Did anyone really see the Super Bowl shaking out any other way?
Ok, so I maybe I thought Green Bay would miraculously take the NFC in some twist of fate, but when the games began back in August and September, it was clear that Denver and Seattle were the teams to beat all season. It was just a matter of if the could stay focused and hungry all season and not slipping up, despite the targets on their backs.
Well, now we sit, heading into Super Bowl Sunday, and we know they played lights out all season and won in rather convincing fashion once the playoffs came around. Now, they play for the Lombardi Trophy while most of the nation’s football fans watch with contempt from home as their teams also… well… sit at home.
First things first, let’s take a look at my competition in terms of correctly predicting the game.
We will start with the football classic: Tecmo. Tecmo has Denver defeating the Seahawks with a safety in overtime being the deciding factor. It also predicts that Marshawn Lynch will have some 155 rushing yards while Peyton Manning throws for 318 yards with an 81% completion percentage. While I don’t know if I can jump on the whole, “Overtime safety” thing, I do know that would be a pretty fun game to watch. Well played Tecmo Super Bowl…
Madden has successfully predicted the Super Bowl outcome eight of the last ten Super Bowls, including last year’s. They also have Denver pulling off the win, but with a 31-28 victory and no need for a safety in overtime.
So, the favorite among video games is Denver, by a total of five points. Not a particularly overwhelming majority, but nonetheless a consensus of sorts. Now we get into the good picks… mine.
Last week I was 1-1 in my Conference Championship picks as I chose San Francisco to upset Seattle in Seattle behind a physical gameplan and Colin Kaepernick’s heroics at the end. I also said, “I don’t trust Colin Kapernick completely…”, which should have been enough for me to pick against the 49ers, but I stuck with them and if San Francisco would learn to not cap a comeback in big games with a fade to Michael Crabtree (see: last week and last year’s Super Bowl), then we may be having a different conversation here. Nonetheless, props to Seattle for winning a hard-fought game against a tough divisional opponent.
As for my Denver pick, I was pretty much spot on. Denver’s rush defense shut down New England’s offense even better than I expected and Manning went to town picking apart the Patriots whenever he really needed to. It was a great performance all around for the Broncos.
I also feel it is necessary to point out, last season’s Super Bowl was almost correctly predicted down to the final score by yours truly, even correctly predicting Jacoby Jones impact (kickoff return for a touchdown) and a David Akers missed field goal (that was retried due to a Baltimore penalty). I am well aware that this all means nothing at this point, but I am still very much proud of it and plan on sticking to that success as I make my predictions for this year’s Super Bowl XLVIII Prediction.
Sunday, 2/2 – 6:30 pm ET – MetLife Stadium – East Rutherford, NJ
Seattle Seahawks 13-3 @ Denver Broncos 13-3
Prediction: Denver Broncos, 31-21
Let’s begin with the elephant in the room; the weather. Okay… so the weather has actually been a major topic of discussion throughout the lead-up to this year’s Super Bowl. It will be the first one to be held at an outdoors “cold” venue… ever. Personally, I like it. Football is a cold-weather sport. It is played in the fall and winter, so it seems only fitting that the game be played in the elements. I personally love watching football in the snow. It is visually appealing to me, but, with that said, I do hope the weather doesn’t decide the game in the sense that a snowstorm comes in, making the passing games irrelevant and all this time we’ve spent talking about Manning a waste. I want the game to be played as it would normally be played. The temperature is only supposed to hover around the low 40s by kickoff and the only other element in play is supposed to be a slight chance of rain and around ten mile per hour winds. Considering the weather that has hit parts of the United States this winter, that is very tame and totally acceptable for a Super Bowl. So, America… you can rest easy because I have given the Super Bowl the okay to proceed as planned.
The biggest storyline surrounding Denver heading into this game is everything “Peyton Manning”. His legacy. His success this season. His neck. His future. His arm strength. His “ducks”. Everything is about Manning… and for good reason.
This game will come down to Manning’s success against the top NFL defense that fields the best secondary in the game and may give all-time secondaries a run for their money. The Seahawks’ secondary is big, physical and talented, which allows them to run a tremendous amount of press and out fight receivers for throws. This matchup will be key for the Broncos offense and will play a huge role in outcome. That said, the media hype surrounding Manning and the Seahawks secondary, while warranted, can’t be the only thing to consider for these two teams.
Their receivers are incredible. Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Julius Thomas form the most complete receiving core in the NFL with athleticism, quickness, physicality and great hands. While Manning has been off the charts all season, it is in huge part because of these receivers. Part of what makes this Super Bowl so intriguing is how Seattle, on paper, is one of the few teams in the NFL with the secondary to matchup across the board with this offensive attack. I personally don’t think it will be enough, but these matchups are a huge factor for the Broncos. Couple that with Knowshon Moreno’s strong running this season and that fact that he is fresh now that he has been able to rest and he could be suddenly a threat on the ground. I wouldn’t be surprised if he really is the X-factor with a quick start to the game.
Denver’s defense has taken a lot of heat it seems. They finished the regular season as the 19th defense in total yards allowed and had really struggled for most of the season, especially with star rush linebacker Von Miller suspended and then injured. While Denver’s defense shouldn’t be mistaken for Seattle’s, we need to give them some credit. They held New England to minimal yardage (64 rushing yards) and San Diego to about the same (65 rushing yards), despite each team traveling to Denver with running the ball a focal point of their offense and gameplan. Neither of those two opponents are as punishing as Lynch and the Seahawks’ rush offense, but it may not be as easy going as many expect.
For Seattle, we begin with their defense. It is incredible. They are big, physical and highly talented. They have a defensive line that is more than capable of getting to Manning and rushing the passer. Their linebackers are big and athletic and shore up a great rush defense while their secondary of Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Byron Maxwell lock down receivers. It is the most formidable defense in the game today and is the best bet to be able to shut down Manning and Company, if anyone in the NFL can.
Seattle’s offense isn’t quite as celebrated as their defense, but Russell Wilson and Lynch lead a great, balanced attack. Wilson can make all the throws and is athletic enough to run with the ball if needed. Lynch is punishing and gets better as the game goes on. He is very hard to stop. For Seattle’s receivers, Percy Harvin is the wild-card. His talent could be a difference-maker if he gets the ball in his hands enough, but he hasn’t played much all season due to injury/concussions. Him being healthy is bad news for the Broncos defense.
Calling the Game
I like Denver to win this one. My score of 31-21 makes it look like I think Denver wins comfortably, but I don’t think that will be the case. Rather, I think Denver will put the game away with just under two minutes left in the game by kicking a field goal or scoring a touchdown. The ten-point score is then too much to overcome, resulting in the 31-21 score.
Manning will be successful, but I expect to see at least one, probably two interceptions thrown by the future Hall of Famer as his timing throws and slightly weaker arm strength struggle to counter more powerful wind gusts. All you need is Manning, who finds success because he can place a throw as the receiver runs onto it, throwing the ball into the wind that could push or pull the ball into the hands of a Seahawk. That said, Manning will win this game for the Broncos. He will utilize his litany of weapons to spread the ball around. Denver’s receivers are big and physical in their own right, which makes me think they will be able to move the ball and put up some points. I think Knowshon Moreno will be a big factor, at least early in this game, setting up the play action for later on. I also think there is a major special teams play. For instance, a Trindon Holliday kickoff or punt return. Be warned… if Denver receives the kickoff first, he could take it the distance. Playing in the cold could keep the ball in play and with Seattle’s inexperience in playoff, much less Super Bowl, play, they could be a little too emotional, get out of their lanes and be facing a seven-point deficit early on.
Seattle’s defense will make plays. Like I said, I think Seattle forces at least two Manning turnovers, leaving the camera with two “Manning shaking his head” shots as he walks off the field. The wide range of skill players for Denver will just be too much in the end, but Sherman will play well and get his interception of Manning.
Seattle’s offense will pound the ball as they usually do. Lynch will have a “beast mode” run where he breaks it late in the game, but I think Wilson will struggle when the game is all said and done. I love what Wilson does as a quarterback and he is a great guy and great leader, but he has yet to really save his team or help Seattle distance themselves from competition in the playoffs. If Lynch can be contained (somewhere around 100 rushing yards would probably be a win for Denver), then Wilson will be forced to do more than just make the occasional big throws, as he has done so well this postseason. I think that is where Wilson could have problems. His mobility gives him an advantage, but Wesley Woodyard of Denver is arguably the fastest linebacker in the league and should be able to effectively shadow/spy Wilson if his legs become a factor. I expect the Denver defense to step up in a big way in this game, contain Lynch and force Wilson to beat them. Wilson will play well, but won’t be able to do enough to pull Seattle out with a win. The wild-card here is Harvin. If he is utilized as a key piece of the gameplan, he could win this game for Seattle almost by himself, but if he is limited or Denver schemes to account for his tremendous athleticism, Denver has one less dangerous weapon to worry about.
Another thing to consider here is how Seattle is technically on the road. By technically, I don’t mean that they are wearing their white uniforms, but that they are quite literally away from Seattle, on the road. When this team travels from their comfy confines in Seattle, they aren’t the same team. They are still an incredible team and hard team to beat, but we can’t ignore the impact that playing in front of their home fans in their stadium has had on their defense during this incredibly successful season. The home field advantage for Seattle has impacts on the opposing offenses ability to get the play in and their ability to get off the line in time to protect their quarterback from Seattle’s talented defensive line. Without that advantage, Seattle is beatable. It won’t be easy, but Denver can move the ball on this defense and can do enough defensively themselves to pull off the win.
Broncos win, 31-21.
Call these my “bold predictions”. The more specific tidbits that, if I call correctly, I can use to argue how I might be a wizard.
– Holliday returns a kickoff for a touchdown – Special teams plays are huge in these games. I continue to think that if Denver gets the ball first, he could be dynamite from the get-go. His speed and vision have burned great teams in the past and Seattle’s inexperience on this stage and high emotion level could lead someone to get out of their lane, leaving Holliday in a foot race to the endzone. That’s one he normally wins.
– Moreno plays a role early on – I think Moreno probably ends the game with around 80 yards rushing and a touchdown. I also think most of that comes at the bookends of the game (early first quarter and running out clock in fourth) with an early dose of him early to set up the play-action for the second half. With so much talk about Manning, it’s easy to forget that this rushing attack for Denver is actually pretty solid. Moreno should be a big factor early on, potentially gashing Seattle early.
– Manning throws for around 280 yards passing, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions – Manning won’t be dominant, but he should finish strong once he has time to adapt to Seattle’s defense.
– Lynch plays as we expect him to – Lynch goes for about 120 yards rushing with a touchdown on a longer run. With the exception of his one long run, I think he is held in check for the most part, surprisingly.
– Sherman gets his pick of Manning – I think Sherman will intercept Manning. Manning isn’t going to shy away from Sherman for the entire game. He will take what the defense gives him, which will sometimes be a matchup with Sherman. While I think Denver’s receivers win the war, Sherman will win a couple battles.
– Harvin will be a focal point – Reverses, handoffs, catches out of the backfield. He will be a factor. I’ll say around 100 total yards, but depending on how they use him, it could be any range.
– Denver capitalizes on a fake screen (countering Seattle’s aggressive defense) – This is really specific, I know, but Denver has their shallow screen game to Demaryius Thomas that has been very good to them. Denver figures to find some success with that here as well, but Seattle is an aggressive, cerebral defensive secondary, who may be likely to jump that. If that were the case, I would expect Manning and the Broncos to know how to counter that with perhaps a leaking Julius Thomas who breaks away when Seattle converges on the screen play. Again, I know this is specific, but it is something I wouldn’t be surprised to see, especially with how much film Seattle has on this aspect of Denver’s offense this season.