NFL fans could not have asked for a better set of circumstances for Super Bowl XLVIII. Not only do we get the League’s best offense versus its best defense, the fans get the privilege of watching two of the more special teams in league history in terms of their accomplishments thus far.
Like every Super Bowl previous to this one their are specific match ups that will in fact determine the out come of the game. Like most of you have heard throughout this week from your favorite local or national radio person ad nauseam, its going to be Manning v. Sherman or Manning v. Wilson or Lynch v. the Denver Front-7. However, after reviewing statistics, film and further considering expert opinions there are a few match ups that have not gotten much media attention that will have a profound impact on the game.
First, let’s consider what has been the most underrated part of the Denver offense this season, the running game. Knowshon Moreno has had a dramatic turnaround in his career this season. As the majority of football fans wrote him off, he used that as motivation to be one of the more dynamic runningbacks in the NFL this season. Moreno has gotten almost no attention this week, however his ability to grind yards against Seattle on Sunday could in fact change the complexion of the game. If Moreno plays as well as he did in the AFC Championship game where he helped move the chains on two of the longest drives this season, Denver will undoubtedly have the edge.
Secondly, considering that the Seahawks brand of defense includes heavy man-to-man looks and a lack of blitzes, the importance of individual battles between Denver skill players and Seattle Back-end guys will be paramount. A match up that will be incredibly interesting is the potential pairing of Wes Welker v. Walter Thurmond this Sunday. Thurmond has shown the ability to man up the league’s best and for the majority of the season was the starter opposite Sherman in the Seattle’s secondary. However, due to a late season suspension for violating the League’s Substance Abuse Policy he lost his starting spot to Byron Maxwell. Thurmond has played well in the nickel-back position since returning to the field and will have his hands full against what might be the greatest slot receiver of all time in Wes Welker. If Welker can create separation against Thurmond and be a reliable safety valve for Manning, Denver’s passing game will have no trouble moving chains.
Another match up that will prove interesting is whom ever Seattle chooses to cover tight end Julius Thomas. Thomas has become a dynamic playmaker for the Broncos this season and has been pivotal to their success thus far. Thomas proves to be to fast for any linebacker to man him up and too big for any safety against most teams in the NFL, however Seattle maintains size in the secondary that could potentially match the Portland State product. The player who will most likely get the majority of the work against Thomas is safety Kam Chancellor. Chancellor has been easily one of the most effective safeties in the NFL this year and for the most part gets overshadowed because of the great play of his counterpart Earl Thomas. With a 6’3″ and 230 lb. frame in addition to great speed he has all the physical tools to cover Thomas. That being said, Thomas has been an efficient player against every safety whose tried covering him this year. This match up could prove vital in either team’s success. Chancellor could be the most valuable player in the ‘Legion of Boom’ this Sunday in East Rutherford if he’s able to hawk Julius Thomas.
Moreover, another treat that Super Bowl Sunday brings NFL fans is prop betting. The crazier the better in most fans opinion. However, in this piece I’ll highlight a few that will play a crucial role (statistically) this Sunday.
Over/Under Peyton Manning throws for 290.5 yards
Over: Peyton has shown the ability to toss it around on the best of them regardless of what scheme the team plays or who is in the secondary. Regardless of outcome Manning goes over that number.
Over/Under Marshawn Lynch rushes for 88 yards
Under: This goes against conventional wisdom considering Lynch has rushed for over one hundred yards in four of his six appearances in the playoffs, however the Denver defense has not gotten enough credit of late for its impressive performances. Terrance ‘Pot Roast’ Knighton has become an overnight sensation with his supreme play this post season and he deserves a lot of the credit for holding San Diego’s and New England’s running games’ in check. Though the biggest factor will be time of possession for Denver. Once the Broncos establish a running game they have dominated T.O.P this season making it difficult for teams to stay committed to the run game.
Over/Under Total Sacks for Seattle 2.5
Under: With the quickness in which Peyton Manning releases the ball (under 2 seconds on average), its hard for anybody to get a hand on Manning regardless of who is rushing the passer. The Broncos offensive line has only surrendered 20 sacks this season making them number one in the NFL in that category.
Over/Under Russell Wilson throws for 210.5 yards
Over: If my feeling of the game is correct the ‘Hawks will be playing from behind, which will put the brunt of the work on Russell Wilson’s shoulders. Thus, Wilson should eclipse 210.5 yards this Sunday.
Over/Under 25 points scored by the Denver Broncos
Over: This has been one of the more talked about prop bets this week because of how well Seattle’s defense has been playing and Denver only putting up 26 points against New England last week. However, Peyton Manning has had two weeks to prepare for this opponent, his defense is finally gelling and all of his offensive weapons are healthy. Peyton will spread the wealth to his litany of targets, whether it be Thomas, Welker, Decker, Julius Thomas or Moreno he will find a weakness and score points regardless of the outcome.
My prediction for Super Bowl XLVIII is a Denver Bronco victory 27-23. Manning and the Broncos will get out to an early lead like they have in each of their playoff games this year and hold that lead in what will turn out being a one possession game. Though Seattle has incredible athletes on defense, Manning will out scheme them and the size and speed of Denver’s playmakers will prove to be too much. Look for Knowshon Moreno to be an essential part in Denver’s success Sunday, in terms of keeping series alive and finishing drives. Denver has the highest Red Zone Efficiency percentage in the NFL at 72.73% to add another prolific stat to its resume. Seattle is a great team with an incredible roster of players that play a hard, intense, old school brand of football, but Denver will prove to be too much this Sunday.