Media day is old news. The Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks have talked as much as they can about everything football and beyond.
When: Monday, 3 February, 10:30 am
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
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Tip: Denver Broncos to win
Now it’s time to get down to the most important part of this week in New York-New Jersey: Who will win Super Bowl XLVIII?
All that’s standing between Peyton Manning and his second Super Bowl ring is the greatest defensive challenge he has faced during his most impressive season.
The Seahawks’ defence is No. 1 for several reasons.
— Their defensive backs get most of the attention because of what Richard Sherman says and what they all do. They cover, hit hard and tackle well. Add it up, and it’s difficult to get first downs, let alone long balls and big plays after the catch.
— The Seahawks’ deep edge pass rush led by Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett is one of the most fierce in the NFL.
What can Manning and Broncos do about it?
For starters, Manning hasn’t been sacked in the playoffs and he simply doesn’t let much pressure get to him. Expect Manning, as usual, to be patient if the plays he wants aren’t there early, and he’ll focus on protecting the ball until he can make the right adjustments.
If Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are bottled up outside, Manning needs help from Julius Thomas and Wes Welker making catches in dangerous traffic.
The Broncos’ offence is balanced, too. Strong interior run blocking has opened the way for Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball. Teams have been able to run on the Seahawks, but the Broncos will need to stick with it and continue to pound the ball between the tackles for success. And if they hope to spread the field and run against unloaded fronts, Denver will need to mix it up with power sets.
Don’t be surprised to see Denver’s offence start slowly until Manning heats up in time for a second-half duel with Russell Wilson.
But this isn’t a Seahawks team leaning on a strong defence because it has no offensive firepower. In fact, in most other matchups Wilson wouldn’t be the ‘other quarterback’. That the spotlight has been on Manning only takes more pressure off a second-year passer in his first Super Bowl.
So does the fact that Wilson and this Seattle offence faces a more favourable matchup in the Broncos’ defence.
Wilson and his receivers have been underplayed in this matchup. The Broncos are without their most disruptive pass rusher (Von Miller) and top cover man (Chris Harris). As much as they want to keep Wilson in the pocket, he’s set up to have success throwing downfield from either there or off scrambles.
Whether it’s Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin or Jermaine Kearse, Wilson will hit on a few deep balls, the sneaky strength of Seattle’s offence. That’s before getting to the fact healthy wild card Percy Harvin will draw plenty of attention working the slot, facilitating the outside routes.
The Seahawks’ running game hasn’t quite hit true ‘Beast Mode’ with Marshawn Lynch, and some of that is tied to offensive line reshuffling. The Broncos’ run defence once had a lot of holes, but switching up some personnel and scheming in the front seven has plugged them. Denver can contain him on early downs and will be disciplined in not letting Lynch break one after contact.
That means it comes down to Wilson.
A quarterback will turn in a winning MVP performance in Super Bowl XLVIII; it just won’t be Manning. While he’s looking for the storybook ending to a great comeback and record-breaking season, Wilson, after some support from Seattle’s defence, will raise the Lombardi Trophy.
And for that reason it’s: Seahawks 27, Broncos 24.
Previous Super Bowl champions
2013: Baltimore Ravens 34-31 San Francisco 49ers
2012: New York Giants 21-17 New England Patriots
2011: Green Bay Packers 31-25 Pittsburgh Steelers
2010: New Orleans Saints 31-17 Indianapolis Colts
2009: Pittsburgh Steelers 27-23 Arizona Cardinals
2008: New York Giants 17-14 New England Patriots
2007: Indianapolis Colts 29-17 Chicago Bears
2006: Pittsburgh Steelers 21-10 Seattle Seahawks
2005: New England Patriots 24-21 Philadelphia Eagles
2004: New England Patriots 32-29 Carolina Panthers