@TSFSports Super Bowl XLVIII prediction: Will Seattle’s secondary lower the Boom on the Peyton Manning Era?
Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson are chasing history from two different perspectives.
Super Bowl XLVIII pits the Denver Broncos high-powered offense against the physical, aggressive defense of the Seattle Seahawks. Peyton Manning is attempting to become the first quarterback to lead two teams to Super Bowl victories and Russell Wilson is seeking to become only the second African-American signal caller to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
The Denver Broncos road to the Super Bowl didn’t come without its share of drama. Linebacker Von Miller was suspended for four games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy and later lost for the season with a torn right ACL. More importantly, head coach John Fox underwent heart surgery to repair a clogged valve in November.
On the field, Peyton Manning had one of the greatest seasons by any player in NFL history. Manning passed for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns — both NFL records. Not to be overlooked was his jaw-dropping 68 percent completion percentage. Manning’s season high for passing attempts in a game was 39 in Week 14. If the Seahawks frustrate the Broncos running game, will Manning be forced to drop back more — ultimately playing into the Seahawks hands. Credit the Broncos offensive line for keeping their quarterback clean and in one piece all season. Manning was sacked 18 times and always looked to have more than enough time to pick his spots. If the Seahawks pass rush is stifled, it should be business as usual for the Broncos.
The Broncos running attack is equal to a boxers jab — setting up defenses for a deep ball haymaker at some point in the drive or later in the game. After being benched for several weeks in 2012, Knowshon Moreno was nearly released when the team drafted running back Montee Ball to becoming a full-time starter. Moreno rushed for a career-high 1,038 yards and 10 touchdowns (3 receiving). Ball is a nice complement — maximizing his 13-15 touches per contest. Moreno did not lose a fumble this season, a trend which must continue for at least one more game.
The Broncos have a troublesome quintet of receivers who accounted for 47 of Manning’s 55 touchdown passes. Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas and Wes Welker give Manning with a fleet of options rarely seen in the history of the NFL. Denver’s No. 1 rated pass offense will be tested by Seattle’s No. 1 rated pass defense led by Richard Sherman and the very physical Kam Chancellor. With the exception of Welker, the Broncos receivers are sizable — all will offer a formidable challenge to Seattle’s secondary.
Denver’s run defense will be tested against Marshawn Lynch, who is more than aware of their 25th ranked run defense. Stewart Bradley, Von Miller and Kevin Vickerson are all on injured reserve and will be missed, but the team has filled in nicely with Terrence Knighton and Wesley Woodyard. If corners Champ Bailey and Dominique o can lock up Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin, going after Lynch will be a tad easier.
Russell Wilson, not Lynch or Sherman is the key to the Seahawks championship hopes. Wilson’s ability to extend plays with his leg and underrated arm strength will be a thorn in the Broncos side all day. Wilson again passed for 26 touchdowns this season and only 9 interceptions. Wilson will not force anything and will approach game with a careful, yet driven approach.
Marshawn Lynch is a player who gains momentum as the game wears on. Lynch is averaging 125 bruising yards per game in the postseason — each run more punishing than the last. Lynch is the only man on the field who can keep Manning on the sidelines and if that means 30+ carries, then so be it. Michael Robinson is a converted fullback who doesn’t get many touches, but cannot afford to be overlooked in Pete Carroll’s offense.
Doug Baldwin, Jerome Kearse and Golden Tate are going to give the Broncos secondary problems because of Seattle’s penchant to run misdirection and gimmick plays. Percy Harvin on the field gives the Seahawks another weapon in the receiving corps and in the return game. If Harvin is able to find daylight in either setting, he could walk away the game’s Most Valuable Player.
Running Lynch early will give the Seahawks offensive line an advantage against the Broncos front four. Problems occur when Wilson moves in the pocket, a huge reason for his 44 sacks this season.
The Broncos offense provides the stiffest test for the Seahawks to date. Expect Seattle to send only four rushers most of the game. Red Bryant, Tony McDaniel, Brandon Mebane and Chris Clemons will have to get to Peyton Manning or at least close enough to disrupt his rhythm. Pressure on Manning could prove beneficial as he lost six of ten fumbles in the regular season. Linebackers Bobby Wagner, Malcolm Smith and Bruce Irvin may be sent on an occasional stunt, but count on them being primarily in coverage, unless Denver finds success on the ground.
The Seahawks secondary has shut down every formidable offense they’ve faced this season. Because of Mannning, the Broncos are a cut above. The Sherman/D. Thomas pairing is the marquee match up, but count on Sherman covering Decker and Welker at some point. Kam Chancellor is the sledgehammer — whose presence could be felt in the run or passing game. Earl Thomas might be the best player on the field other than Manning and will be locked in a chess match with the signal caller throughout. Cornerback Byron Maxwell has blended in nicely in the absence of Brandon Browner with four interceptions. If Manning is going to test anyone, he may be looking in Maxwell’s direction. Seattle has given up only 16 passing scores the entire season.
Prediction: The perceived weak links in this game are Denver’s running game and Seattle’s receivers. I believe more in Seattle’s receivers than I trust the Broncos backfield. Montee Ball lost three fumbles this season, any miscues against the Seahawks opportunistic defense could spell disaster. I suspect the Broncos are going to take away the run and dare Wilson to beat him with his arm — while limiting his running lanes. The Seahawks will drop as many as seven men into coverage and take their chances with Ball and Moreno.
Percy Harvin and Earl Thomas come to mind when I think of players who can impact this particular game for the Seahawks. For the Broncos, it’s Julius Thomas or Wesley Woodyard. If Manning can pull this off, he deserves every accolade thrown his way. For two seasons it’s been said Russell Wilson will be the first of the generation next quarterbacks to win it all. Today, it all comes together.
Seahawks 31 – Broncos 23