I wrote countless posts during the season. I went in-depth when the playoffs rolled around. I’ve broken down the Broncos and the Seahawks with posts too wordy for their own good. I’ve covered the silly prop bets. Now it’s time to take my 4-4-2 prediction to the Super Bowl and see what happens. It’s time to start The Opening Drive of Super Bowl XLVIII. (I’ve counteracted my sheer animosity towards my keyboard by pumping poppy-as-hell music into my headphones. You can thank Miss Carly Rae Jepsen for this post.)
(15-3) Denver Broncos vs
(15-3) Seattle Seahawks
Dear god, I can finally write about this game. Where do I begin? Oh yeah, Peyton Manning. That guy. Most of this postseason’s drama has stemmed from Peyton Manning’s legacy that is somehow going to be determined in ONE game. Bah. Peyton’s status is secured as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. There’s always going to be idiotic debates, regardless of if he wins or loses Sunday.
Manning’s Broncos have excelled this postseason by executing long, sustained drives, a flip of the script when it comes to their record-breaking regular season. They had two drives of over seven minutes in the AFC title game, crippling the Patriot defense and taking time away from Tom Brady. But here’s the problem, Seattle’s defense is ridiculously good. Their secondary is one of the best I’ve ever seen in my 20 years of watching football and being able to semi-understand it. Richard Sherman is going to man-up on Demaryius Thomas for most of the contest. which means Thomas will have few chances to significantly impact the game. That puts pressure on Eric Decker, Wes Welker, and tight end Julius Thomas to try and pick up first downs via the forward pass. You’d think that Denver would place an emphasis on the running game with Knowshon Moreno, but I get the feeling they’ll ease off that notion as the game goes on. Seattle’s not exactly terrible against the run. John Fox will put the game in the hands of his best player and let the chips fall where they may. If Manning is on point and his receivers meet the physical challenge, they’ll be frequenting the red zone.
I’m expecting at least 30 passes from Manning, which will put him in the sights of Seattle’s defensive line more often. The Seahawk secondary will be jamming his receivers at the line, delaying their release down the field. That split second could be enough for Cliff Avril, Chris Clemons, or Michael Bennett to get in for a strip-sack. If they can just pressure Peyton consistently, he’ll force his throws out quicker, which plays right into the scheme of the aforementioned secondary. They’ll be sitting on Denver’s short routes, ready to make a play. Welker’s a bit of an x-factor, as I’m not sure Seattle has a slot corner good enough to stay with him.
For Seattle’s offense, the strategy is pretty simple: run, run, play-action bomb. If Percy Harvin stays healthy the whole game, then mix in a reverse or screen pass. Russell Wilson shouldn’t have to single-handedly win this game, so keeping him around 25 passes means Marshawn Lynch is doing his job on the ground. There’s no reason to think Lynch can’t get near 100 yards rushing Sunday evening, especially if his offensive line can continue their excellent post-season blocking. I don’t like Denver’s second-level against the run, so Lynch could have the chance for a few lengthy scampers. Seattle will try to lure the Bronco defense into the box, so Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate can get single coverage on the outside and race down the field for big gains. That is, if Wilson’s deep ball continues to be so effective. (Heyo.) But no Chris Harris means Champ Bailey will be matched up on one of those speedsters. I don’t like that match-up for Denver. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie figures to see Doug Baldwin, so Bailey is likely to cover Golden Tate. And if Harvin CAN actually be a factor in this game, that’s just gravy for Seattle.
Without Von Miller, the Broncos are going to rely on Shaun Philips as their primary pass-rusher. He’ll need to be ready for the read-option, something Wilson and company could be waiting to unveil again. Wilson’s dangerous with his legs and can buy time in the pocket, so Denver can’t lose containment on the edges of the defensive line. It’s all about the trenches, baby.
Cloudy with a chance of too much hype. A few weeks ago we were fearing a Snowpocalypse would de-rail the first cold-weather Super Bowl, but alas, it looks like the game will start in the upper 40’s and maybe slink down to the 30’s by the end, with a chance of snow/rain. A non-catastrophic Super Bowl means other cities with outdoor stadiums will aim to convince the league that we can tempt fate in the years to come. I call BS on that idea. I hope the game gets piled on with snow and shitty conditions so fans in 2022 don’t have to endure some -38 degree blizzaster. Just because it might not turn out to be a stupid idea doesn’t mean it isn’t, in fact, a stupid idea.
There was some movement after Seattle opened at a one point favorite. The casual bettors have moved the line to make Denver a 2.5 point favorite.
Look, I think it’s a better story if Peyton Manning wins. He just finished an insane season at 37 years of age and doesn’t exactly have a lot of fat guy hits left in him. I’d love to see it happen so he can healthily ride off into the NFL sunset and become a GM of some franchise. In my dreams he’d become the greatest offensive coordinator of all time, gesticulating on the sidelines before every play and calling nonsensical audibles just to throw off the defense.
I don’t like the match-up versus Seattle’s secondary. Even without the wind to hurt Manning’s already faltering arm strength, how many wobbly balls do you think Earl Thomas will let fall into a receiver’s lap? I’m all about the Seahawks in this Super Bowl, with an interception or two coming from Peyton. I’m thinking a 23-19 score. Now there’s nothing left but to watch the game on Sunday and avoid sliding into a food coma by halftime.
And I’m OUT. Plop yourself in front of a TV Sunday night and watch what should be a delightful exhibition of sweaty menz in tight pants. I’ll be back after it’s over with The Final Drive!