Super Bowl weekend is finally upon us and I have taken the liberty of setting aside a special article to preview this year’s NFL title match. This will be an exciting game full of some very big personalities and memorable moments. So, without further delay, let’s get down to business.
NOTE: I did my homework on this. There is a lot of information, if you just want my final score, skim to the bottom.
The Basics: The National Football Conference will be represented by the Seattle Seahawks while the American Football Conference representative will be the Denver Broncos. Both teams went 13-3 in the regular season, won their respective divisions and were seeded as the top seed in their conference playoff brackets.The game will Be Played at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands, New Jersey.
Coaching: Seattle is coached by former New York Jets, New England Patriots and University of Southern California head coach, Pete Carroll. Denver is coach by former Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox. Carroll has never been to a Super Bowl as a head coach but twice won a national title at USC. Fox took Carolina to Super Bowl XXXVIII in just his second season as the Panthers head coach.
Seattle’s offensive coordinator is Darrell Bevell and the defense is run by Dan Quinn. Denver’s offense is ran by Adam Gase. The Broncos defense is run by former Jacksonville head coach, Jack Del Rio.
Former Rivals: From 1977-2001 the Seahawks and Broncos both resided in the AFC West division. In 2002 the NFL realigned its divisions and conferences to welcome in its new expansion team, the Houston Texans. The Seahawks flipped over to the NFC West and the two teams have only met three times since then with the Broncos winning two of the meetings. The only time the two teams met in the playoffs was in 1983 when the Seahawks claimed a 31-7 victory. Denver holds a 34-19 advantage over Seattle in the series all-time.
(Sort of) Local Ties: Outside of the obvious local tie in former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning suiting up for Denver, there are several other ties to look for on Sunday.
Long-time rivals Purdue and Notre Dame will be well represented in this year’s Super Bowl. Former Purdue All-American Shaun Phillips (2000-2003) will suit up for Denver’s defense, wearing No. 90. The man who filled Phillips’ shoes in West Lafeyette will be suiting up for Seattle. Wearing No. 56 for the Seahawks will be former Boilermaker Cliff Avril (2004-2007).
Notre Dame graduate David Bruton (2006-2009) will be seen in Denver’s secondary wearing No. 30 and may have a chance to tackler former Irish teammate, Golden Tate (2007-2009). Tate is a receiver and punt returner for the Seahawks and was a unanimous All-American in his final season at Notre Dame.
Other former Colts players Jacob Tamme (No. 84) and Winston Justice (No. 77) will also be suiting up for Denver.
Seattle On Offense: Seattle brings a powerful, but not-so-flashy offensive attack to the table. Led by running back Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks offense can cause problems for any defense. Lynch ranked second in the league 301 rushing attempts this past season. He gained 1,257 yards on the ground at an average of 4.2 yards per carry. Lynch scored 12 rushing scores, tied for best in the NFL.
What’s scary for Denver’s defense is that since the playoffs have started Lynch, (a.k.a Beast Mode, or Skittles) has torn up defenses even worse than he did in the regular season. Lynch is tops amongst playoff backs with number of rushes (50), yards (249) and yards per game (124.5). In the postseason Lynch is averaging five yards per carry and has yet to fumble. He will be a huge factor in Sunday’s game. It should also be noted that the run game starts and ends with Lynch. Backups Robert Turbin and Christine Michael never got into the end zone in 2013 and were very underutilized by coach Bevell’s offense.
But the biggest factor for Seattle will be the play of its confident young quarterback, Russell Wilson. An afterthought in the draft two years ago, Wilson has taken the NFL by storm to become one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. Or has he?
Wilson has benefited from the outstanding play of his defense and running back and has done enough to manage games to get his team victories. When looking at the stats, Wilson may not be the guy Seattle wants to lean on if the game comes down to it. The second year pro out of Wisconsin has slightly above average numbers at his position when compared to the rest of the league. Wilson’s biggest threat is his legs, not his arm.
Wilson benefits from the read option trend that is ridiculously popular in today’s NFL. He is second amongst quarterbacks with 96 rushes and third with 539 yards on the ground. Wilson also lost five fumbles this year, tied for second worst in the league. It is not totally Wilson’s fault but he was sacked 44 times this past season, third worst in the NFL.
When looking at receiving options for the Seawhawks, the pickin’ is slim. Tate, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse make up the reliable part of Seattle’s receiving core while Percy Harvin is an X-factor and nobody knows what he will do. Extremely talented but extremely fragile, Harvin’s injury troubles go back to his college days at Florida. Harvin has three postseason receptions and only played in one regular season game. He is dangerous, can change games when healthy and is expected to play on Sunday.
Zach Miller is the starting tight end for Seattle and has proven to be a reliable option at times for Wilson given that 18 of his 33 receptions in 2013 went for a first down.
Seattle averages 26.1 points per game.
Denver On Defense: The Broncos do not bring the top defensive unit into this game but it is still a dangerous one. The edge is set with Phillips and Robert Ayers with depth from Malik Jackson and Jeremy Mincey. From the end position alone the Broncos recorded 25.5 sacks in the regular season and have already racked up five sacks in its two postseason games.
The real talent of the Denver defense is in the middle with Terrence Knighton and Sylvester Williams. Knighton (a.k.a. Pot Roast) is an absolute monster in the trenches for Denver. He weighs in a 6’3″ and 335 pounds and has a nose for the quarterback. Williams (6’2″ 313 lbs.) and reserve tackle Kevin Vickerson (6’5″ 328 lbs.) make for a quality rotation up front.
The Denver secondary and linebacker core is nothing outstanding with the loss of Von Miller but the units still pack some heat.
Danny Trevathan and Wesley Woodyard anchor the linebacker group for Denver while future hall of fame member Champ Bailey adds to a very diverse Bronco secondary. Chris Harris Jr. will most likely be guarding Tate or Harvin for most of the game while Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Bailey will take on Baldwin and Kearse more frequently. Duke Ihenacho, Rahim Moore and Mike Adams will all be seen in the safety positions for Denver. The group had three interceptions and 19 passes defended in 2013.
Denver allows 24.9 points per game.
[*** ERROR: Weaver X-Plus Shortcoder undefined id: 'spo-photo' *** ]
Denver On Offense: The Bronco offense is led by one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, Peyton Manning. Manning brings in a historically dominant offensive attack that is highlighted by a resurgent Knowshon Moreno and talented Demaryius Thomas.
Moreno had a very solid 2013 campaign being a part of a running back-by-committee scheme in Denver. Moreno saw the majority of the snaps due to his superior pass-blocking ability. But the Broncos received plenty of help on the ground from rookie Montee Ball and second-year man Ronnie Hillman. As a team, the Broncos ran for 109 yards per game.
Manning has plenty of weapons to go to in his receiving core. Outside of Thomas, there is former Patriot Wes Welker and Eric Decker. The three receiving stars combined for 25 of Manning’s NFL record 55 touchdown passes this season. In addition to the talent in the receiving core, Denver also has a surprise star playing at tight end in Julius Thomas. He brought in 65 receptions for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns in the regular season. Tamme and Virgil Green also provide reliable depth at the position.
Denver averages a league leading 37.9 points per game.
Seattle On Defense: The Seahawks bring in an outstanding defensive unit led by the entertaining defensive back Richard Sherman.
Sherman led his team eight interceptions and 16 passes defended. While the Seahawks secondary (self-proclaimed Legion of Boom) lost a talented corner in Brandon Browner to a suspension, the unit is still solid with Walter Thurmond and Byron Maxwell. The secondary is rounded out by Earl Thomas and an underrated Kam Chancellor playing the safety positions. This will be the toughest offensive unit the “Legion” has had to face but if any unit is up to the challenge, it’s these guys.
The front seven for Seattle is without a true star, save for Cliff Avril. Avril plays off of the edge for Seattle and tallied eight sacks and five forced fumbles this year. Opposite of Avril is Michael Bennett (brother of Bears tight end Martellus Bennett) who tallied eight and a half sacks this season. Bruce Irvin, K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner make up the linebacker unit for Seattle while the middle of the line is held down by Tony McDaniel and Clinton McDonald.
Seattle allows a league low 14.4 points per game.
Special Teams: Don’t gripe, this is an important aspect of the game. The two best kickers in the league will be featured in Sunday’s game in Seattle’s Steven Hauschka and Denver Matt Prater. Both were exceptional in 2013 and have remained solid in the postseason.
When punting the ball, neither team has a great advantage. Britton Colquitt averaged just 44.5 yards per punt for Denver while Jon Ryan clocked in a 42.7 for Seattle, both were near the bottom of the league. Ryan had two punts blocked this year to Colquitt’s one. Both pinned 10 punts inside of the 10-yard line this season.
Denver has one of the game’s most electrifying return men in Trindon Holiday who averaged nearly 30 yards a return off kickoffs in the regular season. Seattle’s kick return duties are handled by Baldwin who just recently took over the job from Kearse. Tate will handle returns for Seattle, Holliday will do the same for Denver.
Final Analysis: Yes, I gave you more information than you could ever want, but that’s what I do. I was not going to throw up a lousy 200 words and make a pick and have you all think it was on a whim. I have researched this game like crazy and am prepared to give you my guaranteed pick.
This game is not about Denver’s offense and Seattle’s defense. No, it is the exact opposite. This game is about Seattle’s offense and Denver’s defense. I love Marshawn Lynch, he is a tremendous talent and will make some plays on Sunday, but I like Pot Roast more than Skittles.Terrence Knighton and the rest of Denver’s front seven is going to be too much for Seattle to handle for a complete game. If Russell Wilson is forced to carry this team, there is no way the Seahawks come out with a victory. Not unless the Broncos let Wilson run all over the place. If Wilson is forced to throw late in this game, it is a good recipe for a Denver victory.
Just to appease the masses I will talk about the ultimate match up, the unstoppable force (Denver’s offense) versus the immovable object (Seattle’s defense). Seattle’s D is very good, but it is not the “best defense in the history of the league” good. Manning and the Broncos are not just another good offense strolling into the Super Bowl, this is the best offense in NFL history, with not one, two or three weapons but literally six reliable weapons for Manning to throw to behind the comfort of an outstanding offensive line that only allowed 18 sacks.
I truly believe in my head and in my heart that Manning will not let this team lose. If it comes down to it, Manning will put this team on his back and win this Super Bowl. I won’t be shocked if Seattle wins, as the Seahawks have plenty of talent, but this game has several legacies on the line for Denver. From Manning on offense to Bailey on defense all the way up to John Elway in the front office. This team was meant to win a championship and that’s exactly what the Broncos are going to do.
The Pick: Broncos 34, Seattle 20.