Battle of Wits: Manning vs. The Legion of Boom in Super Bowl XLVIII
Created on Jan. 31, 2014 6:25 PM EST
With Super Bowl XLVIII only a couple days away I'll look into this dream match-up and predict who I think will come out on top. This year faces off the number one offense (Denver Broncos) against the number one defense (Seattle Seahawks). This has only happened six times over the past 47 Super Bowls with the top defense winning five out of those six match-ups. The San Francisco 49ers were the only number one offensive team, in Super Bowl XXIV, to come out a winner as they dismantled the Denver Broncos 55-10. The number one defensive teams averaged 26.8 points to the number one offenses 23 points in those six games. Those games and players have nothing to do with this game and these players, but it is an interesting trend that continues to back the statement: 'Defense Wins Championships.'
Super Bowl XLVII: Denver Broncos vs. Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium
The only thing left for Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos to do to claim themselves as the best offensive team in NFL history is beat the Seattle Seahawks on Super Bowl Sunday. Recently, the New England Patriots thought they had that title in their grasp a few years ago. They went through the regular season and playoffs 18-0 and averaged 36.8 points and went into Super Bowl XLII versus the New York Giants as the unanimous favorite. The Giants had something to say about that and held the Patriots to only 14 points and came out victorious 17-14. I believe the Broncos have a better overall offense then the Patriots did. With four different receivers (Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Julius Thomas, and Wes Welker) all catching 10+ touchdowns. Going up against such a stout and physical defense like Seattle, Manning knows that he will have to make adjustments at the line of scrimmage to get his receivers into favorable match-ups. Richard Sherman will most likely be on Demaryius Thomas, but Manning can move Thomas around to get him in better coverages that he can win. Julius Thomas has been the unsung hero for the Broncos, becoming a huge weapon and an emerging top tight end in the league. Seattle has proven to stop apposing tight ends. Against arguably the best tight end in the game Jimmy Graham, Seattle held him to one catch for eight yards. The explosiveness of this offense doesn't stop there, with Welker in the slot and Decker on the other side, Manning should be able to take advantage of underneath routes to move the chains if the big plays aren't there. Running back Knowshon Moreno is also another big part of this passing attack with 60 catches for over 500 yards. One of the staple plays for the Broncos is the running back and wide receiver screens. They execute this play to perfection and it would be a great way to get Demaryius Thomas into space. The Broncos should use bunch formations in the screen game and to confuse the Seahawks to open up running lanes for Moreno.
One big area that the Broncos need to continue excelling at is protecting Manning. Over the past two playoff games (versus the San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots) Denver's offensive line has been outstanding to say the least. In eight quarters Manning hasn't been sacked and has only been hit once. If the offensive line plays like they have been Manning will have the time he needs to find holes in Seattle's defense.
For how poorly, at times, the Broncos defense played over the course of the season, they have really stepped up the last two games. Denver has only given up a combined 112 yards on the ground to opposing running backs in the playoffs. They added six sacks and held both Phillip Rivers and Tom Brady in check. Russell Wilson is a lot different quarterback then the two Denver previously faced. Wilson has the ability to extend plays like only a few others can. The top two priorities for the Denver defense should be slowing down Marshawn Lynch and containing Wilson. If they can hold Lynch to under a 100 yards and contain Wilson in the pocket they should have a great chance of beating this Seattle team.
With the most aggressive and physical defense that I've seen in years, Seattle should have two bullet points on there white board:
1. Get pressure on Peyton Manning
2. Pound the ball with Marshawn Lynch
These are the two things they have been doing all year and it has carried them to the Super Bowl. There is no question in my mind if Manning has a clean pocket the Broncos will win. Getting pressure on Manning will cause him to throw the ball when he doesn't want to and to players he wasn't intending to go to. This leads to Seahawks turnovers and this defense lives off turnovers. They have a +23 turnover ratio (including playoffs) that is the best in the league. One big thing about this Seattle defense is they can rush four and drop seven into coverage and still get pressure on the opposing quarterback. The last team that was able to do this consistently and to the effect as the Seahawks were the Giants who upset the Patriots for the Super Bowl in 2007-08 and 2011-12.
It doesn't end with the front four for the Seahawks though. Manning releases the ball faster then any other quarterback, so there will be times the pressure won't be able to reach him. Seattle needs to be able to stay on Welker and Julius Thomas in the middle of the field. If they can be physical from the start, which they shouldn't have a problem doing, and make it had for them to go across the middle it will take away the short intermediate passes. With Sherman on Demaryius Thomas the rest of the Legion of Boom (Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, and Byron Maxwell) should be able to keep these other receivers in check. With the amount of screens Denver likes to run, Seattle will need to be aggressive to the ball and prevent those quick short passes to lead to big yards. It all starts with the pass rush though, the more pressure on Manning the higher the Seahawks chances are to controlling the game.
On the offensive side of the ball Seattle needs to keep feeding their workhorse, Marshawn Lynch. Lynch has had over 100 yards in each of the first two playoff games (versus the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers) and three touchdowns while averaging five yards a carry. The Seahawks entire offense goes through Lynch. When he's running well the play-action pass and quarterback bootlegs excel that much more. Wilson also needs to step up his game a little. He's been in a little bit of a rut, but has made the big plays when Seattle has needed them most. Wilson needs to be a little smarter when he gets under pressure. There are times where he makes unbelievable plays and then there are times he hurts the team by taking a sack for a big loss. Seattle's offensive line has played extremely well in rushing situations, but has given up seven sacks over the past two games. That's an area that needs to be cleaned up against a Broncos pass rush that's been playing very well of late. If the offensive line can continue opening big holes for Lynch to go beast mode on and protect Wilson for big plays in the play-action game, the Seahawks offense should have no problem taking flight.
Will weather be a big factor?
The biggest question that swirls around leading up to Super Bowl Sunday is how the weather will effect the game. The weather plays a big part in my, and many others, predictions for this game. If the weather is calm with no snow or rain then that would favor the Broncos and Manning. If there is rain, snow and/or wind that would definitely play into the hand of the Seahawks. According to the Weather Channel the current forecast for the Super Bowl is no rain or snow with a little wind and temperatures around 40-45 degrees. This is great news if you're a Denver and Manning supporter.
Denver Broncos 27, Seattle Seahawks 23
With that being said, it's hard for me to go against Peyton Manning. Even with how well this Seattle defense has played Manning has the experience, football acumen and mental toughness to lead the Broncos to victory. Manning is playing the best football of his career coming off a historic season. I see Manning throwing for over 300 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Moreno will have a couple big plays, but Seattle's defense will stuff the Bronco's running attack. I think Welker will have a big game after losing two Super Bowls with the Patriots. Denver will hold Lynch to under a 100 yards and contain Wilson enough. Denver will get its third Super Bowl title and Manning will finally win his second ring on a season that will be etched as the greatest quarterback season in NFL history.