Super Bowl XLVIII: Matchups & Predictions
There has been plenty of hype over the last two weeks in the lead-up to Super Bowl XLVIII. Would the weather cooperate? Would Marshawn Lynch actually say anything to the press? Would anyone from the Denver Broncos or the Seattle Seahawks get lost in The City That Never Sleeps? Finally, who would actually win the game? We will take on that last question in a moment, but there are some other interesting factoids about this year’s Big Game.
Factoid #1 – This is the first time that the two #1 seeds have met in the Super Bowl since 1990 (San Francisco vs. Denver) and the first time that the #1 offense (Denver) has met the #1 defense (Seattle) since 2009 (New Orleans vs. Indianapolis).
Factoid #2 – Seattle QB Russell Wilson is only the sixth man to ever start a Super Bowl in his rookie or second year (last year 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick became the fifth; the last winner was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger).
Factoid #3 – In two of the last fifteen Super Bowls, a player who averaged 100 yards a game hit that mark.
Factoid #4 – Teams that have had the #1 defense coming into the Super Bowl are 12-3; teams that have had the #1 offense are 5-10.
Factoid #5 – Neither team has an outstanding record in the Super Bowl. Denver is 2-4 lifetime in the Big Game and Seattle has lost its only appearance.
Factoid #6 – No one on the Seattle roster has any Super Bowl experience.
Factoid #7 – We’ve seen one of the biggest swings in the line in recent Super Bowl memory. After the conference title games, Seattle was installed as a 2.5 point favorite in the game. There was so much action that it swung five points to where Denver became a 2.5 point favorite only a day later.
OK, now that we got that out of our system, let’s take a look at the matchups.
The quarterback comparison is hands down in favor of the Broncos. Peyton Manning has been waiting for this day since his departure from Indianapolis and, along the way, he has set numerous records this year (TD passes and total passing yards, just to name a couple). Seahawks QB Russell Wilson in the new-style “hybrid” quarterback, just as likely to take off on a scramble as to pitch a laser to a receiver 50 yards away. Sorry, Russell, there’s no doubt (and I don’t think even he would argue) that Manning is the better QB.
I also believe that, as a whole, the Broncos have the better running back and wide receiver corps. Even though Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch has carried the rock for the ‘Hawks this year (and done it well), the Broncos have done it with a quartet of backs that bring different abilities to the table. Put Knowshon Moreno, Montee Ball, C. J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman into one running back and you would have Lynch but, with the numbers, there’s some diversity in the Broncos offensive attack.
This same theory goes in comparing the wide outs. Denver just keeps running guys at you (Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker, just for starters) while Golden Tate and Percy Harvin (who has played all of 39 snaps this season) do the work for the Seahawks. Even if you throw the tight ends into the mix (Jacob Tamme for the Broncos, Zach Miller for the Seahawks, basically a push), the offensive supremacy would easily go to the side of the BRONCOS.
Ah, here’s where it gets fun, Everyone knows that the Seattle defense is the #1 squad in the NFL, but Denver isn’t exactly a slouch in that department. They were eighth in holding opposing rushers down (101.6 yards a game), just behind that vaunted Seahawk defense. The difference is in passing defense where Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and the rest of the Seahawks defensive backfield have been a nightmare for opposition quarterbacks (first overall versus the 27th ranked Denver defensive backfield).
This is where the true nuts of the game will be decided and it will hinge on two things. One, if Denver can stop Lynch, Wilson and the Seattle running game, then it is going to be up to Wilson to try to pass Seattle to the Lombardi Trophy, not exactly something they’re looking to do. You know Manning is going to be winging the ball for the Broncos, so the Seahawk defensive backfield will have to be on top of its game. Examining all the evidence, you do have to give a slight favorite status to the SEAHAWKS, but not as much as you might have thought.
This is an area of the game that will be pretty much nonexistent and that is because both teams employ outstanding kickers who will bomb every kickoff out of the end zone. Seattle’s Steven Hauschka and Denver’s Matt Prater are two of the best in the business and neither should have any troubles kicking in the Meadowlands. As such, we score this one as a PUSH.
You couldn’t ask for two better coaches that have been battle-tested. The Seahawks’ Pete Carroll and the Broncos’ John Fox have both been in title games (Carroll in college, but still) and have performed outstandingly. Fox probably doesn’t get the respect that he deserves but, as long as his team is successful, he really doesn’t crave the spotlight. Carroll, on the other hand, seems to want to get his face in the cameras. This doesn’t have anything to do with how each man coaches, however, so we once again call for the PUSH.
On a Roll
Both teams, naturally, are playing well at this point in the season (otherwise they wouldn’t be in the Super Bowl!), but the Seahawks had the tougher fight in reaching this point. The 49ers, the team they defeated in the NFC title game, gave them all they could take in simply winning the division, let alone that NFC title game. In their last seven games, the Seahawks are 5-2 with the only ugly game there a loss at home to Arizona.
On the other hand, Denver pretty much decimated everything in their path to reaching the Super Bowl. Although San Diego gave them some headaches in the divisional round of the playoffs, the Broncos never seemed to be threatened by New England in the AFC title game. Denver has gone 6-1 in their last seven and some would say that regular season loss to San Diego was the “wake up” call they needed to finish off the season strong.
No way to choose one over the other here…we’re hitting the PUSH button again.
Both teams will be without one of the major things that has given their teams a mystique. The Seattle “12th Man” is one of the biggest home-field advantages in the NFL. Unfortunately, that isn’t going to translate to New Jersey’s Meadowlands…excuse me, MetLife Stadium; Super Bowls are corporate affairs and, as such, the teams only get 17,000 tickets (and they normally hand them out to corporate suits). Denver also will face having to play at sea level instead of their perch in the Mile High City that saps the strength of their opposition. Who can overcome their loss the easiest? I have to go with the BRONCOS here as they are 8-0 on the road this year AND have played previously in this stadium (albeit against the New York Jets on a Sunday night in September).
The key for the Seahawks is to keep Manning and the Broncos’ offense off the field. To do this, Lynch has to have an outstanding game and Wilson has to stay away from any huge mistakes. The Broncos simply have to keep performing at the same level they have all season; while that task is going to be made more difficult with Seattle’s strong defense, Manning will eventually find a way to bust through and make the big plays.
Final Score: Denver 27, Seattle 23 (Denver covers spread and goes over the 48 O/U)
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