Super Bowl XLVIII: Preview and Predictions

Sunday's forecast now calls for clear skies, and a low chance of rain and snow.

Sunday’s forecast now calls for clear skies, and a low chance of rain and snow.

By: Travis Thayer

The Super Bowl might actually be played under fair conditions.  Although the kid in me wants to see snow, there is an understanding that the game should be well-played without it.  The Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks are the two best teams in the NFL, and it is fitting that the two will play Sunday for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.  It’s not often that we get to see the number one offense take on the number one defense in such a meaningful game – and Sunday’s game has the potential to be an all-time classic.  Peyton Manning, Richard Sherman, Marshawn Lynch, Demaryius Thomas, Russell Wilson, the list goes on of great players who will compete for the ultimate prize.  The question is, who has the edge, and will offense rule – or will defense win the championship?

Quarterbacks

This should be a no-brainer.  No disrespect to Russell Wilson, but you will be facing one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever grace the field.  Manning is trying to become the first quarterback in history to win a Super Bowl with two different teams, and he will attempt to set that record in his little brothers backyard.  Manning set the NFL on fire this season with a record-setting year.  Manning threw for 5, 477 yards and 55 touchdowns breaking previous records held by Drew Brees (5,476 yards) and Tom Brady (50 TD’s) respectively.  Those are tough numbers to compare to, but if there is one guy who might be able to overcome those numbers, it’s Russell Wilson.  Wilson is only in his second year in the NFL, but he is already a superstar.  All Wilson does is win (27-9 including playoffs), and he’s not too bad at throwing the ball around.  He tied Peyton Manning’s rookie record of 26 touchdown passes in 2012, and he broke Ben Roethlisberger’s record for most wins (22) in the first two years with 24 regular season wins.  Manning and Wilson are great on paper and on the field.  Sunday’s game might come down to whoever has the ball last, and I’d bet on either quarterback.  Wilson is a bright young star who might have been drafted into the perfect situation.  He has already created a path to becoming an all-time great, but he’s not Peyton Manning – at least not yet.  Both quarterbacks will find a way to play well on Sunday, but advantage: Denver 

Running Backs

The team who runs the ball more efficiently typically wins this game.  Both teams have run the ball really well all season, but yards will be tough to come by on Sunday.  Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch would be the baddest man in the NFL if it weren’t for that Peterson guy in Minnesota, and the Seahawks hopes of winning the Lombardi Trophy might rest on his shoulder.  Lynch is a powerful runner who doesn’t go down easy.  He will face his toughest test of the season going against a Broncos front seven that ranked in the top ten against the run.  Denver Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno will also have his hands full with Seattle’s top ten ranked defense against the run.  Lynch and Moreno will undoubtedly have to fight for tough yards, but they are more than capable of having a good game.  Lynch ran for 1,257 yards and 12 touchdowns, while Moreno amassed 1,038 yards and 10 touchdowns.  Both players will play pivotal roles in Sunday’s game, and I wouldn’t be shocked if the team with the most rushing yards wins the game. Advantage: Seattle

Receivers

I’m not sure if there has every been a better receiving core than the one that has been assembled in Denver.  Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker, and Julius Thomas make up one of the scariest units of all-time.  It’s no wonder that Peyton Manning had 55 TD’s this season.  His weapons are extraordinary.  Demaryius Thomas can beat you deep or he can turn a simple screen play into an 80-yard touchdown.  Decker and Welker which sounds like a good name for a band, can beat you with great hands and route running.  And the wildcard is Julius Thomas, who seems to be the forgotten man.  The Broncos make it hard to key on just one man, and that makes them incredibly difficult to defend.  The Seahawks on the other hand, have some less known commodities.  Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin anchor an underrated receiving core that could be spectacular when at full strength.  Often hurt Percy Harvin is expected to play Sunday, and his impact can’t go unnoticed.  If he is able to play the whole game, it could balance scales a little bit.  Harvin is a game changer, and the Seahawks will need him to help keep pace with Denver’s scorching hot offense.  Advantage: Denver

Offensive Line

One thing we know is that the Seahawks love to run the ball.  Although Marshawn Lynch is one of the league’s best, the running game starts up front.  Seattle ran for over 2,000 yards this season, and most of the credit goes to the hog molly’s up front.  The one area the Seahawks weren’t good is protecting the quarterback.  Russell Wilson was sacked 44 times and was knocked down a total of 94.  Those stats haven’t resulted in many losses for the Seahawks, but it will be crucial that they keep Russell Wilson on his feet.  Denver’s offensive line only gave up 20 sacks all season, and Peyton Manning was only knocked down 54 times.  This postseason, Manning hasn’t even been touched.  If that holds up Sunday, it will be even more crucial that Seattle’s line doesn’t give up any sacks.  Denver will score a lot of points if Manning has all day to throw, and if that happens it may be tough for the Seahawks to come back. Advantage: Denver

Defensive Front Seven

We have already established that both teams have top ten defenses against the run.  Both teams gave up an identical 101.6 yards per game in the regular season.    In case you don’t know how stats work, that means that most games both teams gave up less that 100 yards.  Trevor Knighton has been an absolute beast for the Broncos.  In two games this postseason, he has almost neutralized the opponents running game by himself.  Defensive ends Robert Ayers and Shaun Phillips have shown aptitude to get to the quarterback this offseason, and they will be counted on heavily to make an impact.  Cliff Avril leads a Seahawks defense that has struggled to get to the quarterback in recent weeks.  The Seahawks seem content with sending four pass rushers, while committing seven to coverage.  That strategy has paid off so far, but as mentioned before – the Seahawks will want to apply pressure to Peyton Manning, or it will be a long day at the office.  Really, there isn’t much difference between the two front seven’s.  Both are excellent against the run, and they are middle of the pack when it comes to sacking the quarterback.  The team that has the most success getting to the quarterback, will be the team with the best chance to win. Push.  But if I’m forced to pick one, I like the Broncos front because of their play the past two weeks.  

Defensive Backs

Wow, Champ Bailey or Richard Sherman?  Future Hall of Famer or the best in the game today?  I know it comes down to more than just Bailey and Sherman, but it is going to be really froot (another word for cool) to see them play in the Super Bowl.  Champ Bailey has waited his whole 15 year career to get to this point, and Sherman is too good of a player not to showcase his talents on this amazing stage.  The name of the game though, is takeaways.  Seattle is very good in that category, with 28 interceptions and 11 fumble recoveries.  Denver only had 26 total takeaways all season.  The “Legion of Boom” has a clear advantage here.  Richard Sherman is the best corner in the league right now, whether you like him or not – and Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor might be the best safety duo in the NFL.  If there are a group of guys who can neutralize or shut down Peyton Manning and co., these are the guys to do it.  Advantage: Seattle

Special Teams

Field goal kicking is always so important in a championship game.  Three points can go a long way, and no points can destroy your hopes and dreams.  It’s a good thing there are two great kickers in this game.  Denver’s Matt Prater and Seattle’s Steven Hauschka.  Prater missed only one field goal this season going 25 for 26, while Hauschka nailed 33 of his 35 attempts.  If the game comes down to a winning field goal, I’d bet either guy will nail it down – that is if weather co-operates.  It’s unclear whether or not Percy Harvin will return punts and kicks, but if he does, he could swing the games momentum with a big return.  Trindon Holiday could do the same for the Broncos because of his electric speed.  Special teams could play a key part in the game, and both teams are really good in all facets.  If Harvin is returning punts and kicks, I give the advantage to Seattle.   Harvin is always a hiccup away from taking it to the house, and Hauschka is the slightly better kicker. Advantage: Seattle 

Prediction

It seems that the Broncos have more of an advantage on paper.  Peyton Manning is playing out of his mind, and he has a chance to win a Super Bowl on Eli’s field – much like Eli did in Indy a couple of years ago.  That would be an incredible story as would Manning winning his second Super Bowl with a second team –  and become the first to do so.  That seems a little to good to be true, and the Seahawks seem to be a team of destiny.  Russell Wilson just always seems to find a way to win, much like he did against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship.  The Broncos have played two really good games in the playoffs, and they look unstoppable, but that is why the game is played.  In my mind, I believe the Broncos to be the better team, but my heart tells me Seattle will find a way to win on Sunday.  This is going to be a battle between the best offense and the best defense in the league.  The irresistible force meets the immovable object, and when that happens – always bet on the defense.

Seattle 30, Denver 27

MVP – Russell Wilson 


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