We wrap up our look at the offseason needs of every NFL team with the best division in football, the NFC West. These teams don’t have much to improve upon, but in this division they can’t afford to have many flaws, so they need to make sure any needs they have get addressed this offseason. Let’s take a look:
Arizona Cardinals – The Cardinals were the best NFL team to not make the playoffs in 2013, but there’s still significant distance between them and the top of the division, so they’ll need a strong offseason if they want to make the playoffs in 2014. For Arizona, it starts up front, where they’ll need to upgrade at the offensive tackle position. Even if Eric Winston re-signs, the Cardinals would be wise to use their first round pick on an offensive tackle to help protect Carson Palmer. Speaking of Palmer, he needs a backup that can one day take his place, so Arizona could be looking to find a quarterback in the middle rounds of the draft that could be ready to take over as the starter in a year or two. Arizona might also be looking for a running back to complement Andre Ellington, preferably a bigger power back. Defensively, Arizona needs to get younger at outside linebacker, so one or two draft picks should be dedicated to that position. They can always look to add depth, but other than that they’re in good shape on that side of the ball.
San Francisco 49ers – After three straight trips to the NFC Championship Game the 49ers are close to winning a Super Bowl, but they’ll need a strong offseason to help get them over the hump. The first area they need to pay attention to is the secondary. A few of their cornerbacks are free agents, and even if they re-sign one or two, they may want to use an early round draft pick at that position. They’ll also need to re-sign safety Donte Whitner and keep him paired up with Eric Reid on the back end of their defense. The next area of focus is wide receiver, where both Anquan Boldin and Mario Manningham are about to hit the free agent market. Their preference will be to re-sign Boldin, but if they can’t do that they may need to use their first-round pick on a wide receiver. San Francisco may also need a center if Jonathan Goodwin decides to retire, and those can be tough to find beyond the first few rounds of the draft, which could change their plans. If they have some late-round draft picks or extra money available, the 49ers could also add depth to their front-seven.
Seattle Seahawks – Even after winning a Super Bowl, the Seahawks have plenty of room for improvement this offseason. Doug Baldwin will be back at wide receiver, while Golden Tate is hitting the open market, but even if Tate returns to Seattle the Seahawks may want to take advantage of the depth at wide receiver in this year’s draft class and pick one up in the second or third round. Seattle should also consider using a couple draft picks, and possibly an early-round pick on an offensive lineman to help keep their franchise quarterback better protected. Defensively, the Seahawks are in great shape, although they could lose Michael Bennett in free agency, creating a hole in their defensive line that needs to be filled, and they could use some more depth at cornerback, which is something they can find in the middle or late rounds of the draft.
St. Louis Rams – If the Rams are going to compete in this division, they’re going to need a quarterback, and Sam Bradford may not be the guy they need. St. Louis owns the second overall pick, and they could get a quarterback there if they want, if not then they’ll certainly pick an offensive tackle, which is their greatest need outside of quarterback. In fact, the Rams may need to end up using two or three draft picks on offensive linemen. St. Louis may also be looking to add a wide receiver, either in free agency or in the draft, possibly someone with size that can complement all the speed they added last offseason. Defensively, the Rams need to bring in an impact player at linebacker, most likely an outside linebacker that can help out James Laurinaitis. St. Louis could also look for another young safety to pair with T.J. McDonald, although they can wait until the middle rounds of the draft to do that.
As Peyton Manning took two steps forward to yell out the play call, after he likely saw something in the defense he thought he could exploit, something he’s done thousands of times before, Denver center Manny Ramirez flung the ball in the air, whizzing past Manning’s head, much to his surprise and dismay. The ball hit the ground and continued to roll into the Denver end zone until running back Knowshon Moreno ultimately fell on it, giving the Seattle Seahawks two points and a lead they would not relinquish.
For 18 games this season, the Denver Broncos galloped up and down the field. A record setting offense led by a now five-time most-valuable player could not be stopped; opposing defenses could only hope to contain them. But in their 19th game of the season, on the biggest stage of all, the Broncos pulled up lame, as the offense that dominated every team put in front of them, finally met their match.
After 18 phenomenal weeks of football, it took just one play for Denver’s entire season to unravel; one play to stop the seemingly unstoppable Broncos dead in their tracks; and one play to turn the dream of a Super Bowl into a 60 minute long living nightmare. After an 18-game buildup that began in spectacular fashion and included several NFL records, making us believe there was no challenge the Broncos couldn’t rise up against and defeat, it only took one play for the Broncos to fall flat on their face; and once down, the Seahawks made sure they were never able to get back up.
The Broncos literally took offense to another level in 2013, breaking the NFL record for points scored. They had a set of skill players that couldn’t be covered and one of the most brilliant minds in football history pulling the strings at quarterback. Denver’s running backs and receivers out-performed opponents with their talent, while Peyton Manning out-smarted opponents with his intellectual mastery of football. But in the end, the Broncos failed at the most fundamental part of football, the snap of the ball, and it became their downfall.
Once down 2-0, the Broncos might as well have packed up and headed home. They would trail 5-0 before Manning would touched the ball for the first time, and it would eventually take them three full quarters until their first and only touchdown of the game, a meaningless consolation prize. While all of their snaps were practically flawless the rest of the game, one bad snap dashed their confidence and took them completely out of rhythm against a Seattle defense that was fast and physical, and ready to strike.
One bad snap threw the Broncos completely off their game, while Seattle’s ferocious pass rush and physical secondary made sure there was no getting back on track. Had the first snap of the game landed perfectly in Manning’s hands, would the Broncos have struggled to move the ball and score points against the Seattle defense? Absolutely, but the bad snap changed the complexion of the game before Manning could get his hands on the ball, and it crushed the confidence that was built up by 18 weeks of brilliance. That one play, the very first play of the game, turned Denver’s Super Bowl into a super bust.
When Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning takes the field for Super Bowl XLVIII, there’s a chance he’ll be taking the field for the final time in an NFL game. Obviously, we don’t know how much of a possibility it is that Manning has just one game left in his Hall-of-Fame career, but with his upcoming doctor’s appointment that will take place after the season being widely publicized and Manning being less than three years removed form multiple neck surgeries, there’s at least a chance that Manning is about to play his final game of competitive football.
Sadly, there’s no way of knowing beforehand whether or not Manning’s health has deteriorated over the past two seasons to the point where he’ll be forced to retire. Having put together one of the best seasons from a quarterback in NFL history, and having led arguably the most prolific offense in NFL history this past season, his play on the field wouldn’t seem to indicate that his health is an issue, as he’s obviously still able to perform at high level. However, that doesn’t mean that an issue is lingering beneath the surface that will prevent Manning from continuing his career beyond this Sunday’s Super Bowl.
Manning does have three years remaining on his contract with the Broncos, and when he made the decision to come to Denver before the 2012 season he wouldn’t have signed a five-year contract if he had no desire to play at least five more seasons in the NFL. But at the same time, Manning isn’t about to put his health and well being at risk just so he can play another season or two, and the Broncos, who mandated the health check up in their contract with Manning, won’t be eager to let Manning keep playing if it means putting his health at risk.
If the Super Bowl does indeed end up being the final game of Manning’s career, there’s a lot at stake, for both him and the Broncos. It would be Manning’s last chance to grab that elusive second Super Bowl title that critics and fans feel is essential to his legacy. A win and his place in the history books among the best quarterbacks of all time would be solidified, but a loss, especially in the final game of his career, would mean that criticisms would always linger about his performance in the postseason.
For the Broncos, they’ve invested so much into trying to win a Super Bowl during the short window of time that they have Manning at quarterback, and winning would be validation that it was all worth it. But a loss, especially if it’s followed by Manning’s retirement, would be seen as a failure in many respects, as well as a major set back for the entire organization, which will probably have a lot of rebuilding to do in 2014 if Manning is forced to retire, which is why this game carries so much important for both Manning and the Broncos, on the off chance that this ends up being the final game of Manning’s brilliant career.
Congratulations, we have all survived the dreaded bye week that follows the conference championship games, not to mention last night’s revamped Pro-Bowl, and we are officially in Super Bowl week. Instead of closing out the week with our preview, let’s kick off Super Bowl week with a closer look at the game between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks.
HOW THEY GOT HERE?
Sometimes, getting to the Super Bowl means getting hot at the right time, but not this year. For the first time in four years, the top-seeded teams from each conference held serve at home and advanced to the Super Bowl. Both Denver and Seattle finished with 13-3 records in the regular season and won two home playoff games to get to The Big Game. The Broncos were a bit more convincing, dominating both the Chargers and the Patriots, even though both teams came on strong in the 4th quarter to make the final score closer than it should have been. Of course, Seattle played better teams in the more competitive NFC, as they had to hold on late to beat both New Orleans and San Francisco. In the end, it’s hard to argue against the fact that we ended up with the two best teams in football playing one another in the Super Bowl.
DENVER OFFENSE VS. SEATTLE DEFENSE
This is the matchup we’ve wanting to see all season. The Broncos have one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history, but they may be meeting their match in Seattle’s defense. The Seahawks had the top pass defense in the NFL season, due in large part to three Pro Bowlers in their secondary, but their depth in the secondary will be put to the test in this game, as the Broncos have an almost endless number of wide receivers and tight ends that pose a threat to opposing defenses, and if there’s a mismatch somewhere Peyton Manning is sure to find it and exploit it. At the same time, the Broncos like to stay balanced on offense, and if the Seahawks put too many defensive backs on the field and put fewer players in the box, Manning has no problem calling running plays for Knowshon Moreno, who has been great all season and if necessary could become Denver’s workhorse back against the Seattle defense.
The Broncos shouldn’t expect to move the ball as easily against the Seahawks as they have against every other defense they’ve played this season, but if they can remain balanced on offense they should expect a reasonable amount of success, with the only variable being their ability to score in the red zone, which has been a troubled spot for them during their two playoff games. As for Seattle, the best way to slow down Manning may be to create situations where he has to throw, which means they can’t sleep on Denver’s running game. Of course, even if the Seahawks can get Denver in obvious passing situations, they’ll also need their pass rush to put Manning under pressure against a Denver offensive line that’s huge tough all season, while also accounting for Manning’s uncanny ability to get rid of the ball quickly. If the Seahawks can’t knock Manning off his spot and throw his timing off, he’ll be hard to defend, even with a secondary full of Pro Bowlers.
SEATTLE OFFENSE VS. DENVER DEFENSE
This matchup isn’t nearly as compelling as the first one, but it will be just as important to the outcome of the game. The Seahawks rely on Marshawn Lynch to make their offense go, and that’s not going to change against the Broncos. However, the Denver defense has done well to stop the run in its two playoff games, so they should be well prepared to stop the run, although if the Seahawks aren’t successful running the ball early in the game they won’t abandon it as quickly as Denver’s last two opponents. If Lynch is as productive as he usually is, it’ll take the pressure off Russell Wilson, who’s had an uneven season and whom the Seahawks don’t want to rely on to do too much. Even against a Denver secondary that’s missing key players due to injury, the Seahawks don’t have a set of receivers that can be relied upon to make big plays, even with Percy Harvin being cleared to play, so it’s essential that Lynch be productive throughout the game.
If the Broncos can slow up Lynch, their next goal will be to keep Wilson confined to the pocket. Wilson doesn’t always like to pull the ball down and run; instead, he buys time with his legs while keeping his eyes downfield, which gives his receivers more time to get open. The Broncos have to keep Wilson inside the pocket, because most of Seattle’s big plays happen when Wilson breaks containment on the outside. If the Denver defense can keep the Seahawks from creating big plays, the Seattle offense may have difficulty putting together long drives against a defense that has played its best football down the stretch, giving up just 15 points per game over its last four games.
Don’t expect either team to get off to a fast start. This game will be like a heavyweight fight, as both teams are talented, well coached, and will have two full weeks to prepare, so it may take a while for both teams to get going. Ultimately, the Broncos are too good on offense to keep contained for 60 minutes, even for a great defense like Seattle’s. Meanwhile, the Seahawks will struggle to make big plays against a Denver defense that’s playing well. The Seahawks are good, but the Broncos are a little better because they’re a little more balanced. Manning wants this game badly, and some say that he needs it, and so he will seize this opportunity and win his second Super Bowl: Denver 24, Seattle 13.
A 9-year-old Seahawks fan touched hearts across the U.S. after she wrote a letter to deaf running back Derrick Coleman, calling him an inspiration.
Riley Kovalcik wrote the note after she and her sister watched a Duracell ad featuring Coleman and his journey to become the first legally deaf offensive player in the NFL. Kovalcik, who is also legally deaf, felt a connection to Coleman.
“I where (sic) two hearing aids. I love sports. Other things are I'm a identical twin and my twin where's (sic) one hearing aid too!”
The girls’ father, Jake, tweeted a picture of the letter to Coleman. When the Seahawks got a hold of it, Mr. Kovalcik’s phone was flooded with messages and return tweets.
The father of three laughed as he recalled the two girls watching over his phone, in awe that the letter had gone viral.
Mr. Kovalcik added that all he wanted was to show Coleman how much he had impacted his girls, and noted that Coleman is important to every child with a disability.
“He's showing all kids that if you work hard and you dedicate yourself whatever deficiencies you have, you can be great,” Mr. Kovalcik said of Coleman. “I wanted to thank him.”
By now, hopefully you’ve settled into viewing the never-ending parade of Super Bowl coverage. Well, here comes the float in that parade, the five most important matchups between the Broncos and the Seahawks that will go a long way towards determining who wins Super Bowl XLVIII.
MARSHAWN LYNCH VS. DENVER RUSH DEFENSE
Lynch has been the motor that makes the Seattle offense go all season long, and nothing is going to change in the Super Bowl. The Seahawks need Lynch to be their workhorse back that gets 20 to 25 carries and not only softens up the defense to help break long runs in the second half, but also to open up things for Russell Wilson and the passing game. On the other side, the Denver defense has done a great job against the rush the past two weeks, which has been a driving force in the Broncos winning their two postseason games. The Broncos have good size on their defensive front, led by Terrance Knighton, who played great against the Patriots, and they’ve also moved linebacker Paris Lenon into the starting lineup to give that unit size and physicality as well. Both Lynch and the Denver front-seven have played well this postseason, and both will need to come up big for their teams in the Super Bowl, in what should be a compelling and critical matchup.
DEMARYIUS THOMAS VS. RICHARD SHERMAN
The Broncos have one of the best receiving corps in the NFL while Seattle’s secondary is one of the best in the league, but the matchup everyone wants to see is Thomas vs. Sherman. Thomas is as big and physical as any other wide receiver in the league, and he’s earned Peyton Manning’s trust over the past two seasons, so Manning won’t be afraid to throw in his direction, even if Sherman is the cornerback matched up against him, which he most likely will be for the entire game. The Broncos have plenty of other passing targets to go to if Thomas can’t get open against Sherman, but things will be much easier for them if Thomas becomes a factor in the game, and it’ll be Sherman’s job to make sure that doesn’t happen.
SEATTLE PASS RUSH VS. DENVER OFFENSIVE LINE
Despite several key injuries this year, including Pro-Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady, who missed the entire season, the Denver offensive line has held up well all season, and kept Manning healthy and on his feet, although the Seattle pass rush will be one of the best they’ve faced all season. The Seattle front four is great at getting pressure on the quarterback, even without linebackers blitzing, and they’re even better because they have a great secondary behind them that keeps receivers covered and forces quarterbacks to hold the ball longer. The Denver offensive line will have to hold strong for one more game, because they can’t allow a team with Seattle’s secondary to get pressure on Manning with just a four-man rush.
SEATTLE PASS RUSH VS. PEYTON MANNING
It’s not just the Denver offensive line that the Seahawks will have to get past, it’s also Manning himself. Manning is one of the best in football at getting the ball out quickly, and if he sees that that the Seahawks are getting a strong push up front, he’ll be able to make the adjustment and ensure the ball is out of his hand before the pass rush gets to him. Manning is also masterful at pre-snap reads and will be able to call for the right protection that gives him the time he needs to deliver the ball. If the Seahawks need to start blitzing to get pressure on Manning quicker, he’ll be able to counter against a defense that has fewer players in pass coverage. Manning, with plenty of help from his offensive line, has done a great job at avoiding pressure and the getting the ball out on time all season, and the Seahawks will have to find a way to disrupt his and throw his timing off.
RUSSELL WILSON VS. JACK DEL RIO
The Denver defense has suffered a lot of injuries this season, especially with their best past pass rusher in Von Miller and their best cornerback in Chris Harris both going down within the past month, but Jack Del Rio has done a great job of holding the unit together, as the Denver defense is just as responsible for the team’s two postseason wins as the offense. Seattle should get something positive from its running game, but at some point Wilson will have to make a play, and with two weeks of preparation for a defensive coordinator like Del Rio, that’s not going to be easy for Wilson to do, especially since he’s had a rather uneven performance over the past month or so, while the Broncos are coming into their own on defense, even with all of their injuries. Despite how impressive he’s been over the past two years, Wilson is still a young quarterback on a big stage, and at some point he’s going to have to outperform the defensive scheme that Del Rio throws at him.
The Super Bowl matchup is set, and we couldn’t have gotten a better matchup, with the league’s best offense going up against the league’s best defense. Of course, we have to wait two full weeks to see it, which leaves a lot of time for talking between now and then. Here are a few of the storylines people will be talking about that you should probably get ready to hear all about leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII.
PEYTON MANNING’S LEGACY
Is Manning the best quarterback of all time? Does he need a second Super Bowl ring to solidify that? Is he even the best quarterback in his family if he doesn’t win a second Super Bowl to match his brother? Get ready, because these questions are going to be posed non-stop all the way until kickoff next Sunday. It’s a ridiculous notion, but somehow Manning’s entire legacy comes down to this one game. Adding to this plot line is the fact that everybody knows about Manning’s upcoming doctor’s appointment in March, which at least lays out the possibility that this could be his last game, which only adds to the pressure on him to win. This is bound to get tiresome at some point leading up to the game, but Manning is the pre-eminent figure in this year’s Super Bowl and one of the greatest of all time, so it’s mandatory that most of the focus be on him.
WHAT WILL RICHARD SHERMAN SAY NEXT?
Sherman’s postgame tirade when viral in a hurry Sunday night, and now everybody’s just sitting back and waiting to see what he’s going to do as an encore. Sherman is no stranger to controversy and he’s not afraid to open his mouth, so he’s not going to be shy about stirring the pot leading up to the Super Bowl, especially with two weeks before the game and the entire world focusing on Manning, which he’ll probably view as a sign of “disrespect” towards him and the Seahawks. Whoever holds the current record for most media members surrounding him on media day of Super Bowl week should feel threatened, because Sherman is coming for the record. Oh, there’s also the little matter of his matchup against Denver wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who happens to be one of the top receivers in the NFL after being selected to back-to-back Pro Bowls.
CHAMP BAILEY FINALLY GETS A CHANCE AT A SUPER BOWL
Yes, he is a shadow of his former self, but Bailey was the best cornerback in the NFL for a significant chunk of his 15-year career and he’s never been to a Super Bowl before now. Not only is Bailey finally going to a Super Bowl, but also with the recent injury to Chris Harris he’s going to have play a far bigger role in the game than he’s played in any other game all season. He’s going to end up being a key player in the game, and his performance could go a long way towards determining whether the Broncos win or not; and with the season he’s had you have to wonder if he can make it through one more game without injury and whether he’ll be able to play the way he did in his prime in order to help secure a Super Bowl ring in what may be his one and only chance to get one.
POCKET PASSER VS. MOBILE QUARTERBACK
We went through this last year with Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick, and we have another matchup this year between a traditional pocket passer in Manning and a mobile dual-threat quarterback in Russell Wilson. Mobile quarterbacks have taken the league by storm over the past few seasons, but pocket passers keep on winning the Super Bowl, and so a mobile quarterback like Wilson needs to win a Super Bowl to add some legitimacy to this growing trend. Of course, Manning is the ideal pocket passer with great height but little mobility, while Wilson is a short scrambler who represents everything the league didn’t want at quarterback just a few years ago, which sets up the ultimate clash of cultures at the quarterback position in this year’s Super Bowl.
Rarely are there daily updates on the weather forecast for a Super Bowl, but that could very well happen this year after so much has been made about the game being held in a cold weather city. What makes the weather all the more important is the fact that poor weather conditions would obviously put the Broncos at a disadvantage, while rain and wind is exactly what the Seahawks are used to playing in at home in Seattle, making poor weather conditions advantageous to their cause. As it stands now, picking this game is a tough call, but as we get closer to the game and the forecast begins to take shape, it could have an impact on which team is viewed as the favorite to win.
The Seattle Seahawks owe their 23-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday to two things: a bad call and a fantastic tipped pass by Richard Sherman that sealed the game for his squad. Understandably giddy about his role in the Seahawks’ victory, Sherman opted to go the untraditional route when Erin Andrews steered him over for a postgame interview.
Instead of, you know, waiting for questions from Andrews and then answering them, Sherman said this:
“I’m the best corner in the game! When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you’re going to get. Don’t you ever talk about me.” When Andrews asked who was talking about him, he said, “Crabtree. Don’t you open your mouth about the best, or I’ll shut it for you real quick. LOB [Legion of Boom]!”
For obvious reasons, Crabtree didn’t love Sherman’s comments as much as some folks on Twitter did. When they were relayed to him after the game, he brushed the tough talk off as nonsense.
“He’s a TV guy. I’m not a TV guy. I play ball. He makes one play, he talks … We’re on the field and he ain’t doing nothing,” Crabtree told the San Jose Mercury News. “That’s one play he made. … That’s probably the only play he made the whole game.”
Detroit Tigers superstar pitcher Justin Verlander also decided to weigh in on what he saw. In a tweet sent out late Sunday, he praised Russell Wilson’s poise and bashed Sherman all in one shot.
“So Russell is a class act! Sherman on the other hand.... If he played baseball would get a high and tight fastball.”
The NFC Championship Game will act as the rubber match between the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers after the two teams split their two regular season meetings as NFC West rivals. They were the two best teams in the NFC for much of the season, and it’s only right that we see them meet again with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. Let’s take a closer look:
HOW DID THEY GET HERE?
These two teams finished with the two best records in the NFC, with Carolina tying San Francisco’s mark of 12-4. Of course, only one of these teams could win the NFC West, and that was Seattle, who has only had to play one playoff game to this point, holding on at home to beat New Orleans last week. Meanwhile, the 49ers have made it to the championship game the hard way, by winning two road games against division champions Green Bay and Carolina, doing so in impressive fashion, especially with their impressive 2nd half against the Panthers last week.
SAN FRANCISCO OFFENSE VS. SEATTLE DEFENSE
Last week, the 49ers scored points in every quarter and moved the ball against the Carolina defense better than nearly every other team the Panthers had played all season. San Francisco is clicking offensively behind Colin Kaepernick and the receiving trio of Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree, and Vernon Davis. Any of the three is capable of having a big game in any given week, as Crabtree was the star in the wildcard game against Green Bay, while Boldin was unstoppable last week against the Panthers. This week, they’ll be going up against a Seattle secondary that has three Pro Bowlers, creating an intriguing matchup between the strengths of both teams. Kaepernick will have to be sharp throwing the ball, because the Seahawks are great at creating turnovers, but if he can be accurate with his throws, it will be tough for Seattle to keep all three receivers under wraps for the entire game. The X-factor in the matchup is Kaepernick and Frank Gore running the ball. Seattle has one of the best rush defenses in the league, but even they’re able to contain Gore, preventing Kaepernick from getting on the edge and making plays with his legs is another story. If Kaepernick can be effective with both his arm and his legs, the Seattle defense will face their toughest opponent of the season, but if they can force Kaepernick to be one-dimensional they’ll be in good shape at home, as their defense has been exceptional for much of the season.
SEATTLE OFFENSE VS. SAN FRANCISCO DEFENSE
The Seattle offense has been quite underwhelming over the past month, as they are a far cry from the form they had earlier in the season. Russell Wilson has thrown for more than 200 yards just once in the past five games, in part due to a lackluster set of receivers, as Percy Harvin has not become a factor after missing most of the season with an injury. Unless something changes against one of the best defensive teams in the NFL this week, the Seahawks will have to rely on running back Marshawn Lynch to carry the offense. Lynch has been great for much of the season, including last week against the Saints, but he was just a shade above average in two games against the 49ers during the regular season, and he’ll have to be much better than that to carry the Seahawks to victory on Sunday. Even for a physical and powerful back like Lynch, San Francisco’s linebackers pose a tough matchup and could be tough to run against. If Lynch can have some success, it should free up Wilson to make some plays and move the ball, but if the Seahawks can’t rely on their running game, they don’t have the receivers necessary to move the ball consistently and create big plays against such a talented defense.
The Seahawks have been sensational at home this season, but the Arizona Cardinals proved in week 16 that Seattle is not unbeatable at home. The Seahawks may have been the best team in the NFC during the regular season, but they’re not playing their best football of the season right now, especially on offense, while San Francisco keeps getting better each week. The 49ers have scored 23 points each of the last three weeks, and if they can reach that mark again, the Seahawks don’t have the playmakers on offense to top it. San Francisco 23, Seattle 16.
We’re down to the final four teams in the NFL playoffs, and there should be little doubt that these are indeed the four best teams football. With four great teams, we’re bound to get a great Super Bowl matchup no matter which teams win this weekend, and while we shouldn’t get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s take a sneak peak at the four potential Super Bowl matchups.
DENVER VS. SEATTLE
If Peyton Manning is in the Super Bowl, all the focus will be on him and his quest for a second championship ring, which is somehow a necessity for him to be considered one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Manning’s storyline would certainly overshadow the storyline of Russell Wilson possibly asserting himself as best of the league’s young quarterbacks by winning a Super Bowl in his second season, although the Manning-Wilson matchup at quarterback would be quite the dichotomy at that position.
Just looking at the teams, this would be a great matchup between a historically good offense and arguably the best defense in the NFL this year. The combination of Manning and his prolific corps of receivers going up against the trio of Pro Bowlers in Seattle’s secondary would be a fascinating matchup to breakdown and debate for two full weeks of pre-game coverage, and could end up creating an intriguing and entertaining Super Bowl.
NEW ENGLAND VS. SAN FRANCISCO
We almost got this matchup in last year’s Super Bowl, and it wouldn’t be a bad matchup to see this year, although both franchises are in different positions than they were last season. This could be a last chance of sorts for the Brad-Belichick Patriots to grab another Super Bowl ring and add to their legacy, while the 49ers have been slowly building towards a Super Bowl victory, including a loss in the big game last year, and they looked destined to win one at some point, and this game could be seen as a passing of the torch from one dynasty in New England to another potential dynasty in San Francisco.
Despite a great matchup of quarterbacks, a Patriots-49ers Super Bowl would ultimately be about the two head coaches: Bill Belichick and Jim Harbaugh. Belichick has long been the pre-eminent head coach in the NFL, while Harbaugh has taken the league by storm in his first three seasons as a head coach, leading the 49ers to the NFC Championship in all three years, which is why this game could potentially pass the torch from one dynasty to the next.
NEW ENGLAND VS. SEATTLE
It happened so long ago that it’s hard to believe, but Bill Belichick actually replaced Pete Carroll as the head coach of the Patriots in 2000 after Carroll was fired following the 1999 season. Of course, that move seems to have worked out for both parties, as Belichick has won three Super Bowls with the Patriots, although his last was back in 2004, while Carroll enjoyed many years of success at USC before returning to the NFL and finding success in Seattle the past two seasons.
On the field, the Seattle defense would be the ultimate challenge for Tom Brady, who has taken New England a long ways this season with a watered-down set of playmakers around him. Considering the circumstances, this has been one of the best seasons that both Belichick and Brady have had, and while just appearing in the Super Bowl would be considered a great accomplishment, a win would entail getter the better of one of the stingiest defenses in football, which would be an astounding accomplishment if they can pull it off.
DENVER VS. SAN FRANCISCO
Once again, if Manning plays in this Super Bowl, all the focus would be on him. However, just as we saw last year between Colin Kaepernick and Joe Flacco, this would be a clash between the traditional pocket passer, this time being Manning, and an athletic quarterback that’s just as dangerous with his legs as he is with his arm. A win by Kaepernick and the 49ers could signal that athletic passers are here to stay, as they’ve done a lot of damage in the NFL in the past few seasons, but they’ve yet to win a Super Bowl. Of course, a win by Manning and the Broncos would indicate that there’s still no substitute for a great pocket passer.
Of course, these two teams have some Super Bowl history, as the 49ers blew out the Broncos 55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV, so this game could be a chance for redemption for Denver, especially for John Elway, who was the quarterback for the Broncos in that game and is now the Executive VP of Football Operations in Denver.