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.