Taking It to the House Super Bowl XLVIII Prediction
Denver Broncos (15-3) vs. Seattle Seahawks (15-3) (Sunday, FOX, 6:30 PM ET – Buck/Aikman/Oliver/Andrews)
The AFC #1 seeded Denver Broncos and the NFC #1 seeded Seattle Seahawks will square off in Super Bowl XLVIII in East Rutherford, NJ. The road for these two teams was similar (both finished 13-3), but also different. The Broncos tend to rely on their vaunted offense to put up big points and then allow their middle-of-the road defense to finish the job. While the Seahawks like to “Ground and Pound” their opponents into submission led by one of the NFL’s top rushing attacks and No. 1 attacking defensive units.
Now onto looking at this game from the on the field analysis standpoint. We can expect a ton of scoring as these two teams finished No. 1 and 8 respectively – Broncos’ NFL-record 606 points; Seahawks 417 points) — in the NFL’s team scoring category this season. Though the quarterbacks are the marquee players, I do believe the team that can run the ball more effectively and gets the most defensive pressure is going to win this game.
A big key for the Broncos will be their defense’s ability to beat-up and hit Russell Wilson. But the Broncos can’t just focus only on Wilson, as there is more to the Seahawks than their talented passer. Offensively, the Seahawks love leaning on Wilson throwing the football to his bevy of receivers including Golden Tate, Percy Harvin, and Doug Baldwin. But I think one of the biggest keys on Sunday will be Seattle’s ability to establish the run with talented RB Marshawn Lynch. Getting a running game going against the Broncos’ smallish defense should allow the Seahawks to tire-out Denver’s attacking defense while keeping Peyton Manning and his many offensive weapons on the sidelines.
I am sure Seattle will try to control the clock by running the ball and letting their defense attack the Broncos’ banged-up offensive line (Pro Bowl LT Ryan Clady – out with foot). So watch for Seahawks DC Dan Quinn’s group, led by passer-rusher Chris Clemmons and Safety Earl Thomas III to try and harass Peyton Manning with constant pressure in order to get his high flying spread offense out of sync. It will be interesting to see how the Seahawks’ defense fares against Broncos OC Adam Gase’s many weapons. But you can expect to see a lot of Seattle’s secondary in press coverage, with corners Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell leading the way, in trying to stop Denver’s multitude of weapons.
Offensively for the Broncos, I fully expect Peyton Manning, WR Eric Decker, TE Julius Thomas and WR DeMaryius Thomas to pick right up where they left off in the regular season 1 – NFL leaders in points scored and total yards. And you can expect a ton of targets for Peyton’s favorite new “Main Man”, former Patriots slot superstar Wes Welker. “We’ve spread the ball around so well all season, so it’s hard for teams to know who to key on,” said Manning. “On any given play, a number of guys could get the ball. That puts pressure on a defense.” But the Broncos must find balance in this game and that means running the football with their new three-headed monster of 2013 draftee Montee Ball, veteran Knowshon Moreno, and Ronnie Hillman.
Simply put, the Broncos have to do better in stopping the run defensively and running the football offensively. Last week, with the way Peyton Manning dominated the New England Patriots throwing the football – AFC Championship Game record of 400 passing yards – there wasn’t much of a need for establishing the run, but they will need it against the Seahawks. Balance will allow the 37-year old veteran quarterback to keep the Seahawks honest defensively, aubile at the line of scrimmage, and then go play-action to his receivers.
Defensively for Seattle, it will be incumbent on the Seahawks No. 1 defense led by Thomas to force pressure and create turnovers – Denver had no turnovers in AFC Title Game. Think of the NY Giants game plan in 2007 when they faced the New England Patriots record-setting offense in Super Bowl XLII — attacking pressure from everywhere, hitting the quarterback on almost every snap, and turning turnovers into points. Of course, the number one player Quinn will be targeting is Super Bowl XLI MVP Peyton Manning– set NFL single-season passing records with 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns in 2013, becoming the first player in league history to pass for at least 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in the same season.. But Denver also has a physical offensive line led by center Manny Ramirez. The Seahawks will need to get to Manning so that the he can’t get the ball to J. Thomas, Decker, and Welker.
The Seahawks will also need to keep an eye on my X-factor, explosive downfield threat WR DeMaryius Thomas. The Broncos also are the only team in NFL history to have five players each score at least 10 touchdowns in the same season: D. Thomas (14), running back Knowshon Moreno (13), J. Thomas (12) Decker (11) and Welker (10). The offense averaged 457.3 yards per game and 340.3 passing yards per game, both the best in the league.combat the Seahawks anticipated attacking scheme, the Broncos will need for their offensive weapons to get their touches early. In the 2013 regular season, the Broncos were a different team when playing with an early lead. However you can count on DE Red Bryant and his fellow D-linemen to bring their A-games and A-Gap pressure.
Statistically the two teams seem to be evenly matched with both leaning on their passing games first to get early leads so their attacking defenses can pin-their-ears-back. Turnovers are going to be “huge” in this game and you know Pete Carroll and John Fox have been preaching all week about protecting the ball.
LV’s Pick: With both teams’ recent history of playing in close games, you can expect this one to be a last-second field goal type game with the possibility of overtime. Though the Seahawks (Steven Hauschka) and Broncos (Matt Prater) both do have very successful kickers, I do believe that a Manning mistake will setup Seattle for a game-winner. Expect the Seahawks attacking defense to force Manning to throw a pick or two to Richard Sherman or Earl Thomas. Lynch will also be a key as he goes so will any pressure on Wilson. Seahawks over Broncos, 27-24
Lloyd Vance is the Editor for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA). Lloyd can be reached on Twitter (@lloydvance)