The Seattle Seahawks will face the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII: the matchup that every pure football fan is drooling over. Most would agree that these are the two best representatives of each conference, and that it is a matchup between one of the greatest offenses of all time vs. one of the greatest defenses of all time. The Denver Broncos rolled through a shallow AFC field much like the Seahawks rolled through the NFC in 2005 when they reached Super Bowl XL. The Seahawks on the other hand, played a grueling NFC championship that resembled an early ’90’s NFC Championship game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys. While conventional wisdom says that a great defense can stop a great offense, the Broncos look to be about as good as an offense can get.
That being said, many fans are saying that the key matchup will be Seattle’s offense vs. Denver’s defense. A fewer number of prognosticators, bloggers and writers are thinking that it will come down to special teams play. Why? Because that is not as interesting of a story. However, those who know me know that I am a staunch believer that special teams is equally as important as offense or defense, and that football games can be won or lost on plays that begin with somebody actually kicking the ball with their foot.
But, this game features two pretty complete teams, so it’s fair to go through a more thorough prediction. Let’s start with quarterbacks. First of all, Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson are both studious professionals who will be prepared to play the game. The thing that a lot of writers are giving little attention to is that Wilson is facing a much older defense than Manning. In fact, I can see Seattle’s offense busting out a few big plays to the tune of three offensive touchdowns. I certainly don’t see Manning getting more than that against Seattle’s defense. In fact, I see Manning throwing for about two touchdowns, possibly throwing to first and goal, and running in one of those two.
In terms of special teams, I think that Denver kicker Matt Prater will keep Percy Harvin return-less by kicking only touchbacks. He may also kick a field goal or two. In terms of punt returns, Denver has punted once in the past month which means that they could be rusty. I expect them to punt 2-3 times in this game with Golden Tate running one back for 10+ yards setting up a short field for Seattle.
As for Seattle’s kickers, their punt game is one of the best I’ve ever seen, and I don’t see them giving up much. Hauschka might allow them to return some kicks, but I also expect the Seahawks coverage to be able to contain anything the Broncos can offer. The Seahawks are notorious slow-starters so they may get a couple of field goals early. One final note on special teams is that the weather might have a bigger effect on the kicking and punting games than on the offensive play.
Lastly, the defense vs. offense matchups — there could be some turnovers. Seattle has been known to fumble a bit, and Manning has thrown some wobbly passes in the playoffs – the kind that the Legion of Boom feasts on. At the same time, I see Seattle’s defense as one that actively plays the ball to make turnovers as a unit. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Seattle’s D takes a fumble or interception back for a touchdown.
Denver’s defense has been pretty stout against the run lately. In the playoffs, they’ve held each of their opponents to under 100 yards rushing. Their confidence is pretty high. Expect Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks’ running game to crush it.
Final prediction: When it comes down to it, Denver is all business, and Seattle is something more. Both teams have been on a collision course since their untimely departure in last season’s playoffs. Denver is a great team with a chance to win the Super Bowl, but Seattle is younger, hungrier, bigger, faster, stronger, and they play each game and each snap to its fullest. Denver has never seen a defense with this much depth, nor have they seen a quarterback with as much elusive play-making ability as Russell Wilson. Peyton Manning might throw a pretty ball and be able to read a defense, but by the end of the first half his receivers will be avoiding contact. This game is Seattle’s to lose, but I expect them to win all three phases of the game and carry the chip on their shoulder all the way to a Super Bowl victory.
Seattle 34 – Denver 20