Seattle Seahawks at Denver Broncos:
Finally the big game has arrived. After an epic season, we are watching the best two teams play for the final, which is rare in the NFL. The two number 1 seeds are playing in the Super Bowl for the first time since 2009, Saints won Peyton Manning’s Colts. This game is even more intriguing because it will pit the number one scoring defense in the league verses the number one scoring offense in NFL history. This game has great matchups, Peyton Manning versus Richard Sherman, Broncos’ passing offense, which is the best in the league, versus Seattle’s secondary, which is the best in the league, and Marshawn Lynch aka Beast Mode verses the Broncos’ run defense, which was surprisingly the 8th best unit in the NFL during the regular season. The Seahawks were able to sustain success throughout the season because their defense ranks first against the pass and seventh against the run while their offense has taken great strides with Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch. Although Seattle is predominantly a run first team, 4th in yards per game and 2nd in attempts per game in the league, with Marhawn Lynch and a versatile Russell Wilson, the passing offense was incredible consistent and efficient. While the Seahawks finished 26th in passing yards per game, they were fourth in the league in yards per attempt, ninth in completion percentage, and third in interceptions. Although the stats may be random, it shows that the team strategically uses its running game to set up the defense for the play action pass down the field, which is rarely intercepted, but commonly completed. Although the Seahawks do not have a big play receiver, the group is steady and catches every ball thrown their way. Although Harvin has been hurt throughout the season, he has great talent and speed that could break a game open, if he can play through the game. Along with the ability to throw the ball for a big play, Marshawn Lynch is a great running back that wears a defense until they break and give up a huge run. As seen in the last view playoff games, Lynch has rushed for a long touchdown late in every game, which gave the Seahawks the win. The Seahawks have a great balance of big plays while limiting their turnovers. The Seahawks should be able to throw on the Broncos as long as they block for Wilson because the Broncos’ secondary is the worst part of their team and is facing nagging injuries. Although Lynch may have trouble in the first half against the stout Broncos’ run defense, he should be able to wear them down and eventually break huge runs at the end of the game. Also, Wilson may try to run more often if his offensive line is having trouble like their game against the 49ers, although the 49ers have a far superior pass rush.
Along with the great offense, the defense complements the offense because it causes turnovers and stops every offense it has faced over the last few games. The defense has been great because it plays to its strengths: its secondary. Along with Richard Sherman, one of the best corners in the league, the Seahawks have Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, and Brian Maxwell. Besides Earl Thomas, the trio has great speed and size while playing physical football at the line of scrimmage. They will need to continue playing bump and run defense against Peyton and his wide outs so that they can disrupt the rhythm of the Broncos’ offense. Although Thomas does not have the size, he is a ball hawk in the secondary and makes great plays that alter the path of the game for the Seahawks. Although they will probably switch the men they play, fans should expect Sherman on D. Thomas, Chancellor and linebackers on J. Thomas, Earl Thomas or a linebacker on Welker, and Maxwell on Decker. Since the Seahawks can play one on one coverage in the backfield, the front four of the Seahawks is given more time to rush the passer. The Broncos’ offensive line has been great this postseason and Peyton has not been sacked in any of the previous two games. The combination of Clemens, Mebane, Bryant, and McDaniel must apply pressure on Peyton in order to force errant passes and turnovers. Although Seattle rarely blitzes, their linebackers are solid, athletic, and have the ability to play all over the football field. The linebackers will need to occasionally add pressure on Manning while also defending the run and stopping the short routes to Welker or Thomas over the middle. The Seattle defense needs to be able to stop the run in order to put Manning into “throwing downs”. This will help them come off the field and possibly cause a turnover. The cold and the wind should help Seattle’s ferocious and aggressive defense. Fans need to look at the way the game is called because it could make a major difference in the game. Although the refs have not called many holds or pass interferences on Seattle this year, the Seahawks are known for holding and interfering with the receivers. If the refs make these calls, it will give Manning extra downs, which will lead to a demise of the Seahawks.
Since the first game, which featured the Ravens and the Broncos, it seemed that the Broncos would make it the Super Bowl. Although the Broncos could not maintain the pace that they set in the first game, 7 touchdowns, they became the greatest scoring offensive of all-time. The Broncos have been lead by Peyton Manning all season long. Manning set the record for most passing yards and passing touchdowns in a season. Peyton would not have been able to succeed without the best receiving core in the league and one of the best and most consistent offensive lines in the league. During the season, D. Thomas, E. Decker, J. Thomas, and W. Welker all recorded more than 65 catches, 775 yards, and 10 touchdowns. The Broncos’ receivers posted great numbers because they are skilled and Peyton is able to fit the ball into tight windows. The Broncos’ receivers are big, fast, and have great hands, which enables them to win one on one matchups and separate from opposing cornerbacks. Manning has time to throw to all of his receivers because his offensive line is one of the best in the league. Although they lost Ryan Clady early in the season, the unit has been great over the last two games. Over the past two games, Peyton Manning has faced little pressure and has not been sacked. If the Seahawks cannot provide pressure on Manning, the Legion of Boom will be unable to stop Peyton and the best passing attack of all time. Along with Manning’s ability to spread the ball by passing, the Broncos have a very good running game that compliments their passing attack. Along with having the ability to catch the ball, Knowshon Moreno has rushed for over 1000 yards while recording 10 touchdowns. Lately, Montee Ball has been effective and provides Denver with a physical back that can wear down opposing lineman. If the wind affects the game, the Broncos should be confident that they can move the ball without passing the ball. The Seahawks are unlikely to hide many of their schemes so Peyton Manning will need to execute and put his offensive pieces in the correct spots in order to score points.
Since the Broncos’ offense has been historic, the Broncos’ defense has been very good and fantastic over the past four games, including two playoff games. Over the past four games, @Houston, @Oakland, San Diego, and New England, the Broncos’ defense has allowed on average 15 points per game. Although the Broncos ranked 26th in the league in passing yards allowed, the pass rush has improved and the cornerbacks are playing well even though they lost their best corner Chris Harris. The combination of Robert Ayers, Trevor Knighton, and Shaun Phillips has been great and has recorded five sacks in the past two games. Although the Denver secondary does not have as much talent as the Seahawks, Bailey, Rodgers-Cromartie, and Jammer have been playing well stop opposing quarterbacks in the first half. Although the trio has been good in the first half, the group has allowed more open receivers. In the game against the Chargers, Rivers and Allen torched the Broncos and almost came back to tie the game. Although the group will not have to stop a big play receiver, they must ensure that the Seahawks’ wide receivers do not run behind the defense. While the secondary needs to stop the big plays from Russell Wilson, the Broncos’ front seven must stop Marshawn Lynch and the Seattle rushing game. The best part of the Broncos’ defense is their rushing defense, which ranked 8th in the league during the regular season. The group has been successful because they have big, athletic players on the line. Last week, the group put forth their best effort and held the Patriots’ running backs to 57 yards, although they posted 235 yards the week before. The Broncos’ defense will be tested because they have not seen a running back like Marshawn Lynch. In order to stop the big, powerful, and fast running back, they need to stay fresh and keep Lynch from bouncing outside. If the Broncos’ can keep Lynch inside the tackles, the smaller defensive backs will not have to attempt to tackle Lynch, which is nearly impossible.
Although the game will be close, the Seahawks should be able to win the game because they have a better overall team. The Seahawks will keep Manning off the field because they usually win the time of possession battle with Lynch. Also, the Seattle secondary should limit Manning because they will throw off his timing and their size will affect the receivers. Although Wilson has not played well lately, Percy Harvin is set to return, which gives him another competent receiver that can garner yards after the catch.
Prediction: Seahawks win 24-23
Pics and Stats from ESPN.com