Super Bowl XLVIII: Seahawks Vs. Broncos

Added January 31, 2014 by Levi Watkins

Six months of NFL football comes down to this. For all the talk about cold weather, New York City, marijuana, and the color of Renee Fleming’s gloves, a matchup between the two teams with the best records takes center stage Sunday night. Peyton Manning’s legacy, Richard Sherman’s “rant,” silent Beast Mode, the defense versus offense debate — the storylines are plentiful. But none of that matters once the opening kickoff is booted. Which of these powerhouses will come away victorious? Here’s a prediction.

Seattle Seahawks versus Denver Broncos (-3)

What makes the Seahawks’ defense so dominant? In short, a glut of superior players. Their entire secondary consists of big, physical defenders who are rangy, savvy, and confident. Few offenses have the receivers capable of exploiting them consistently, but Denver is one that does. It’s difficult to beat Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell over the top, so the ‘Hawks will likely see a lot more underneath/curl routes, as well as inside runs out of packaged plays. The Seattle front seven is vulnerable to the rush, especially when they are so focused on shutting down a scary passing assault. Earl Thomas will be key; his ability to defend center field by himself should limit Manning’s tendency to attack the deep middle.

When Seattle has the ball, it’s all about Marshawn Lynch. The man known as Beast Mode does his talking on the field and he’s been a load to contain in the playoffs with 249 yards in two games. Russell Wilson’s penchant from making big plays at crucial times cannot be underestimated. Percy Harvin making it through the entire game unscathed would be beneficial; the Broncos secondary is beat up and prone to committing costly blunders. Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate, and Jermaine Kearse aren’t household names, but each has burned defenses throughout the year.

Peyton Manning was sacked 18 times this season. His quick, accurate release is perhaps his best attribute, along with an uncanny pocket presence. Hitting and knocking him down to disrupt his timing is a goal of every defense, but few actually pull it off. An inside pass rush can bother Manning, so Seattle must take advantage of its deep defensive line. Demaryius Thomas is Denver’s most important weapon; he can stretch a defense deep or house a bubble screen. If Thomas wreaks havoc early, Sherman might be tasked to shadow him, even though that goes against Seattle’s Cover 3 scheme. Knowshon Moreno, and to a lesser extent Montee Ball, might be the secret to success. If the ‘Hawks safeties are forced to help against the run, Manning will make them pay.

Denver’s defense lacks depth due to a series of injuries. Champ Bailey isn’t the same guy, and scrap heap players like Jeremy Mincey are getting meaningful snaps. The absence of Von Miller is critical; he’s a legit superstar and someone Seattle’s troubled offensive line would have no answer for. All that said, the Broncos’ front four stymied a hot LeGarrette Blount in the AFC Championship, and battered Tom Brady. Stopping Lynch will be a tall order, not to mention Wilson, who has the legs to do damage. Look for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and the rest of the Denver secondary to be very physical against the fragile Harvin.

“Petyon Manning versus an elite defense” is the mainstream headline. But Denver’s defense has been stellar in the playoffs, making their matchup with Seattle’s average offense favorable. This could come down to Matt Prater or Steven Hauschka, for better or worse.

Denver 24, Seattle 20

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