Biggest game of year

John
John Turner
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Broncos meet Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII

The hype is over and the day has almost arrived for Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey.

The anticipation is through the roof as the two best teams from each conference are ready to battle. Let’s get this party started!

Denver on offence

Don’t know if there is anything more you can say about the greatest offence in NFL history, but one thing for sure is Peyton Manning drives this ship. 

Ultimately, it will come down to whether the Broncos’ O-Line can give Manning time to throw the ball. If they do, it really doesn’t matter how good Seattle’s secondary is as the best corners can’t cover these receivers forever. 

Manning has outside receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, and one of the best slot receivers in Wes Welker. If that’s not enough, he has big tight end Julius Thomas, who has great speed for a big guy, going down the seam and making those tough catches over the middle. 

Don’t forget about the Broncos’ running game with Knowshon Moreno, who can also catch the ball out of the backfield.

Seattle won’t fool Manning with their coverages, but will need to disguise them. Denver’s pick/rub routes and bunch formations will work well against the Seahawks’ man-to-man press coverage, and going with the no-huddle offence will also favour Denver as this won’t allow Seattle to rotate their front four. 

With the wind not looking like a factor, the Denver passing attack should be in cruise control.

X Factor: Jacob Tamme is an old reliable big tight end for Manning, and he will know exactly where he is on the field, especially in the red zone. All those years playing together in Indy will pay dividends, especially if and when they go to a three-receiver, two-tight-end set.

Denver on defence

Denver’s D has improved drastically over the last month, and they will really need to slow down the running of Marshawn Lynch, who you won’t completely shut down. 

Secondly, they can’t let quarterback Russell Wilson out of the pocket where he is the most dangerous. If he does, Denver is in for a long day.

The ageless one, Champ Bailey, will need another strong game like he had against the Patriots.

Key for the Broncos will to be very disciplined in their gap integrity so there are no cutback lanes for Lynch. Stop the run on first down to put the Seahawks in obvious passing downs. Seattle’s O-Line is not great, so you can get pressure on Wilson. 

A good game plan would not be to crash the defensive ends inside; keep going upfield to keep Wilson in the pocket.

X Factor: Terrence (Pot Roast) Knighton will need to disrupt things inside to slow down Seattle’s run game; he needs to be a pillar at the point of attack. Knighton has been dominant down the stretch, and is capable of dominating inside.

Denver on special teams

The Broncos do have one of the best kickers in football in Matt Prater. If a late kick needs to be made, they’re in good hands. 

Trindon Holliday is a game-changer in the return game, and can change the field position for Denver in a hurry. However, he is known to put the ball on the ground, and it will be interesting to see if Coach Fox has full confidence in him. 

The Broncos have a solid directional punter in Britton Colquitt, who wants to force the Seahawks to go the long field.

Seattle on offence

Key to the Seahawks’ offence is Lynch’s running game and the play-action pass off this running game. Lynch will need to be in “Beast Mode” if the ‘Hawks have any chance in this game to match points with the Denver’s offence, and to keep Manning and Co. off the field. 

Coach Carroll should have a game plan with designed rollouts for Wilson as this would give him the option of passing or running. He is very dangerous outside of the pocket as defenders are uncertain whether to come up and tackle, or stay in coverage leaving many defenders in “no-man’s land.”

Wilson always has his eyes downfield, and will make Denver pay if they can’t contain him. Seattle’s receivers are underrated and can make plays, especially when Wilson is scrambling.

Wilson doesn’t have Super Bowl game experience like Manning, who has played in two, but he has a great demeanour to him. He always seems confident, and he has that special “it” factor when a play needs to be made.

X Factor: Percy Harvin was acquired to make a difference in a big game. Well, here is his chance.

Injured all season, Harvin has played in only one full game. However, in the few games he played, he had a couple of deep catches and a nice end-around run. He is a game-breaker as he can take the top off the defence, and turn the flat pass or receiver screen into big yardage. But can he play the whole game, and will his fitness hold up?  

Give him eight touches, and he will make a difference in this game.

Seattle on defence

It’s not rocket science, but the only way to slow down the Broncos’ offence is to get pressure on Manning and make him look off his primary target and hold onto the football while looking for that second option. Easy in theory, very hard to execute if you don’t have the personnel. 

However, the ‘Hawks have the NFL’s best defence, and definitely have the personnel. The secondary will give their front four time to pressure Manning, and they can rotate their great pass-rushers in Cliff Avril, Chris Clemmons and Mike Bennett to stay fresh. 

This sort of sounds like how the 2007 Giants won against the high-powered and undefeated Patriots, but Seattle has a much better secondary than the Gmen did. You know corner Richard Sherman will take out the receiver who lines up on the left side of the defence, Kam Chancellor matches up very well physically with Julius Thomas, so Peyton might be limited to his two other options on any one play.

X Factor: Brandon Mebane will need to get pressure in Manning’s face up the middle. No quarterback likes this as they can’t comfortably step up and deliver the football without taking their eyes off the receiver. Seattle can get pressure off the edges, but up the middle will be key.

Seattle on special teams

The Super Bowl is so difficult to get to and you may never get another shot in your career, so you would think Coach Carroll will probably go with Harvin in the return game. 

He, like Holliday, is dangerous and can change the momentum in a blink of an eye.

Jon Ryan from Regina is a great punter, limiting opposing teams to an amazing 85 return yards all season. Kicker Steve Hauschka is solid, but really hasn’t had to make a big kick all year, which is a bit scary considering what’s at stake.

 

Pick

The weather will not be a factor, so it will come down to execution. 

The Freak has been pulling his hair out all week to pick a winner, and it’s very difficult to do with such great matchups on both sides of the ball.

With everything being equal, the one thing The Freak can really look at is Giants’ game tape as both teams played at Met Life Stadium this season. After looking at both games this week, one of the teams was much more impressive than the other. 

In the end, defence will win out over offence as the Broncos finally meet their match in the Hawks’ “Legion of Boom.” They will make some big plays, and second-year quarterback Russell Wilson will hurt the Broncos with his legs. 

Finally, the Seahawks have been under the radar as most of the talk is about Peyton and his offence because of who he is, which is understandably more exciting than talking defence. 

However, Seattle’s players will feed off this, and in another exciting Super Bowl the Seahawks win their first Lombardi Trophy and Wilson wins the MVP award. The final score: 27-24.

Enjoy the game folks!

John Turner is a Summerside schoolteacher. His column appears every Saturday during the NFL season. Feel free to e-mail questions and comments to ssidespartansfootball@yahoo.ca.

Organizations: Seahawks, NFL

Geographic location: Seattle, Denver, Indy Met Life Stadium Summerside

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