It seems as though we have a pre-destined, fore-ordained, Nostradamic situation on hand this coming Sunday. The sports writers, sportscasters, sports know-it-alls predicted this Super Bowl and for once they were spot on. The sports gods decided to finally make a Super Bowl worthy of the hype, the #1 offense against the #1 defense…and we are left to debate, scrutinize, analyze and criticize every little piece of minutiae and nuance that will make the difference between one team winning and one losing.
There are many story lines leading up to Superbowl XLVIII. The old vs the young. The new comer vs the old timer. The seasoned veterans vs the wet-behind the ear kids. The best defense against the best offense. The loud mouths vs the ‘not so loud’ loud mouths. The most complete set of wide receivers vs the most feared secondary. Gosh, where should we begin?
It is easy to look at the Denver Broncos and hone in on their offense…their historic offense. Peyton Manning will set the tone for Denver in this game. If he gets off to a good start, is able to hit his timing routes, is able to stay on his block and able to get into rhythm it will be next to impossible to stop this freight train from rumbling down the track. Manning likes to dink and dunk his way down the field, never taking more than 2.5 seconds to get his throws off. Throw in a mix of Knowshon Moreno running the ball just to spice things up and you have a recipe for success. But throw off one of those ingredients and the whole meal is spoiled.
Denver has a great offense, no doubt about it, but I keep coming back to “Who have they played defensively this year”? I did a very unscientific study on who the Broncos faced this year. Denver faced only two top ten defenses (7th and 8th). Overall the average defense that Denver faced this year was 21.2, compare this to the Seattle Seahawks whose opponent’s defense averaged 12.2. What does this tell us? Denver, was like the bully in school, beating up on a lot of mediocre secondaries and as a result their stats were inflated. However, give them their dues they beat up on the teams they were supposed to. Seattle, to their credit, faced a much more stout defensive task than Denver and still came away with 13 wins. 10 of the teams Seattle faced were in the top ten, therefore Seattle enters this game a much more tested team than Denver.
Denver won’t know what hit them (literally) when Seattle’s secondary introduces themselves. The Seahawks play hard, fast and physical. Three words that should send shivers up any Bronco fan’s spine. Why? Denver uses a lot of timing, precision and finesse in their patterns, if they are knocked off their marks, slowed up at the line of scrimmage or have to fight for the ball it will turn into a very long game for them. And forget about Seattle having to worry about a mobile quarterback, something they have had to do many times this season. They can, in essence, take that threat off their mind (in fact they are probably praying that Manning decides to run for it out of desperation…imagine the wildebeest’s migration in the serengeti being chased by the lions…you get the picture).
Okay, okay…let’s look at the Seahawk’s offense and see what comes into view. It is true Seattle’s offense has not played spectacularly of late. They have put up decent numbers and have won many close games but their offense has not been the star this season like it was last season. Wilson and company will be playing against a poor defense that has been riddled with injuries, but in all fairness this defense has played much better of late. But two games does not a Super Bowl make. This means I don’t put much credence in what they are putting on the field, they are missing Von Miller and Chris Harris two very good players. This secondary can be exploited. Wilson can generate time because Denver’s front is not as athletic or fast as either the New Orleans Saints or the San Francisco 49ers and they found ways to neutralize both.
Don’t discount Seattle’s ‘appetizer’ receivers as being subpar, they come up big when they’re needed. We may not hear about them for minutes at a time but all of sudden they come into view and take a bow after making a spectacular catch…this secondary can be shredded. All of this without mentioning Percy Harvin…I know the jokes, will he need a plastic bubble out there to protect him, etc? No, he is going to be just fine. He will give it his all every time he is on the field, whether that is returning kicks, running a fly sweep, bubble screen, post route or passing out Gatorade on the sidelines. He will do whatever he is asked…and he will give it his all. The beauty is that Denver has no idea how he is going to be used, and neither do we, isn’t that exciting?
Seattle wants to control the time of possession so Manning has limited chances to put points on the board. This is accomplished by running the ball. Denver does have the 7th ranked run defense (along with Seattle), but then again Lynch did rush for 109 yards against the fourth ranked rush defense, so we can probably throw the notion that they are going to contain him out the window. That, plus the fact that he will have an extra big bag of Skittles on hand to give him energy.
What makes this all the more believable is that the weather is calling for temperatures just above freezing for the game. Who does that affect more, Denver or Seattle? (Denver is the right answer) The Broncos want to throw and we know the plight that Manning has had in cold weather games…let’s just say it isn’t very good. This could lead to a lot of lame ducks coming out of his right hand, finding their way into Seattle’s vaunted secondary. Add to this the Seahawks desire to rip and pry the ball away from any ball carrier and I can see a lot of turnovers favoring Seattle.
Denver’s offensive line has been very good this season, coupling that with the fact the Manning gets his throws off quickly make it very important that Seattle gets a pass rush on Manning. Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Chris Clemons are hoping to have their best of game of the season by keeping Manning within their grasp. And with Carroll keeping his linemen fresh through a constant carousel they may just get to him a time or two. Goodness knows Peyton’s 37 year old bones don’t want to be knocked down in this weather, they may find it hard to get back up.
Well the two best teams made it; the world is in balance and the universe can breathe a sigh of relief. It should prove to be a very lively and entertaining Super Bowl. The 12s have been rewarded for screaming their ever-living lungs out. Seattle has a chance to exorcise it’s demons for 33 years of failure. And we will finally get a chance to answer the age old question “Does offense or defense win games”? My bet is on the defense…I’m all in. Go Hawks!!