Super Bowl XLVIII Prediction

Posted: January 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

super-bowl-48-broncos-vs.-seahawksSuper Bowl XLVIII will kick off in less than five days. With two number one seeds facing each other for just the second time in 20 years (2009), the frosty New York affair promises to be a legendary battle. On one side is the AFC champion Denver Broncos; whose passing offense sits alone as the greatest the league has ever seen. In the other corner rests the Seattle Seahawks; a team with a powerful running attack and a ferocious defense led by CB Richard Sherman.

The old adage is that defense wins championships. But, with the added emphasis on pass interference/illegal contact calls, defenses have been neutered by the league in recent years. Will Seattle’s Legion of Boom secondary prove strong enough against the greatest quarterback of our generation, Peyton Manning? Or, will the future Hall of Fame gunslinger win his second championship in this his 16th NFL season? On Sunday night, we’ll find out. 

Seeing as how both of these teams were the best in their respective conferences basically from start-to-finish this year, finding a true underdog can be daunting. Yes, Vegas has Denver as a 2.5 point favorite right now. But, a line that small doesn’t exactly inspire much confidence in picking the Broncos. Seattle’s secondary, unlike New England’s a week ago, is healthy and physical. The Broncos receivers, meanwhile, have thrived this year by utilizing their own physicality on pick plays over the middle to free up other targets for Manning. They’ve done this in every single game this year and while it may be technically illegal, the referees rarely throw the penalty flag. If Seattle’s secondary can match or surpass the physical nature of Demaryius Thomas, Erik Decker, and Wes Welker, then Manning will have a tough time finding open targets downfield. This will intensify the focus on the Seattle pass rush, which is led by a trio of dominant defensive ends, Michael Bennett, Chris Clemons, and Cliff Avril.

On offense, the Seahawks will likely have better success against Denver through the air than they did against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. Denver’s defense is banged up and relying heavily on veteran Champ Bailey after the loss of Chris Harris for the season in their earlier playoff win vs. San Diego. His injury forced Bailey back into the starting lineup and subsequently pushed everyone else up the pecking order in the depth chart. This is a significant concern because of Seattle’s ability to spread the football around. The return of offseason pickup WR Percy Harvin, who played just one game all season for the Seahawks, will be huge. Harvin, along with Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate, and Jermaine Kearse, form a deep receiving corp for sophomore sensation Russell Wilson to utilize.

The aforementioned Seahawks’ signal-caller will be making his fifth career playoff start (3-1) against Manning, who is lining up for his 23rd (11-11).  That inexperience could be a huge factor. Especially when one considers that Wilson hasn’t exactly been Joe Montana since the beginning of December (4-2 record, 5 TD – 3 INT). While his numbers against San Francisco two weeks ago were the best that he’s had in that time frame, Wilson wasn’t exactly asked to do a lot in an offense that revolved around not turning the ball over and running Marshawn Lynch 20+ times a game. Which brings me to my next burning question; will Marshawn find “beast mode” against one of the best rushing attacks in football? The Broncos defense has allowed a combined 280 yards on the ground the last four games. That’s an average of just 70 yards a game. It’s not like the Broncos were playing the Cowboys, either. Those performances came against very good running teams in New England, San Diego, Oakland, and Houston. In fact, the last time the Broncos gave up a 100+ yard performance on the ground was their Thursday night defeat at the hands of San Diego, a matchup in which the Chargers rolled for 177 yards via the run.

There was a period in the middle of the season in which the Broncos gave up over 100+ yards on the ground in six consecutive games. They went just 4-2 in those affairs. Which is telling considering the Broncos have lost just those two games all season long. It shows that, despite all the talk about the Seahawks’ defense vs. Peyton Manning or the inexperience of Russell Wilson, this game will likely come down to whether or not the Seahawks can establish the run with Lynch and Robert Turbin and then continue to pound the rock down the throats of the AFC Champions. If Lynch goes for over 100 yards on Sunday, the Seahawks will win their first Super Bowl. If he doesn’t, and the Broncos are able to keep the ball in Manning’s hands for the majority of the game, it will be Denver celebrating a third Lombardi Trophy.

In the end, it’s impossible to accurately predict what will happen. But, Seattle’s penchant for keeping their hands on the football while also forcing turnovers is the exact recipe necessary to win a Super Bowl in this day-and-age. People will continue to suggest that the passing game has enveloped the league to the point that, if your team doesn’t throw for 400 yards a game, you don’t have a chance to win a championship. We’ve seen numerous times over the last five years that this just is not the case. Baltimore, New York, and Pittsburgh have won a combined four of the last six Super Bowls thanks to their ability to run the ball and force turnovers. If Colin Kaepernick isn’t intercepted by the Ravens’ Ed Reed in the first half of Super Bowl XLVII, who knows who ends up winning that tight affair. It’s the same story with Tom Brady the year prior, who was forced to take a safety early in the game by a ferocious Giants’ pass rush. When Pittsburgh defeated Arizona in 2008, it was in large part due to a 100+ yard pick-six delivered by Steelers’ OLB James Harrison late in the first half.

Turnovers and a strong rushing attack are the keys to Super Bowl glory. For Seattle, a city with just one title in their history and many, many close calls; the keys are in the ignition awaiting the green light that says, “go.”

 Prediction: Seattle 20, Denver 17 (MVP: Richard Sherman)

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