It has been 12 years since the number one offense squared off against the number one defense in the Super Bowl (Oakland Raiders vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002). This year, it’s the Denver Broncos, who boast the #1 offense, vs the Seattle Seahawks, who boastthe #1 defense.
First, let’s take a look at the AFC Champs.
The Denver Broncos’ shattered all kinds of records this season, including the most points scored in the regular season, with 606. No other NFL team has scored over 600 points. Led by soon-to-be 5-time MVP QB Peyton Manning, who also broke the records for TD’s in a season (55) and passing yards (5,477), the Denver offense exhausted defenses throughout the season. What makes the Broncos such a dangerous threat on offense is not only Manning himself, but the slew of weapons he has, ranging from receivers Demaryius Thomas, veteran Wes Welker, Eric Decker, to tight ends Julius Thomas, Jacob Tamme, and even a strong backfield consisting of Knowshown Moreno and local St. Louis’s Montee Ball.
Denver’s defense, which, while not a top unit, was still an effective force during the season. While they were ranked 19th overall in defense, they were ranked seventh in run defense. But injuries and struggles in the secondary took a huge toll this season, and Denver ranked a mere 27th in pass defense, allowing 254.4 passing YPG.
All-star corner Champ Bailey, who is in his 15th season, is also playing in his first Super Bowl of his legendary career.
This appearance in the Super Bowl will mark Denver’s seventh in their history (tied with the Patriots). They haven’t won the big game since the 1998 season, when they were led by Hall of Famer (and Broncos’ VP of Football Operations) John Elway, in what was his last game of his career.
And this team will face their toughest match-up yet, when they face off against the NFC Champions…the Seattle Seahawks.
Seattle also finished the regular season 13-3, and won the NFC West division. When at home, the Seahawks were nearly unstoppable (only losing once the entire season) and were notable for the usually record-breaking loud crowds, dubbed the “12th man” at the games.
The ‘Hawks were not only ranked #1 in total defense, seventh in rush defense, and first in pass defense. Their secondary consists of Byron Maxwell, Richard Sherman, and safeties Cam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. Collectively, they are known as the “Legion of Boom”. Their stout front seven feature play-makers such as Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner, who led the team with 120 tackles, and also had five sacks.
Their offense is led by QB Russell Wilson, who is only in his second NFL season. Wilson is also the first QB from the 2012 draft to make the Super Bowl (Wilson was picked 73rd in the draft). Wilson completed 58 percent of his postseason passes with one touchdown and no interceptions thus far. During the regular season, he completed 63 percent of his throws with 26 touchdowns, nine INT’s, and a passer rating of 101.2.
The key offensive factor for the Seahawks is none other than Marshawn Lynch. The seventh-year running back, acquired as part of a 2010 trade with Buffalo, averaged 5 yards per carry during the postseason, scoring three touchdowns. During the regular season, he gained 1,257 yards, scored 12 touchdowns and averaged 4.2 yards per carry. Wilson ranked 2nd on the team in rushing, with 539 yards.
While the receiving corps of Seattle is not elite, the group is talented, with Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate leading the way, and Jermaine Kearse coming up big for the team in the postseason, scoring the game-winning TD in the NFC Title Game.
There are many keys for each team in order for them to win the Lombardi trophy. The top match-up everyone is waiting to see is the electric Broncos’ offense against the young and stout Seahawks’ defense. One of the greatest QB’s in history facing off against one of the best, young defensive units in the NFL.
If Denver wants to win the Super Bowl, there are key things they will need to accomplish in order to win.
First, they will need to exploit the one flaw in Seattle’s defense: there aren’t enough defensive backs to match up against all the offensive weapons Manning has. Including Ball and Moreno, Denver has seven main offensive weapons at Manning’s disposal. Seattle only has five main defensive backs, and while they are young, talented corners, matching up against an offense that scored 76 TD’s will be no easy task.
Second, the Broncos defense will need to step up big time. Against New England in the AFC Title game, they did a great job of pressuring Tom Brady and forcing him to throw passes he wouldn’t normally throw. The issue is: Brady isn’t a scrambling QB. Wilson is. If Denver is to shut down this Seattle offense, they need to shut down the running lanes from both Lynch and Wilson. Lynch has great breakaway speed and possesses a lot of strength for a smaller-sized back.
Third, Denver needs to balance the attack on offense. Manning will obviously throw a lot during the game, but the Broncos’ have two strong backs in Ball and Moreno, who should see plenty of carries in the Super Bowl. Throwing Seattle’s top ranked defense off will be the key factor in Denver potentially winning this Super Bowl.
As for Seattle, the keys to winning rely mainly on defense. First are foremost, they need to pressure Manning like no other team has ever done. The Broncos’ offensive line has given Manning a lot of time in the pocket throughout the season, which has given him the ability to look at multiple receivers and lock onto the one he believes can make the catch best in the specific situation. As hard as it will be (and sounds), Seattle will need to do to Manning what the Broncos did to Brady…force him to make uncomfortable throws (if there are any).
When on offense, running the ball will be the main attack for the ‘Hawks. Seattle was ranked 4th in the NFL in rushing, and Denver hasn’t been a top run-stopping defense throughout the season. The duo of Lynch/Wilson will carry the load for the offense, but only time will tell how big that load is.
Not having the “12th man” won’t hurt Seattle as much as people make it seem, but it also will not hurt Denver (as it did to teams’ that played in Seattle).
Being in New Jersey, MetLife Stadium won’t be the home-field advantage to either team.
The weather could very well influence the game too. This is predicted to be the coldest Super Bowl in history (at or below 32 degrees is the projected temperature). Manning spent the first 14 years of his career playing home games in a Dome. He has started to adjust a lot better to the cold, but if the conditions do get bad, running the ball more could be implemented into the game-plan.
This Super Bowl will be one of the best in a long time. On one side, you have Peyton Manning in his 16th NFL season, merely two years removed from a career-threatening neck surgery, already breaking numerous records in 2013, and looking for his 2nd Lombardi trophy to once and for all cement his legacy among the NFL’s greatest QB’s (and players).
And one the other side, there is Russell Wilson. The leader of a team in which not one player has ever had any experience in the Super Bowl (four Broncos have Super Bowl experience).
It’s a match-up that defines the NFL: best offense vs. best defense. Broncos vs Seahawks. For the most coveted prize in football: the Vince Lombardi Super Bowl Trophy.
It’s going to be one hell of a game…