Peyton Manning and the NFL’s top offense will battle the elements and football’s top defense. It’s the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl 48. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
If you were smart and avoided the incessant, irrelevant, and mostly worthless coverage leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII, here’s what you missed: 1. Warren Sapp and Michael Strahan are beefing because Sapp foolishly thinks Strahan isn’t worthy of the Hall of Fame. 2. Marshawn Lynch doesn’t care to talk to the media. The media thinks this is a really, really, REALLY big deal. It’s not. Some people don’t like to speak to a crowd. 3. Richard Sherman. Anything and everything that has to do with Sherman is a story right now. 4. Peyton Manning may or may not retire.
Thankfully, we’re within 72 hours of kickoff. That means the stupid stories end and the focus moves to, you know, football. With that said, here are the three biggest factors Sunday. One way or another, they’ll determine the outcome of the biggest game of the year.
Sunday, February 2 (6:25PM ET)
1. Peyton Manning
If Manning can continue his season of dominance against the league’s top pass defense the Broncos will find themselves in good shape to hoist Lombardi’s trophy. In fact, if Manning has a great night, I’m not sure Seattle can compete. Russell Wilson is a fine young quarterback. He can’t keep pace with Manning and that Denver offense, though. He’s not good enough (yet) and the weapons around him aren’t built to score in bunches. For Seattle to win the game, they’ll need another stellar outing from their defense, and more specifically, the…
2. Legion of Boom
Seattle’s secondary handed the Seahawks the NFC title and served Colin Kaepernick a heaping piece of humble pie. As great as Manning is, I’m having a hard time seeing how he finds passing lanes against this group. Richard Sherman was right; Manning throws a lot of ducks. The AFC’s Pro Bowl secondary isn’t as good as Seattle’s. Manning doesn’t have the arm to dissect a defense with rockets thrown between defenders. The Broncos will need to rely heavily on their picks over the middle to give Manning space to throw and find a way to use Seattle’s aggressiveness against them. However, picks won’t be as easy against Seattle. Seattle is a physical defense. They’ll run through picks and punish Denver’s receivers all day long. Denver must find a way to run the football and force Seattle’s safeties to think twice about Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball. If the Legion of Boom can contain Manning, Seattle’s battering ram will be in great position to win MVP.
3. Marshawn Lynch
Imagine, the one guy who doesn’t want a camera in his face wins the MVP and is forced to speak live to millions of people. That would be great. Anyway, Lynch is the key for Seattle. As I mentioned before, I don’t think Wilson can win this game through the air without a solid ground attack. Wilson’s accuracy has been off for close to two months, and while he makes game-changing plays, he and Seattle’s aerial attack isn’t known for sustaining drives time after time. That’ll be up to Lynch. If Lynch can punish Denver’s defense it’ll open up plays for Wilson and the passing game. Of course, an effective running game means neutralizing Pot Roast (Terrance Knighton), which is a nearly impossible chore based upon his performance in the playoffs. But, if there were one running back in the league you’d want on your side in a cold-weather Super Bowl, it’d be the physically punishing Lynch. If it’s close in the 4th quarter Lynch will be Seattle’s best chance.
To recap: For Denver to win, Manning must be near perfect, which isn’t that crazy since he’s been near perfect for almost six months now. Still, he hasn’t faced a defense like Seattle’s. His arm strength hasn’t miraculously improved in two weeks, so he’ll have to pick and choose where he’ll take his shots or that Seahawks secondary will turn the game on its head real quick. And if Manning can’t score points, Seattle doesn’t have to ask their young quarterback to do too much. Pete Carroll would be more than content to let Lynch pound Denver’s defense for two or three yards at a time all night long.
I love Peyton Manning. He’s an all-timer. He doesn’t deserve 98% of the nonsense about his playoff shortcomings. I hope people appreciate him and his career even if Sunday doesn’t go well. He’s one of the best of all time and his 2013 season is the best season by a quarterback in history. A loss Sunday won’t change that. Yes, I said a loss. Seattle is too good at too many positions and too great in the secondary. If they can prevent a shootout, the Seahawks will win Super Bowl XLVIII and gladly tell Jim Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick all about it. SEAHAWKS If I were Charles Barkley; Seahawks +2.5