As all the fans prepare themselves for the cold in Metlife stadium, the Broncos and Seahawks are preparing themselves for the biggest game of their lives. This should be an exciting game as the #1 offense and defense square off, playing to go down in history. Here are a couple of reasons why each team can win the big game.
How the Seattle Seahawks can win:
1.) Defense wins championships: In the Super Bowl Era, the team ranked #1 in team defense has gone on to win all but one time. This Seattle defense is currently setting its legacy as one of the premier defenses in NFL history. This might be upsetting to those who remember the 85′ Bears or the 00′ Ravens or even the Steel Curtain of the 70s but it is true. In order for Seattle’s defense to have a major impact on this game they need to stop Manning from converting 3rd downs and force 1-2 turnovers. Both have been routine for the Seahawks as they led the league in turnovers forced and came in 3rd in first downs allowed. As I accurately predicted, if Seattle can force Manning to make errant throws they have a shot.
2.) Percy Harvin: Coming into this week there was a lot of talk about Richard Sherman and his bravado and Peyton Manning’s legacy, but the real X-factor will be Harvin, by far the most explosive player on either team. He has the ability to wreck games and I think he will play a major role in Seattle’s offense. He is also a dynamic special teams player with the ability to take any punt or kickoff to the house. Look at last year’s Superbowl, the real MVP was Jacoby Jones, a quick receiver who can stretch the defense and alter field position. Jones returned a kickoff for a touchdown and caught a 56 yard pass for a TD. Watch Harvin make a couple of big plays if Seattle is to win.
3.) Beast Mode: He may not talk much but as he says “I’m just about that action” and its true. Marshawn Lynch is one of the most powerful yet elusive backs in the game, racking up 1257 yards on 301 carries, proving to be the bell-cow of Seattle offense. Although Denver ranked 7th in yards allowed to running backs, Marshawn has conquered better defenses running for a combined 170 yards in two games against San Francisco (ranked 4th) and another 181 yards in two games against Arizona (ranked 1st). Actions speak louder than words and Beast Mode will be yelling all night against Denver.
How the Denver Broncos can win:
1.) Too many weapons: Julius Thomas, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker, Knowshown Moreno, Montee Ball. All have been major contributors in Peyton Manning’s spectacular MVP season and will have to be if they want to win the Superbowl. The Seattle Seahawks secondary is stout, armed by Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, and Richard Sherman as well as some less heralded but talented players like Jeremy Lane, Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond III. The constant pressure these receivers and backs provide make it hard on even the best secondaries to cover all of the options. Even if Peyton’s first, second and third options are shut down he still has the ability to dump it down to his backs in the flat or find a slot receiver across the middle.
2.) Keep the Ball: Denver had 26 turnovers this year with 16 fumbles and with a playmaking defense this is recipe for disaster. In their three losses the Broncos have seven turnovers, proving that they are not as invincible as everyone believes they are. Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball better cover up that ball because losing a Peyton Manning possession would be demoralizing.
3.) Keep Wilson in the Pocket: Russell Wilson had the highest completion percentage when scrambling out of the pocket and with his ability to run, this could make for a long day for the Broncos defense. Wilson has been struggling lately with only a 34.7 total QBR in post-season, granted those were two elite defenses in New Orleans and San Francisco, but still the point remains that Wilson is vulnerable. Denver ranked last in sacks this year but Seattle ranked last in pass protection and sack rate, so it is possible to penetrate the offensive line. The pass rushers need to have a good game for Denver to ward off Wilson and the Seahawks.
Prediction: Seattle 24- 20
Seattle defense proves to be the kryptonite to Peyton’s remarkable season as the Emerald city gets its first Superbowl ring.
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.
The NFL must be ecstatic about the two match-ups in the Conference Championships, the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos in the AFC game and the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC. Brady vs. Manning, Wilson vs. Kaepernick, legend vs. legend and rising star vs rising star. Here are my predictions for both games.
AFC Championship: New England Patriots vs. Denver Broncos 3:00 PM EST
Reasons Why the Patriots will win:
1.) Belichick and Brady have Peyton’s number: In the 14 times Brady and Manning have squared off (Denver and Indy), the Pats are 10-4. In those 14 games Manning has thrown for 29 TDs and 20 INTs, a rate less than impressive for a quarterback of his stature. Earlier this year the Patriots came back from a 24-0 deficit to win in overtime in Foxborough. After leading three drives that resulted in 17 points in the first half (Von Miller had a fumble return TD), Manning could only muster seven more points in the second half, giving further evidence on why other pundits question Manning’s “clutch gene”. When you are one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game, you are graded on the highest curve and your accolades are praised but your mistakes are also highlighted. And truthfully, Manning has work to do if he wants to overcome his reputation as a “regular season quarterback.” A playoff victory over the Pats would help but seems improbable.
2.) Playing with House Money: Another truth about this game is the Pats have less pressure on them then the Broncos do. The Broncos have put up impressive stats, breaking the total points record with 603 and obviously one of, if not the greatest statistical years ever had by a quarterback. Meanwhile, Brady and the Pats have been chugging along losing bodies on both sides of the ball. On offense they lost Gronk for the first six weeks and then lost him for the season with a torn ACL, wide receivers Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and oft injured Danny Amendola have combined to miss 13 games this year. And, of course, they lost Aaron Hernandez because of his arrest for murder. These losses on the offense would make any team less of a threat, but not the Patriots as they turned Julian Edelman, a college quarterback drafted in the 7th round into a 100 catch player. On defense, they lost stud defensive tackle Vince Wilfork to a ruptured achilles, and linebackers Brandon Spikes and Jerrod Mayo to other season ending injuries. Did this stop the Pats? No. Players like Jamie Collins and emerging stars like Chandler Jones stepped up and preformed valiantly for their injured teammates. I know the Pats won’t make the excuse but they most definitely have one to fall back on, hence the pressure is off them and on Manning to beat such a depleted Patriots team.
3.) The Run Game: Coming into the season, LaGarrette Blount was considered to be a head case that would never be solved, but now with the Patriots he has emerged as their lead running back. In his lone playoff appearance, Blount rushed for 166 yards and four TDs, incredible numbers for a player as stout as Blount. This hot streak could continue as the Broncos gave up 15 rushing TDs this season. The Patriots also have the advantage in terms of running back depth as Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen provide a balance of both speed and power that should wear down the Broncos defense. With the high altitude in Denver, runners can tire easily and with this litany of quality backs, the Patriots should have no trouble interchanging all three. Although the focus will be on Brady vs. Manning, the running game will have to run down the clock and keep Manning and his potent offense off the field.
Reasons Why the Broncos will win:
1.) Better Weapons: I just mentioned that the Pats have three solid running backs who can carry the load on offense, but the Broncos have a stable (horse joke haha) of receiving and running options that only make Peyton Manning’s job much easier. Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker all had 10 or more TDs this season and Knowshon Moreno had a career year with a combined 1,538 yards and 13 TDs on the ground and through the air. For a secondary that gave up 239 yards per game, the Patriots do not seem equipped to handle all of the Broncos’ targets. If Manning gets going early, it could be a long day for the Patriots.
2.) Peyton is on fire: Peyton Manning will be the MVP and I do not want to hear people make the case for Brady to win it because of the Patriots injuries. He amassed 5,477 yards and 55 TDs with only 10 INTs and a total QBR of 82.1 (0-100). In the playoff game against the Chargers, Manning had a solid game throwing for 230 yards with two TDs and an interception with 91.1 QBR, but the most important moment came in the 4th quarter with San Diego mounting a comeback and Manning complete a first down to Julius Thomas, virtually putting the game away. He made the critical throw and avoided criticism for at least another week. As I mentioned before the Pats defense against the pass is vulnerable and Manning could have a great day if he avoids turnovers.
3.) Revenge is in order: The Broncos should come into this game with a little chip on their shoulders because of the aforementioned regular season defeat at New England earlier this year. This would a perfect opportunity for Peyton to erase the hard memories of Brady defeating him in various playoff games and go on to play in the Super Bowl. Peyton doesn’t have that many more NFL years in him, so if the Broncos want to make a run at a championship, they better win this game.
This game is going to be a high scoring affair with the game probably coming down to who has the ball last. An if they scenario happens, I have more confidence in Brady than I do in Manning. Pats 38- Broncos 35.
NFC Championships: San Francisco 49ners vs Seattle Seahawks 6:30 PM
Reasons why the Niners will win:
1.) They’re on fire: The Niners have a similar feel to the 2011 Green Bay Packers, star quarterback playing at an extremely high level and a defense making key plays. The great thing for the Niners is their defense is better than the Packers’ defense was– to limit star quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton to a combined 30 points is fantastic. Colin Kaepernick has been highly effective, running for clutch 3rd down conversions and throwing strikes to his receivers and most importantly he has been playing safe, game managing style of football, allowing his stout defense to assert their dominance. Hot teams tend to be dominant during the playoffs and the Niners have run through their opponents and now face a struggling Seattle team.
2.) Better receiving core: Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis are all hard match-ups for secondary players, even for a talented Seattle team. Anquan plays a physical style and won’t be intimidated by press coverage or the hard hitting Kam Chancellor. Look for CK7 to look for ‘Quan if he gets in trouble inside the pocket. Michael Crabtree has provided a deep-threat presence that allows for other receivers to get open across the middle of the field. He too has a tremendous set of hands as his coach Harbaugh said he would trust Crabtree to catch a ball to save his life. And then finally, Vernon Davis one of the most versatile players in the game, combining speed with power creating a headaches for defensive coordinators everywhere. Davis, like most of the Niners, has struggled against the ‘Hawks hard hitting Legion of Boom as he was held to 41 yards receiving in both games this year. He might play the role of decoy, allowing Anquan and Crabtree to roam down the sidelines.
3.) Better Linebackers: This is a close battle but the edge goes to the Niners as they have the best two inside linebackers in the game in Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman. Both have sideline to sideline speed and will not be afraid to confront Beast Mode head-on. The X-factor will be Ahmad Brooks a combo-linebacker who can rush the passer and play the run game. The linebacking corps also provides the emotional edge for the Niners as their leadership goes unquestioned. Look for the two-headed monster of Willis and Bowman to play well if the Niners want to win this game.
Reasons why the Seahawks will win:
1.) They have a psychological edge at home: The 12th man is more like an outdoor asylum, full of crazy fans who bleed Blue and Green. The Seahawks are 15-1 in the last two years at home and they seem to play with an inherent swagger in the Emerald City. The Seahawks have also demolished the Niners at home the last two years by the scores of 42-13 (2012) and 29-3 (2013). Kaepernick has struggled mightily in Seattle with only 1 TD and 4 INTs and with a quarterback rating of 41.7. The playoffs will be even louder and the crowd will definitely cause problems for the Niners.
2.) Best secondary in all of football: The Legion of Boom is by far the strength of the Seattle Seahawks. Richard Sherman is the best corner (DPOY candidate), Earl Thomas is the best free safety (DPOY front-runner) and Kam Chancellor is the best strong safety (should be DPOY candidate). They hit hard, they talk trash and most importantly they play the ball, turning unadvised throws into costly interceptions. After the suspensions of Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond, players like Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane stepped up and played superbly with 17 passes defensed and 4 INTs. The Legion of Boom needs to come to play and they should create at least a turnover.
3.) Beast Mode: Marshawn Lynch is a handful, combining 215 lbs of straight muscle with 4.46 speed means trouble for opposing defenses. Marshawn has had success against a stout 49ers defense rushing for 170 yards and 3Tds in their two meetings this year. He can wear down a defense, collecting extra yards after initial contact and turning first downs into touchdowns. If Seattle wants to take the pressure off of Russell Wilson they need to have Marshawn touch the ball at least 30 times.
The Seahawks are close to invincible at home and until the Niners beat them in Seattle, I am picking the Seahawks. The Niners can’t stop Beast Mode and the Seahawks, supported by their crazed 12th man, wins 28-21.