It's Super Bowl week. The two best teams in the NFL all season meet up for the first time since the preseason where it didn't matter. Well now, it matters more than ever and a certain somebody picked these two teams before the season started to make it to this game Click Here!
I think this game will be very difficult to predict from the perspective that the Broncos are the best offensive squad ever and the Seahawks have one of the best Defenses since the 2002 Buccaneers and the best secondary since the Carolina Panthers in the mid-2000's.
I'll be breaking down each major matchup and who has the edge, X-factors, making a case for both teams to win the Super Bowl, choosing key factors to look out for, and finally a prediction of who wins and how the game will go quarter by quarter. Let's start with the matchups in this game which are all intriguing.
Seahawks Secondary vs. Broncos Passing Attack
This is will be the "get your popcorn ready" matchup and maybe the only matchup that even all the way around. The best passing offense in NFL History, vs probably the best Secondary in NFL History. Considering how well Peyton played in his last game and how much he controlled the ball, if he can find a way to take the air out of the ball (take time off the clock) and find a couple of holes in the secondary throughout the game, then the Seattle Secondary won't really matter because Peyton will dissect them just enough to keep the Seattle offense on the sideline. On the other hand, if the Seattle Secondary can prevent Peyton from getting long passes down the field on critical 3rd and long plays, or just the random shot down the field on 1st or 2nd down early on, then the Broncos will be pressured just to get to 3rd and short situations throughout the rest of the game. I'm going to give the edge to the Broncos Passing Attack on this one because of their ability to spread out the defense weather it's vertically or horizontally throughout the field, I think they can find a couple holes and keep that secondary on their toes the whole game. As much as I like the Seahawks Secondary, giving Peyton 2 weeks to prepare, he's going to find holes if he's upright in the pocket.
Edge: Broncos Passing Attack
Seahawks Front Seven vs. Broncos Offensive Line
I tell you what, with how classic the matchup between the Seahawks Secondary and the Broncos Passing Attack, it may not really matter because of how rarely the Broncos will be able to get the ball off. Peyton Manning does not have mobility and if there is one thing the Seahawks can do when given two weeks to prepare, it's get after the QB. With the lack of mobility that Peyton Manning has, and considering the Broncos are generally a first half team, the Seahawks may not allow Peyton to get anything going in the second half and the secondary may not have to perform the way they would have in the first half. Although, if Peyton can figure out how to get the ball out quickly and confuse the front seven of the Seahawks, the offensive line may not get as destroyed later on throughout the game as people might expect. That is only if Peyton can find a way to help them out with successful screen plays, run plays, slant routes, and can make his reads screaming whatever Omaha means in this game. The one thing this team Seahawks haven't seen is a serious Peyton Manning where he will do what ever it takes to win, and if Peyton can put together a scheme to keep the front seven off balance and keep his linemen fresh heading into the fourth quarter, then the Broncos should be sitting pretty in this one. But with how the Seahawks have made adjustments in the 2nd half in the playoffs, I just don't see how the Broncos can figure it out. The Seahawks definitely can get to Peyton in the 2nd half and make the secondary's job a little easier down the stretch.
Edge: Seahawks Front Seven
Seahawks Run Game vs. Broncos Front Seven
I know, it's very vague, but I think you know where I'm getting to when I bring up this matchup. Beastmode. Can he get it going in this game after how well that Denver defense shut down LeGarrette Blount and that Patriots run game? Remember, the Patriots ran the ball very effectively in the Divisional Round against the Colts and went into Denver and couldn't sniff 100 yards. Granted, the way Denver played in the AFC Championship game was all ball control and the way they were playing wouldn't allow New England to get any sort of traction on the ground. But that being said, there still needs to be some credit given to the Denver defense for shutting down the likes of Tom Brady and that balanced offense from a week before. This Seahawks Offense is predicated on running the football to set up the long pass down field and to give Russell Wilson time to dissect plays in the backfield. If their run game cannot get any traction to set up 3rd and shorts, Seattle will have a very difficult task at hand and will have to ask Russell Wilson to carry this team which he has shown since the loss at San Francisco in early December he has been incapable of doing. If it comes down to his play making ability, I would have some serious doubts if I were a Seattle Seahawks fan. This game could ultimately come down to the ability to gain the 3-4 yards per play to get the Seahawks to manageable 3rd downs so that they won't have to rely upon the arm of Russell Wilson when they need him the most. I'm not saying Russell can't make big plays (because he has made some huge plays this postseason) but when it comes to his total effort throughout the past 2 months, I would be weary of his ability to carry this team solely on his back. I think Beastmode and Turbo (Turbin) can get this offense going in the right direction and help them get into 3rd and manageable's. But if they can't, I'm shaking in my boots as a Seahawks fan.
Edge: Seahawks Run Game
Seahawks Special Teams vs. Broncos Special Teams
As much as we forget about special teams, they are still a major factor in the outcome of football games. This game will be no different as I see this being a completely one sided affair. The Seahawks have one of the best special teams units in a long time with 4 legitimate returners in Harvin, Tate, Baldwin, and Kearse. All 4 of these guys can step in and make an impact returning kicks out to the 40 yard line if Prater isn't booming kicks into the back of the endzone. If the Seahawks are given a short field, their running game may not be as necessary as it would be with a longer field. With a shorter field, a couple of long passing plays can put you in scoring range where if you had a longer field to work with, a couple long passing plays will only get you to the other side of the field maybe. Taking a shot down field closer to the 50 is way less risky than taking a shot down field at your own 20 yard line. It makes the field position game way more important and with special teams setting up the Seahawks for a great 60+ yard drive will make the play calling much simpler than if they start at the 20 every series. This will all be predicated on weather. If there is one thing weather can affect, it is the way the ball moves on special teams plays. Kicking field goals, punting the ball, the speed of the runners covering the kicks, weather will play a huge part in all of that. The field conditions could impact foot planting, kicking distance, when the ball lands on the field after a punt will it bounce or die, can returners make those couple cuts to get to closer to the endzone. The special teams unit that can be more prepared for the weather (which both these teams should be with one coming from frigid conditions and one coming from rain) will definitely be more lethal on Super Bowl Sunday. I think the Seahawks take it by a landslide.
Edge: Seahawks Special Teams
Russell Wilson vs. Broncos Passing Defense
We mentioned this earlier in an earlier matchup above, but I wanted to reiterate it's importance. Russell Wilson has not played great football the past couple months. With him heading into this game, he should be prepared and ready to make the smart plays he has been making all season long, but can he make more than just a couple big plays with his arm and legs? He has made a couple crucial plays in the last couple playoff games, but he also has been slacking more with ball control. He had a fumble in the first play of the 49ers game and after he made that mistake he was very timid to make a mistake the rest of the 1st half and even in the beginning of the 3rd quarter. If Russell Wilson wants to put his team over the hump, he cannot play timid one bit in this Super Bowl. He has been a very conservative QB, which is what his team has asked of him all season and he does a great job overall of protecting the football and trudging down the field with his team, but with who's facing him on the other sideline (Peyton Manning) he will need to have a bigger game than just 12 of 17 passing, a shade over 200 yards passing, and 1 touchdown. He'll need to boost those numbers to around 20 completions, 275+ yards passing, and at least 2 maybe 3 touchdowns. A pick won't hurt in this game considering his newness to this kind of spotlight and the potential nerves he may feel, but he also may need to force a couple throws just to get his team on a roll and to also put some momentum on their side. He needs to get out of the conservative mindset a little in this game (kind of like at the end of the 49er game when he made a couple of risky throws). If Russell doesn't get a little risky, then the Seahawks stand less of a chance of winning this game. Granted, I could be completely wrong, because he's also won his last two playoff games looking like pure dog poop for the most part. I give the edge to Denver in this one, but that doesn't mean they necessarily have the edge everywhere else.
Edge: Broncos Passing Defense
Denver Broncos: Monte Ball
This guy hasn't really played a ton this season because of how effective Knowshon Moreno has been in the backfield. But considering his role in the AFC Championship game as a step-in running back for when Knowshon needed a breather (14 carries, 59 yards) he came up with a productive day himself (12 carries, 43 yards). The Broncos didn't need to run the ball all that much with the way Peyton Manning was carrying the team with his arm. The reason why Monte Ball may put the Broncos over the top is because if Knowshon does get gassed throughout the game and the Broncos need a deception in the backfield, Monte Ball needs to be that guy and what better guy to carry the load than a guy who just came out of Wisconsin with the most touchdown runs in school history. If he plays his role to a tee, he'll put the Broncos over the top.
Seattle Seahawks: Percy Harvin
Isn't this the easiest answer for this team? Percy has only played in 2 games all season and he played in limited roles in both of them. If Percy Harvin can stay healthy in this game and bring 60% of what he normally is, he automatically makes this team unbearable on the offensive and special teams side of the ball. His presence out of the slot, what he can do in the backfield, the fear he presents back waiting for kicks will only make the Broncos shake in their boots. The only real question is (as a Vikings fan I know this quite well) will he be "ready" for game time? Normally when he plays weather he's hurt or not, he is spectacular, but will he have "headaches" a couple days leading up to kickoff limiting his play? He's a lot like the weather for this game on February 2nd in East Rutherford, he's unpredictable. But if he is on and can show up the way he has throughout his career, he is a huge X-Factor in this matchup for the Broncos, especially since they have very limited game film on him this season.
Making the Case
The case for the Denver Broncos:
Denver plays in cold weather consistently and the way they can put together an offensive game plan could put a fear into any defense weather it's the '85 Bears, or the 2000 Ravens. With who they have lost to this season (@Indianapolis, @New England, and vs. San Diego) they really had off nights especially on the defensive side of the ball. I don't expect a let down after 2 weeks of preparation for the biggest game of the season, but as we've seen this season (when Peyton took his first step into Indy this season as an opponent) when it comes to venues that he has an emotional connection with (his brother plays in MetLife Stadium all the time) Peyton tends to crumble under the pressure and crumbles relatively hard. He didn't do that these past couple of weeks in the playoffs, in fact, he played some of the best football of his career where he controlled the clock, made perfect reads at the line of scrimmage, and was so precise and economical in the pocket that the people on Wall Street were taking notes. With the game he just came off of with how he stoned New England and controlled the clock in the 3rd quarter, if he does anything remotely similar in this Super Bowl, the Seahawks will be in for a world of hurt. In addition to the domination of Peyton Manning last week, the Run Defense was sensational as they held New England to 64 yards rushing when the week before New England dominated on the ground with 234 yards. If Peyton can keep the ball, and the defense can stifle the run game and keep Russell Wilson off balance, the Broncos have more than an opportunity to get Peyton his 2nd ring of his Hall of Fame career.
The case for the Seattle Seahawks:
Seattle plays in rainy, muggy weather most of the time and with their style of play it generally revolves around pounding the rock. With the way the weather is going to play out in New York, that style will win more than throwing 20+ yard passes down field for a majority of the game. In Seattle's three losses this season (@Indianapolis, @San Francisco, and vs. Arizona) they showed a massive weakness in the passing game where Russell Wilson had an average QBR of 42.23. The Seahawks have also had a problem of playing with their opponents this season instead of beating them with the matchups they clearly have over other opponents (Examples: @Houston in week 4 they had to come back in overtime to win that game, and vs. Tampa Bay in week 9 when they were down 21 points to beat them in overtime as well). Granted, that was in the regular season and both those games were a while ago, but it should also explain how the Seahawks lost to Arizona at home in week 16 of the regular season. Arizona was a team that got left out of the playoffs this season with 10 wins, but the Seahawks still managed to hold up that idea of playing with their competition instead of beating them down consistently throughout the season. The positive to that statement though, is that they have been in close games relatively all year which will make it much easier to not get rattled when they are down like they were for most of the 49er game a week ago. All of those close games (even if they were against terrible opponents) helped this team through adversity and helped them understand that every ball game is won in the 4th quarter (not that Pete Carroll doesn't preach it enough) but with that mindset heading into each game, as long as it's close heading into the 4th, you really can never count the Seahawks out except for the 3 losses they had during the regular season. If they keep it close, they have a chance, and if they can run the ball, Denver will have a big mess on their hands because the more the Seahawks can establish the run game, the more room Russell Wilson will have to work.
5 Key Factors to Watch
1. Time of Possession: Who ever holds the ball the longest will win this game and will have the edge going into the 4th quarter. If it's an even affair going into the 4th, then don't bother with who will have the advantage.
2. 3rd Down Situations: The team who can convert the most on 3rd down will get the edge in this game in the mental aspect because of how critical 3rd down is on the defense. The more 3rd and short situations (3rd & 5 or shorter) a team will be in, the better off they will be to converting 1st downs and moving the chains. The team with the more 3rd and longs will be the team more often walking away without a Super Bowl Trophy.
3. Turnovers: The only team out of these two that thrives most off of Turnovers is the Seattle Seahawks, but if Denver can find ways to get the ball back, Peyton will make them count. Who ever starts turning the ball over or is nervous out the gate with the hot potato, don't be shocked if they get down early.
4. Running Game Efficiency: Who ever can pound the rock up the middle for 3-4 yards in this game with the most success will ultimately be holding the trophy, Unless Peyton has 600 yard passing, or Russell Wilson decides to make it a one man show like we know he can. Other than that, the Run Game is going to be very important in deciding this game for both teams.
5. Special Teams Play: In most Super Bowls I wouldn't say the Special Teams should be something to look out for but considering the style of both these teams and how field position really will dictate the outcome of the game, who ever can win the field position battle will hold the upper hand on the opponent. The weather also will be a huge factor in determining the outcome of this key factor.
Prediction Quarter by Quarter
Both teams come out and get their feet wet. I think the Broncos get on the board first and the Seahawks stumble a bit freaking out everybody in the Northwest. The refs will be strict in the first quarter, Richard Sherman will have a pass interference called on him and all Seahawks fans will reminisce on what happened in Super Bowl XL back in 2006 where the refs screwed over the Seahawks. Peyton will look sharp, but look hesitant as well, as he too will be figuring out how to play in the unpredictable conditions at East Rutherford. Peyton will control the ball, get his team into the endzone near the end of the 1st Quarter, and the Seahawks will look flat. End of 1st Quarter: DEN 7 SEA 0
The refs don't let up and the Broncos start to throttle Russell Wilson. Broncos get the ball back and Peyton gets throttled too (for the first time in a while). Seahawks get the ball back and finally start getting the Beastmode involved and they get some points on the board via a short field goal. Peyton comes back and gets a great drive going that will make the entire northwest freakout on Twitter as everybody does during the game. Seahawks get the ball back and answer with a redzone field goal when they should have punched it in for a TD. Broncos get the ball back with little time and knee it so they can get Bruno Mars ready for the frigid Halftime show. Halftime: DEN 14 SEA 6
Seahawks score a touchdown first in the quarter with a great drive by Russell Wilson to get within one point. The Broncos have a 3 & Out and the Seahawks get the ball back and really start handing the load to Marshawn Lynch as he helps them get into field goal range on a long methodical drive. The Seahawks take the lead and everybody in the northwest finally cools their jets about the referees. The Broncos come back with a long drive of their own but it creeps into the beginning of the 4th quarter as they are threatening in the redzone. End of 3rd Quarter: SEA 16 DEN 14
The Broncos have a huge turnover in the redzone, but the Seahawks only settle for a field goal as they just can't quite cap the win. Seahawks have a 19-14 lead with 10 minutes to go. Peyton Manning gets the ball back and makes an epic 4+ minute drive and gets the Broncos into the endzone for the touchdown. They go for two and fail making it a 20-19 lead with around 5 minutes left in the game. Matt Prater kicks the ball off and Percy Harvin makes his contract worth every penny till the end of time as he brings back a 100+ yard kick return for a touchdown. The Seahawks go for two and fail making it 25-20 with 5 minutes to play. Peyton Manning gets the ball back and only gets his team into field goal range at the 2 minute warning. They make the field goal, and it's 25-23 with less than 2 minutes left in the game (Broncos have all three timeouts) and they kick the ball away to Seattle who has a touchback and starts their drive at the 20. The Seahawks get a three and out, but Denver uses all three timeouts and gets the ball back with 1:28 left on the clock. Peyton starts his drive at his own 35 yard line, knowing he has the best long range kicker of all time at his disposal. He gets the team to the Seahawks 28 yard line, setting up for a 45 yard field goal to win the game with 3 seconds left. The Seahawks Ice Matt Prater right before they set up to kick, Seattle has a heart attack because he misses the kick (similar to what happened in the Falcons game in 2013 when they Iced the kicker and he missed, than made it on the actual attempt). The Broncos snap it again, Prater's kick is up, it looks really really good, then out of no where... the New York gust blows the ball at a 30+ mph wind gust to the left... Seattle wins the Super Bowl and it goes down as one of the best moments in Seattle Sports history.
Final: SEA 25 DEN 23
Percy Harvin wins MVP with his legendary kick return that sends Seattle into a tizzy, and in the only game he has a large impact on, he makes the difference in the game with some big plays along with the kick return.
I picked Seattle before the season to win 24-23. What is one extra point going to do? I might as well go out with a bang and add on one more for good measure. Enjoy the Super Bowl everybody, this should truly be one of the best.
Listen to my radio show I do with Host Marty Elm this Monday and Wednesday as we talk Super Bowl all week long! 8 PM pacific time (it's only 30 minutes long) and we have podcasts up already if you want to hear our predictions of past football games, and other sports stories! Here's the link! CLICK HERE!!!