Even the casual sports fan knows that Super Bowl XLVIII features the sexiest possible matchup.
The Broncos averaged 38 points and 457 yards per game during the regular season. 340 of those yards came via Peyton Manning.
The former division rival Seahawks allowed 14 points and 274 yards in 2013 on a weekly basis. And in a year where quarterbacks lit up defenses, Seattle averaged a miniscule 172 yards against through the air.
Turn on Sports Center and you’ll be bombarded with the label of this game being the unstoppable force versus the immovable object.
It’s the number one offense and number one defense.
Cue the old adage “defense wins championships.”
One would be foolish to stick to that idea Sunday, especially considering that the greatest quarterback in NFL history plays for the Broncos.
The Seahawks defense ranks in a league of its own. They’re big, physical, disciplined and have an amazing ability to force turnovers at any time.
But they haven’t had the task of dealing with five skill position players that amassed at least 1,000 yards each.
The most talked about one-on-one matchup has been Richard Sherman and Demaryius Thomas.
The Seahawks number one cornerback could shut down the Broncos number one receiver.
Byron Maxwell could give Eric Decker problems.
And Knowshon Moreno might not have the same running lanes he did against the Patriots two weeks ago.
You can’t stop everybody though.
Look for Julius Thomas and Wes Welker to have huge games. During the playoffs, the duo has combined for 24 catches and 237 yards.
In spite of its lack of hype, this game will be decided on the other side of the ball.
Russell Wilson isn’t asked to do very much as quarterback of the Seahawks.
He’s much more of a threat outside the pocket as opposed to trying to imitate guys like Manning and Tom Brady.
Don’t read too much into his 89.1 playoff quarterback rating. Just consider that Wilson has completed only 58 percent of his passes, a far cry from Manning’s 72 percent.
And compared to the Broncos receivers, the Seahawks don’t really have any downfield weapons.
I’ll take Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Champ Bailey over Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate any day. Tony Carter figures to be opposite Percy Harvin.
Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch against the Broncos front seven may be the difference in which team hoists the Lombardi Trophy.
The Broncos handled Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy during the regular season, but haven’t seen a type of rusher like Lynch.
“Beastmode” will easily receive 25 carries Sunday, maybe more. He’s the type of back that pounds a defense with powerful carries of four and five yards. As the game wears on, he has the ability to break off a long, game changing run.
Jack Del Rio’s defense ranked eighth stopping the run during the regular season. They’ve been great through two games in the playoffs.
It looks as though they’re peaking at the perfect time.
Can they do it again?
Three keys to the game for Denver:
- Receivers must win. The Seahawks play physical press coverage. The Broncos receivers were criticized early in the season for being too soft. Assuming the referees don’t take control of the game, it will be a wrestling match on the outside.
- Don’t turn it over. Nobody forces turnovers like Seattle. Even if the Broncos are moving the ball efficiently, they can’t have a lapse against this defense.
- Keep Lynch under 100. The only way the Seahawks win is if Lynch goes over 100 yards for the day. Denver needs to force Wilson to make plays if they get beat.
Final thought: I don’t see the Seahawks scoring more than 20 points. Can they really hold the most dynamic offense in NFL history to fewer than that? I don’t see it, especially away from home.
My prediction: Broncos-30, Seahawks-20