Broncos vs. Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII. One seed vs. one seed for just the second time in the last 20 years. Highest scoring offense vs. the No. 1 defense in terms of points allowed for the first time since 1990.
Does it get any better than this? The answer is yes.
The two West Coast teams travel east to face off in what is expected to be the coldest Super Bowl of all time. MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. – home to the New York Jets and Giants – will host the first Super Bowl that isn’t under a roof or within 10 miles of a possible site for a Corona advertisement.
It’s likely that every time Peyton Manning yells “Omaha!” in this game, you won’t only hear it, but you’ll see the moisture from his breath evaporate into the air.
What makes this Feb. 2 matchup even better is that 11 players from the two teams could’ve been bathing underneath the sun in Honolulu, Hawaii. Instead, Marshawn Lynch, among others, will be battling the frigid winter weather hoping to eventually hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
It’s rare that in a Super Bowl the coaches of both teams have little to no experience coaching the title game. But in this one that is the case.
Denver’s John Fox reached the big game as head coach of the Panthers in 2003 and as defensive coordinator of the Giants in 2000. He lost both.
Pete Carroll of the Seahawks on the other hand, has never even attended a Super Bowl. So he, as well as many New Yorkers, will be crossing that off their bucket list in 2014.
Both Fox and Carroll have names up and down their roster that they can thank for helping them make it to this point in the season, but they should both start by thanking their quarterbacks.
Russell Wilson, whom people say Carroll took a “chance” on at the 75th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, has played more like he should have been considered as a top-five pick in that draft.
Wilson already has 24 regular-season wins. That’s more than any other quarterback in history has had through their first two NFL seasons. He can easily be considered the NFL’s most efficient quarterback.
This year, Wilson had a 101.2 QB rating, a 2.9 TD/INT ratio, 8.25 yards per pass attempt and 539 rushing yards. He ranked sixth or better in each of these categories among quarterbacks with at least 300 attempts. Mind you, he’s done almost all of this without star receiver Percy Harvin, who will be a full go in Super Bowl XLVIII.
I’d say Wilson’s a legitimate candidate for the league’s most valuable player, but in the Super Bowl he just so happens to be facing the man who will probably win that award unanimously.
This season, Peyton Manning added a slew of legendary statistics to his already storybook career. He threw for 55 TD’s and 5,477 yards, both NFL single season records. If that’s not convincing enough, Peyton also finished top five in completion percentage, yards per attempt, QB rating, and TD/INT ratio among quarterbacks with at least 300 attempts.
Oh and don’t forget, the likely NFL MVP threw a record-tying seven touchdowns in the NFL’s season-opener against the Baltimore Ravens. But Peyton throwing seven touchdowns against Seattle’s defense is as likely as Marvin Harrison starring in the Super Bowl’s most popular commercial.
Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and the gang have only allowed 16 passing touchdowns all season, ranking them second in the NFL in that category. Seattle ranks first in yards allowed, points allowed, interceptions and passer rating against.
They’re also eighth in sacks with 44, but they’re facing a Broncos offensive line that only allowed Manning to be sacked 18 times during the regular season.
That’s something that Wilson and the Seahawks offensive line cannot compare to. Russell Wilson was sacked 44 times this year, which ranked third worst in the NFL.
The league’s No. 1 defense is facing a Broncos offense that features weapons proven to be much more than “mediocre.”
On Sunday, Sherman will likely face Demariyus Thomas, who finished the regular season top 10 in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. In other words, I’ll be surprised if the NFL’s interception leader will even have the opportunity for another infamous postgame rant.
So now it’s clear: the Broncos have yet to face a defense that’s as lockdown as Seattle’s, and the Seahawks haven’t faced an offense that’s as explosive as Denver’s.
What hasn’t been mentioned amongst the strengths for either team is Denver’s defense. And there’s a reason for that. Eleven of the last 14 Super Bowl winners have ranked in the top half of the NFL in either yards allowed or points allowed per game. The Broncos rank in the bottom half of both statistical categories.
Be prepared to see both teams’ strong points become weaknesses. Be ready for that David Tyree-like catch to decide a game that isn’t high or low scoring. In this toss-up of a game, laces or spaces might very well be the best way to make a prediction. But I’m going to go ahead and stick to the old saying that “defense wins championships.”
Peyton Manning has the ball with a chance at a game-winning drive. Seattle’s defense stands strong and they win, 28-27.
Brace yourselves, football fans, for what should/most likely will be, the most-watched television program ever.