January 31, 2014

Breaking down Super Bowl XLVIII

by Dan Bilicki In: Football, Picks

The biggest game of them all couldn’t have a better matchup. It’s the best offence in the history of the NFL against the best defence in the league this year.

It’s a clash of titans worthy of playing a game known as the Super Bowl.

Peyton Manning will lead the Broncos against the Seahawks impervious defence. It’s everything that you could want.

What made Denver’s attack so powerful was its ability to continually march down the field with short and intermediate passes that keep Manning in the pocket for just short periods of time. That means he wouldn’t be hit, putting at risk his surgically repaired neck.

The bad thing for the Broncos is that the Seahawks defence is essentially built to stop offences just like that. They’ll beat up receivers at the line, throwing them off their routes and disrupting the timing of patterns.

It’s not like the Broncos extraordinary amount of receiving options – four different receivers had 10+ TDs this season – will weigh heavy on the Seahawks either. Seattle has shown great depth in its secondary after having to deal with injuries and suspensions this season.

It looks like the weather won’t play a huge role, but you can’t discount the fact that it’s going to be close to freezing. It won’t hamper the passing game too much, but we might see one or two drops as a result of the cold. The wind can’t be discounted either, as Manning’s “ducks” may hang just a little bit more than usual – which could be some very bad news.

And while I write the name Richard Sherman with a groan, his impact should be big for this game. For the AFC championship game, Demaryius Thomas said that he wasn’t looking forward to facing Aqib Talib; Sherman is every bit as physical and great in coverage as Talib and probably better. That’s why you can’t buy that Thomas says he wants to Sherman to cover him – that’s just hiding his nerves.

Another two X factors that you can’t forget about the big game: Seattle’s amazing safety duo of Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. They’re probably the best tandem in the NFL and will have some sort of impact on the game, either with an interception, or breaking up a big pass. Also, Pete Carroll rarely dials up blitzes, usually using four-man rushes. If his interior line can create pressure on Manning, it could force some mistakes.

But while the Seahawks defence matchups up well with the Broncos offence, you can say the same thing when reversing the roles.

The Broncos had the fourth-best run defence in the league and will be charged with stopping Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson on the ground. While Denver is quite adept at stopping opposing rushers, their numbers are slightly inflated by the fact that teams were forced to pass against them a lot while trailing late in games. And Lynch has gone up against strong run defences before and done just fine – just look at his 109-yard performance against San Francisco in the NFC championship game.

The big X factor for Seattle is Percy Harvin. With the dynamic receiving threat healthy for the Super Bowl, he should be a big part of the gameplan for Seattle. He’s likely to have at least a couple of crafty screen plays drawn up for him and should serve in return duties.

Speaking of return duties, you can’t discount the big advantage that Seattle has in special teams in general. It’s about the kickers or punters either, it’s about the coverage teams. The Seahawks were among the league’s best at stopping returns, which says a lot about their defensive depth as it’s the third and fourth string guys that are on those teams. That fact means that Trindon Holliday the Broncos dangerous kick returner, shouldn’t get a chance to break a big return like we’ve seen before.

What we’re in for is likely a low-scoring Super Bowl, much to fans chagrin. That favours the Seahawks and that’s who I’ll take.

While this has undoubtedly been Peyton Manning’s season from the first kickoff when he scored seven TDs against Baltimore, to setting multiple passing records, to slaying the rival Patriots in the AFC title game, it won’t end pretty for him. He’ll be the bridesmaid and we’ll be stuck with another season of debating his legacy.

The pick: Seattle 23, Denver 20

MVP: Russell Wilson, SEA

This playoffs: 3-4-3

This season: 119-125-9 (3 games with NL)

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