This Sunday Peyton Manning leads his Denver Broncos into the cold of New York to take on the Seattle Seahawks. It will be his third Super Bowl and if he wins, it will give him his second ring. Along with the Manning story-line, though, is the idea of the Seahawks getting their first franchise win in just their second Super Bowl appearance.
The win would be the first for Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey, as well, while whatever team wins will be getting their head coach – John Fox or Pete Carroll – their first win in the big game.
Needless to say, there’s a lot riding on this Super Bowl – possibly more than usual. But that’s what we expect and hope for when you talk about the would-be two best teams in the entire league, for the final game of the year.
But this year, it really does seem like we’re getting exactly what we wanted. For those who want defense, they’ve got the Seahawks, who were the top-ranked defense in the league. Looking for offense? Manning tossed 55 touchdowns in the regular season and brings the top-ranked Broncos to the stage.
It could very easily be one of the better Super Bowls we’ve seen in some time. But what a lot of people want to know is who is actually going to win? Let’s break it down and see if we can’t come away with a winner for the season’s biggest battle:
Which Team Will Pound the Rock?
The Broncos haven’t really been lighting it up on the ground individually, but they have been controlling the clock and tempo of their playoff games thanks to some solid running as a team. Denver ran for 100 total yards in the AFC title game, and put up 130+ in the divisional round of the playoffs. On the flip-side, Seattle has shown they can be run on this year, as many will recall the St. Louis Rams hanging close thanks to a 100+ yard day from Zac Stacy, while the New Orleans Saints ran all over the Seahawks in Seattle in the divisional round just three weeks ago.
This doesn’t mean that Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball will have a field day eating up clock and scoring touchdowns, but it does open the door to Denver being able to be the balanced team they’ve been all year. And if the Broncos are effectively running the football, that should mean Peyton Manning can utilize play action and try to take the top off of Seattle’s defense.
You wouldn’t think it, but the Broncos actually seem to be the better run defense between these two teams on paper. That’s at least been the case in the playoffs, as Denver stands as the #1 defense so far in post-season play, while Seattle doesn’t even crack the top-five. Oddly enough, despite Denver holding the edge in run defense for this matchup, the two teams tied for seventh during the regular season.
All we know right now is that Seattle’s ability to stop the run has been inconsistent so far in the playoffs, while Denver’s has been dominant. It’s arguably more impressive that Seattle shutdown the San Francisco 49ers on the ground than the Broncos shutting down both the Colts and Chargers, but when you factor in Colin Kaepernick running wildon the ‘Hawks, it tends to weight more in Denver’s favor again.
This is their bread and butter. The Broncos have the better numbers in the playoffs right now, but can you really see Beast Mode getting stuffed all day by the Broncos in a neutral setting? I can’t.
There’s Only One Richard Sherman-Can Seattle Shutdown Denver’s O?
Sherman made a huge play in the NFC title game that led to the Seahawks going to the Super Bowl and he’s bound to make another. However, there’s only one Richard Sherman (thank goodness), and Peyton Manning should theoretically be able to exploit Seattle elsewhere on the field when it comes to the passing game. Not having Brandon Browner hurts, but keep in mind that Seattle was still the top-ranked pass defense during the regular season. Of course, it’s also worth noting that Seattle wasn’t in the top-five against the pass in the playoffs. In fact, Seattle wasn’t a top-five defense in the playoffs at all.
The Seahawks haven’t been quite the same stingy defense in the playoffs. They’ve kept points off the board, but they have been giving up yardage and big plays. Denver has so many weapons that it’s borderline foolish to bank on the Seahawks allowing less than 20 points. That doesn’t mean Seattle can’t win. It just may mean their offense needs to be on top of their game to do so.
Can Broncos Pressure Russell Wilson Without Von Miller?
When the Seahawks have lost or been tested the most, Wilson has either been sacked numerous timed or pressured enough that he needs to make decisions faster than he’d like. Denver still boasts a decent pass-rush without Miller, but it’s absolutely worth wondering if they can keep Wilson on his toes. More importantly, however, will be if Denver can contain Wilson when he gets outside, or if they can wrap him up when he evades the initial rush. After all, some of Wilson’s best plays spawn from pressure, when he creates on the fly.
Verdict: Probably Not
Wilson evades the best pass rushers and Denver isn’t fully equipped to put elite (and consistent) pressure on him. Add in the play action once Seattle gets their ground game going, and Wilson could be a terror in the Super Bowl.
The X-Factor: Percy Harvin vs. Wes Welker
Harvin had just four touches in the divisional round of the playoffs and played in one regular season game. Needless to say, he will be flat-out unleashed in the Super Bowl. It’s much of the same for Welker in terms of his playing time down the stretch, as he sat out Denver’s final three games due to concussion issues. The big question is, which will be the more effective x-factor?
Harvin adds an explosiveness on returns you can’t measure, while he greatly enhances Seattle’s otherwise lackluster passing game. If he can just stay healthy, he should be able to make a big impact.
It’s the best offense in the league versus the best defense in the league. Two above average head coaches, one legendary quarterback and one loud mouth corner. This really does have the makings of a close, back and forth battle that will go down to the wire.
But whether it’s a blowout or a last second score to win, I can’t see Denver falling short. Their defense is still good enough to handle a fairly mediocre Seattle offense, while their offense can beat anyone. Denver has proven they can win in every fashion, and whether they air it out or pound the rock, they should be able to get the job done come Super Bowl Sunday.
Verdict: Broncos 27, Seahawks 23