Super Bowl XLVIII Prediction (Woodhull): Denver Broncos vs. Seattle Seahawks

First-up: with the extra week off between the Championship Games and the Super Bowl, it always leaves the TV talking heads with more air time than they know what to do with. As such, we hear lots of stories repeated and often with little insight or analysis.

So before I dig deeper into my preview, I’ll first dismiss a few points you may have heard too much about already:

  • Omaha – Unless you're talking about ordering some steaks, please don’t mention. The Broncos are certain to change their hot word and it doesn’t actually matter how many times Manning says it because no one on the field will be paying attention to it.
  • Peyton Manning vs. Richard Sherman – At least this is somewhat steeped in football analysis, but unfortunately it is a non-event “matchup” during game time. Generally Sherman and Byron Maxwell (Seattle’s other corner since Brandon Browner was suspended) each will stay home on their side of the field. Given that Sherman is the best cover corner in the NFL and Maxwell is a backup, Manning is only throwing in one direction and not toward Sherman.
  • The weather – Dumbest. Storyline. Ever. You know who this impacts? The media personalities who were hoping for a free trip to sunny and warm Miami, San Diego, or Phoenix. Do the players actually care? No. Sidebar, I am by no means a Manning apologist, but I am frequently annoyed with stats like “Manning is 1 in 500 in games played when the temperature at kick-off is below 30 degrees.” This used to be games below 35 and before that 40, or games when the temperature falls below instead of at kick-off. We (prognosticators, analysts, media) continued to change the stats to fit the narrative. Why? Because it is easier is tweak the numbers than rebuild the narrative that Manning doesn’t play well in the cold weather. And although this story isn’t entirely inaccurate, it is only that most quarterbacks level of play stumbles in cold weather. Manning is no worse in the cold than a typical quarterback.

Instead of the tired stories above, I thought we could next run-through a few others aspects of the game that will be more compelling and more impactful to the outcome:

  • How will Chris Clark hold up at left tackle? – Clark took over for the All-Pro Ryan Clady who was placed on IR early in the season. Clark has been serviceable this season and Manning has been sacked only 17 times this season, but most of those came off the left side of the line. The Broncos also haven’t faced a pass rush like what the Seahawks can bring with likes of Chris Clemons, Bruce Irvin, Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett & company.
  • Which team will be able to run the ball better? – Both of these teams have appeared susceptible to the run at different points of the year. Seattle was by far the best defense in the NFL, and overall was seventh-best against the rush this season. In the middle of the season, however, they allowed huge chunks of yardage on the ground to middling teams like Tampa and St. Louis. The Broncos were just behind the ‘Hawks, at eighth against the run. Knowshon Moreno vs. Marshawn Lynch will be critical as Denver’s passing offense and the Seattle secondary will neutralize each other.
  • Will Peyton Manning retire? - OK, this has been pretty well answered by Manning that he plans to play next year. I would recommend that win or lose, Manning should walk away. He’s not going to replicate this year’s record setting performance and there is nothing better than going out on top.

The prediction for Sunday: Denver’s defense has been underrated this year and Seattle will be pinning their hopes on Russell Wilson. However good Wilson is and great he will be, this game is going to fall onto his shoulders. Wilson’s options are limited; an injured Percy Harvin, Golden Tate & Doug Baldwin are nominal downfield threats. The Seahawks defense will hold up against Manning & Co, but so will the Broncos' defense. Denver wins a lower-scoring game and Manning gets the MVP by default: Broncos 26, Seahawks 17.

Other predictions so far: John Trifone - Sean Beazley

Related: Super Bowl History - Super Bowl Poll - Super Bowl FFB Rankings

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