The stage is set and the biggest game of the NFL season is finally upon us.
The fan bases of the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks have been celebrating like no other since their teams clinched spots in Super Bowl XLVIII on Jan. 19.
They shouldn’t be the only ones celebrating. Everyone that watches football, even the casual fan, should be excited about this.
Because this Super Bowl sees Peyton Manning return to the bright lights, some that never thought would happen again after his neck problems at the end of his stint in Indianapolis.
Peyton has played in two Super Bowls previous to this. Manning won in his first trip to the Super Bowl over the Chicago Bears in 2006 and was on the verge of leading a comeback in his second Super Bowl against New Orleans in 2010 before a defensive back named Tracy Porter had other ideas.
For Manning, this is where he belongs. This is where he likes to shine, but this Super Bowl might cause some problems for one of the greats.
Manning’s 9-11 postseason record is something that would catch an NFL fan off guard especially if they see that his record in the regular season in his illustrious career is 167-73. What makes Manning’s postseason record more interesting is that he is 0-3 in cold weather games in the postseason. Add in the regular season to that mix and his record in cold weather games is a dismal 4-7.
This is where MetLife Stadium can play a huge factor in Sunday’s game. The most recent forecast is calling for a light chance of snow with temperatures dipping into the mid 20s at night. I wouldn’t expect much of a change in the forecast from now to Sunday. It will be interesting to see how Manning and the Broncos prepare for the cold to see to it that Peyton adds another ring to his collection.
Weather isn’t the main concern on Manning or anyone else’s mind wearing Bronco orange. Their main concern is the defense of the Seattle Seahawks and rightfully so.
The Seahawks boast the league’s best defense in total yards from scrimmage (4,378), passing defense (2,752) and rushing touchdowns as they only allowed an opponent to run in the end zone four times during the season. Oh and Seattle is also ranked seventh in the league in rushing defense. Not only can this team cover the passing attack, they can hunker down and stop the run with the best of them.
It will be interesting to see the type of disguises the Seahawks draw up on defense to confuse Manning and the offensive line. Seattle understand’s that they’re dealing with one of the best of all time at his position and in order to come out victorious, the Seahawks not only need to protect against the deep pass and speed of the Bronco receivers, they first and foremost need to get pressure on Manning and take away the idea of even trying to throw deep away at the very beginning.
If the Broncos are able to give Manning a good amount of protection and he’s able to go through his progressions in the passing game, it will be interesting to see just how well the Seahawks secondary and linebackers matchup against the Broncos receivers.
Three of Manning’s favorite targets in the receiving game are 6’3 or above. Throw the headaches that Wes Welker has been known to give defenses in the short to mid-range passing game then there could be problems.
Seattle’s secondary is led by the brash and boisterous Richard Sherman. The problem is, he can only guard one receiving threat on the Broncos.
It’s likely that you could see Sherman matchup against Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas. That still leaves Eric Decker and Julius Thomas for the taking and that’s where this all goes back to Seattle having the ability to put pressure on Peyton Manning and disrupting the passing game. If they can’t make Manning move around in the pocket under pressure, then it could be a long day for Seattle.
For Seattle, this is their second trip to the Super Bowl. Many will remember their first appearance in Super Bowl XL against Pittsburgh and how the referees arguably cost Seattle their first title.
Fast forward to today and many of those same fans might think it’s a good thing that they didn’t win that game, because we’d have to put up with the nonsense of bandwagon Seattle fans a few years earlier.
Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch, nicknamed “Beast Mode”, is just that—a beast.
No matter what you do to stop the guy, he will find a way to have a game-changing run at some point. It’s almost inevitable.
What worries me more about the Denver defense is their secondary. The Broncos have never come across as a good passing defense and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson can only have so many average games in a row before he breaks out. It’s been long enough and I have a feeling that Wilson will let it fly this Sunday.
The defensive line for Denver has definitely picked up the pace in recent weeks and need to continue to do so in order to make sure the outcome of the game doesn’t fall solely on Manning’s shoulders, although that would be a ratings juggernaut if the game came down to a similar finish as Super Bowl XLIV did.
After the game kickoffs and football fans around the world watch the two best teams the NFL has to offer, I believe that Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos will hoist their first Super Bowl trophy since John Elway led Denver to their only two titles in Super Bowl XXXII and XXXIII.
Final: Denver 31, Seattle 28.