Seattle Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch
Sometimes it’s just breath-taking to watch Marshawn Lynch run the football, because it’s just an art. He sees openings better than almost every back in this league, and his ability to explode through those gaps is exemplary. But even more impressive are his cutting ability and strength, as he breaks and forces missed tackles in a variety of ways. Lynch is the definition of “elusive”, because the adjective shouldn’t only be used to describe small, shifty backs like Darren Sproles, Andre Ellington, or C.J. Spiller. No, big guys who can cut and show great agility with that kind of size are a scary kind of elusive, and that’s what makes a player like Lynch or, to a lesser extent, LeGarrette Blount so special.
Lynch is the Seahawks most important skill position player, and it seems almost blasphemous for me to state that he’s more important than Russell Wilson. But he is. And the San Francisco 49ers knew it going into last week’s game, and they still couldn’t stop him from controlling the game and running for over 100 yards despite having one of the league’s best defenses. The Broncos also have a terrific run D up the middle, but I wouldn’t expect that to slow down a guy as good and important as Lynch. He’s the identity of this offense, and that’s a statement that has been backed up by quotes from Russell Wilson and his play on the field. He received a whopping 301 carries this past season, and it’s clear that Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll always plans on giving him the ball early and often.
Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson
Russell Wilson is easily one of the most likable players in the NFL, and he definitely fills the whole “Guy who plays the game the right way” cliche. The unfortunate thing is that Wilson has been in a bit of a mini-slump lately, but he could shake that off and have a big game against the Broncos, especially if Percy Harvin can stay healthy for a full game. Wilson does a great job of taking care of the football, and that’s always important in big games. In fact, even though he was outplayed by Colin Kaepernick last week, a key reason why the Seahawks won is the fact that Wilson took care of the football. He knew that Lynch was controlling the game whereas Kaep was the only player on the 49ers doing anything, so he knew that the Seahawks would win as long as they didn’t make any big mistakes. Wilson never made a big mistake, and the Seahawks locked up a win and the trip to get to this point.
Anyway, Wilson is a quarterback who doesn’t have a glaring weakness in any part of his game, save for his inability to adequately sense pressure. That’s not a major qualm, though, especially for a second-year QB with his ability to move around and avoid that pressure. Wilson is a guy who needs to have a solid game in order for his team to win, and he’s a guy who could win the MVP if the “Legion of Boom” gets a couple of picks off of Manning and Wilson plays another clean, efficient game at QB.
I assume that a few people knew that this one was coming, and I’ll preface this by saying that there’s a reason why I didn’t pick a Seattle Seahawks player on defense (or offense) as an X-Factor. The thing about the Seahawks defense is that they are so stacked that there isn’t one player you can’t point to as a true MVP candidate. It could be Sherman. It could be Thomas. It could be Michael Bennett. It could be K.J. Wright.
But after season-ending injuries to the likes of Von Miller, Chris Harris Jr., and Rahim Moore, it gets easier to pinpoint a single Broncos defender as being incredibly crucial to the team’s success. See, the Broncos used to be a deep, talented defense before the injuries took place, and now they are merely “underrated”. Guys like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Champ Bailey, Malik Jackson, and Danny Trevathan are key players who have important roles, but I don’t think anyone on this defense will be more important in the Super Bowl than Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton.
While Knighton has always been a good player, he really made the jump this season with the Broncos and has become a huge fixture at defensive tackle. He’s not much of a pass rusher, but he can put pressure on the QB when needed (see his fourth-down sack on Tom Brady last week in which he absolutely destroyed- ate him up like a certain carnivorous dish- Logan Mankins). But more importantly, Knighton is an absolute space-eating beast against the run, and he has the ability to control an entire offensive line. That’s what he did to the Patriots last week, and it was almost unfair watching him roast the much smaller Ryan Wendell, who is a capable center but bases his game off of technique and doesn’t do well against behemoths like Terrance Knighton.
The Broncos were the best team in the league at defending runs up the middle with just 2.9 yards per carry allowed, and Knighton is a massive part of that. Marshawn Lynch is definitely a different kind of animal than LeGarrette Blount, but it was still impressive watching the Broncos stifle Blount and severely hurt the Patriots overall gameplan. I don’t think they’ll be able to do that against Lynch and the Seahawks, but if they do, then Knighton will almost certainly find himself in the MVP discussion.