Super Bowl XLVIII Prediction (Hanson): Denver Broncos vs. Seattle Seahawks
Somewhat surprisingly, it's not often that two No. 1 seeds meet in the Super Bowl, but that's exactly what we got for Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey.
One of the most compelling story lines of tomorrow's game is the Broncos' record-setting offense facing the league's top defense in terms of scoring defense, total defense and passing defense. Even if you're not a fan of either team, which is the case for most of us, it's easy to appreciate a strength-on-strength matchup like this one.
Any way you slice it, what Peyton Manning did at 37 years old and two seasons removed from four neck surgeries is arguably the greatest season ever for any player at any position. Not only did Manning break the single-season passing yards (5,477) and touchdowns (55) records, but Manning consistently made it look too easy.
In 18 regular-season and playoff games this year, Manning threw multiple touchdown passes in all but one game and had four or more scores in nine of those games. In addition, he threw for 400-plus yards five times and 300-plus yards 13 times. Five Broncos' skill players finished with double-digit touchdowns: Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Julius Thomas, Wes Welker and Knowshon Moreno.
While Seattle has Richard Sherman and the Legion of Boom, both DT and Decker give the Broncos a pair of big (six-foot-three) receivers. The Seahawks will do as much as they can to be physical at the line of scrimmage (and some would say well beyond the LOS) to disrupt the timing of the Broncos passing offense and the Seahawks are stacked at all three levels of their defense.
As much as it will be a slugfest between two heavyweights when the Broncos have the ball, this game is more likely to be decided by what happens when the Seahawks have the ball.
Seattle's Marshawn Lynch is one of the most physical running backs in the league and Seattle will certainly try to unleash Beast Mode as much as possible. Over his past three games, Lynch has a total of 73 carries for 346 yards and four touchdowns.
Perhaps (much) easier said than done, the Broncos' defensive game plan is likely to focus on slowing down Lynch as much as possible and forcing Russell Wilson to beat them. Only six teams have allowed fewer yards per carry than the Broncos (3.9 YPC) and Terrance Knighton could be a big figure (literally) in the outcome of Sunday's game.
Over his past six games, Wilson has thrown for no more than 215 yards and has thrown for less than 200 yards four times in that span. In addition, he has yet to throw more than 27 times and more than one touchdown over that stretch. With the return of Percy Harvin, who has appeared in two games, he could turn out to be the X factor.
Even though I picked the Seahawks to win the Super Bowl over the Broncos immediately after the regular season ended, I'm going to change my mind here. Regardless of which team wins, I think this game will be incredibly close and could come down to which team has the ball last.
Prediction: Broncos 24, Seahawks 20
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