncos
The Seattle secondary may garner most of the attention, but their defensive line has proved formidable as well. Led by defensive ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, the Seahawks have only allowed four rushing touchdowns this season, the fewest in the NFL. For the Broncos, defensive linemen Shaun Philips and Terrance Knighton have also proved themselves thus far in the playoffs. However, the Broncos have not had much success against the run, allowing 15 touchdowns. Interestingly enough, the Broncos and Seahawks allowed the same amount of rushing yards,1626, in the regular season. Ultimately, Avril will stop Moreno and pressure Manning more than Philips can pressure Wilson and stop Lynch.
Linebackers: Bobby Wagner leads the Seahawk’s linebacker group by finishing seventh in sacks in the NFL. Wagner himself finished 21 in tackles this past season. For the Broncos, Danny Trevathan, middle linebacker, leads a much improved Broncos unit. Trevathan has 11 solo tackles this postseason, fourth most thus far. The Seahawks have a better overall defense, but Trevathan has led a rejuvenated Broncos linebacker unit, as demonstrated in the NFC Championship Game.
Secondary: The Seattle secondary, labeled the Legion of Boom, faces off against an aging and injured Champ Bailey and Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, who has mentioned that he may retire after the Super Bowl. Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, and the rest of the secondary have allowed just 2752 yards, the fewest in the NFL. The secondary has also forced 28 interceptions, with Sherman accounting for eight by himself. Champ Bailey has shown the effects of his age this season, but desperately wants to win in his first Super Bowl appearance. Although his desire could be a factor, Sherman’s Legion of Boom will cause many more problems for Peyton than the Broncos secondary will for Wilson.
The pick: Offense vs. Defense. Passing vs. Running. Manning vs. Sherman. With so many intriguing match-ups, this Super Bowl will definitely be a game to remember. Peyton will have some problems against a tough secondary, but his experience against tough defenses in the past could be in his favor. The Broncos run defense is adequate enough to force Pete Carroll to pass, which will give Russell Wilson trouble. If the Broncos can contain Beast Mode, they will win. If they cannot, it will be more difficult.
Projected score: Broncos 24 Seahawks 23