By Pat Jameson
Who: Denver Broncos vs Seattle Seahawks
When: Sunday, February 2, 6:30 PM, FOX Network
Where: MetLife Stadium, New Jersey
Offense: Led by Peyton Manning, arguably the best quarterback in history, the Bronco’s offense had an incredible season in which they led the league in total offense (457.3 YPG), passing (340 YPG) and points per game (37.9).
Manning himself accounted for 5,477 passing yards and broke an National Football League record with 55 touchdowns during the regular season. At age 37 and two years removed from a serious neck surgery, Manning continues to slice apart defenses like a line cook at Hibachi.
A large part of the quarterback’s success is due to an insanely talented receiving corps consisting of dominant wide outs Demaryus Thomas, Eric Decker, and Wes Welker, alongside versatile tight-end Julius Thomas. Each of these players is capable of scoring at any time and the squad mixes toughness with undeniable speed.
A lesser recognized part of the Bronco’s attack is the hard-nosed running back duo of Montee Ball and Knowshown Moreno. Both Moreno and Ball are receiving threats and provide a reliable change of pace to Denver’s aerial attack.
Simply put, this is the best offense the NFL has ever seen. They have put up unreal numbers and embarrassed defenses all season long. They are also an incredibly focused squad led by one of history’s most calm, cerebral quarterbacks. It will be quite the challenge for them to maintain their cool going up against the league’s loudest, hardest hitting and terrifying defense.
Defense: While less spectacular than their offensive counterparts, Denver’s D has been solid all season long. Defensive end Shaun Phillips has hunted opposing quarterbacks all season, leading the team with ten sacks.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Danny Trevathan each have three interceptions while Trevathan adds a team high 129 tackles. Simply put, the Bronco’s defense is a serviceable, if unremarkable squad. To their credit, they did hold an explosive New England Patriots offense to 26 points in the AFC Championship.
Bronco’s XFactor: Much of the focus heading into Sunday’s game is concerned with the matchup between Denver’s Offense and Seattle’s Defense.
However, the oft overlooked Bronco Defense is the real story in this one.
Manning and his offense are going to put up points, but if the defense can shut down Marshawn Lynch and corral Russell Wilson, it will be over before half-time.
Offense: While the Broncos’ have the NFL’s most talented field general on their side, the Seahawks have his pint sized doppelganger in gunslinger Russell Wilson.
A veritable midget by quarterback standards, the five-feet, eleven-inches Wilson has proven in his second year that he has the smarts, toughness and skill to lead this squad.
Whereas Manning is an old school quarterback, Wilson is most threatening when he leaves the pocket, as his quickness and playmaking ability confounds defenses. He has struggled as of late but accounted for 3,357 yards and 26 touchdowns in the regular season.
While Wilson commands the offense, most eyes on Sunday will be watching running back Marshall Lynch, a 215-pound battering ram that plows over linebackers and leaves safeties in the dust.
Lynch has been the man in Seattle this season and is coming off a game where he sliced through the rival San Francisco 49ers defense for 109 yards and a touchdown. He had 1,257 yards and 12 touchdowns in the regular season and 249 yards and three more scores in the playoffs. When Lynch is on his game he is nearly unstoppable and so is the Seahawks’ offense.
The Seahawks’ wide receiving corps is mostly average, but does have a few standout players. One of them is Percy Harvin, who returns to action after missing nearly the whole season with a slew of injuries. Harvin is a phenomenal athlete whose presence will provide a huge boost to this offense. Whether he can stay healthy for four quarters is a different story.
Defense: Pick any word meaning “good” and chances are it isn’t sufficient to describe the Seahawks’ Defense. They are number one in total defense, passing yards and turnovers, including 28 interceptions and 17 forced fumbles.
Led by loud mouthed, swaggering cornerback Richard Sherman, the Hawks’ defense does one thing and one thing only: destroys opposing offenses.
Sherman, is one of the best, if not the best, corner in the league and he is only a small part of what makes their defense so good.
Their secondary is impenetrable, their defensive line is unmoving and their linebackers run better than most wide outs.
They are an extremely athletic, ferocious unit and look to put a damper on the Bronco’s passing game. The secondary, nicknamed the Legion of Boom, give up an average of 172 passing yards a game and will present the Bronco’s with a challenge unlike anything they have seen yet.
Seattle X-Factor: While the key to the offense is Marshawn Lynch, don’t overlook the impact of Russell Wilson in this one. Part of the reason Wilson hasn’t put up crazy passing numbers is that the Hawks’ run first offense doesn’t really need him to.
With everybody and their mother trying to stop Lynch, Wilson will finally have a chance to put his playmaking skills on display. If he can take his game to the next level and be more than a game manager, the Seahawks will dominate an overmatched Bronco’s defense.
I’m taking the Seahawks on this one.
Russell Wilson will rise to the occasion, Marshawn Lynch will go beast mode, the pesky Seattle defense will frustrate Peyton Manning, Richard Sherman will infuriate old people everywhere with his brash attitude and hilarious tweets.
John Elway will continue to be a pompous asshole.
Final Score: 24-21.