There is this other major sporting event this weekend, outside of David Stern's retirement. What was it? I seem to remember it has a special name and a funny shaped ball...
Below you will find our assembled thoughts and predictions for the outcome of tomorrow's Super Bowl between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos. If you're crazy enough to take this info to Vegas and win, we want a cut! ;-)
Chris Meirose: I think the advantage that most favors Denver was the nearly two week preparation period for Peyton Manning and the Denver offensive minds to come up with ways to pick apart the Seattle defense. Seattle's defense is very good, but the added time, and the diversity of options at Manning's disposal, incline me to believe Denver will be able to move the ball sufficiently to win. The key will be whether Seattle can force a couple of turnovers to change the balance toward their favor. I think if Seattle can be +2 in takeaways, they win. If not, I'm going with the Broncos.
For Denver, I think Wes Welker stands to have a big day. As Seattle works to take other things away, Welker on hot routes has the ability to keep the offense moving down the field. Tight Ends as well, but I'm leaning toward Welker being the key.
The final piece that has been talked about ad nauseam on the four letter network is the role Percy Harvin can/will play. I watch Harvin up close for 4 seasons, and he is truly an amazing player. His speed and shiftiness nearly defy description. His impact on returns can be huge, but I feel that is somewhat neutralized by Denver being able to game plan against that, and in having one of the best kickers in the game. Where the great unknown lies is in the Seattle offense. The last 6 weeks of the season/post-season, Seattle's offensive play calling was nearly as bad as that of my beloved Vikings. Horrible. They won in spite of it, but barely. I do not have much confidence that anything there has changed, and therefore I don't know that Harvin will be well utilized on offense. It may not matter because he's the type of player who can change the game on a simple off-tackle hand off. It certainly is a wild card in it all.
Is there a side bet on who gets knocked out first between Welker and Harvin? And that might even be literal.
My heart in this goes one way, my head another. I'll be cheering for the Seahawks, but were I betting straight up I'd put money on Denver. Still, I'm going 34-30 Seattle lifting the trophy.
Kevin Nesgoda: Before the weather report changed to actually be dry and in the 40's I had predicted that the Seahawks would beat the Broncos, 13-6. Now with weather conditions a bit more favorable I have to reconsider my line of thinking here.
Will Peyton Manning play Richard Sherman against himself like the Atlanta Falcons did last year? The only way you can beat Richard Sherman is make him think he's going to have an easy pick, double move and there's Demaryius Thomas running by everyone for a touchdown.
What about the safeties? Well since Seattle's defensive ends are really aggressive and do not stay in their assigned lanes they are open to lapses, especially when you run at Bruce Irvin. Last week some of Colin Kaepernick's biggest runs were when the defensive ends got too far up the field and Bruce Irvin, who worse than Aaron Curry at stopping the run, was standing between Kaep and the open field. How did that all work out? There should be a healthy does of Knowshon Moreno attacking these same things.
Then there is Russell Wilson. He's not been good at all since the game against the New Orleans Saints back in the regular season. He somehow makes plays when it counts though. Not sure if I could count this toward skill or if we can count this toward luck. Right now I'm leaning toward the latter. When you watch him in the pocket he seems so unsure of himself on some throws, double checks himself and his throws don't end up being as accurate as they should be.
He's thrown for under 200 yards six times this season and thrown for under 120 yard twice in the last four games. I'm sorry if my confidence isn't high in the kid right now, but I will say he makes plays when they matter. I don't care if all ends up being skill or luck in the end, the play gets made in the end and usually when it counts the most.
The biggest thing for the Seahawks is making sure Marshawn Lynch gets going and stays going. The Denver defense has been pretty stout against the run recently after giving up 177 yards in their last loss to the Chargers in week 15.
I know it sounds like I've been making a case for the Broncos this entire time, but the Seahawks seem like a team of destiny (Broncos also might qualify for this as well) and again they just make plays when plays need to be made. I think the defense and Marshawn come up huge for the Seahawks, 23-20.
Jeremy Ward: Peyton Manning and his numerous receiving options will get theirs in this Super Bowl XLVIII. Manning's success there will mostly arrive in the form of short passing, a good share of that in the backfield, for short gains to move the chains. We've all seen the methodical, mechanistic destruction that Manning's offense can bring to the table against most any team in today's NFL.
But what Manning and his flyboys are not expecting will hurt them. Literally. Seattle's Legion of Boom and uncompromising linebacker group will attack Denver's receivers mercilessly like the Flying Tigers after Pearl Harbor. Denver will try to make a lot of plays in the flat, expecting to get their typical share of YAC, but after a few hits early from strong safety Kam Chancellor (aka "The Deathbacker"), linebacker Bobby Wagner (120 tackles on the season) and sudden appearances from the fastest, smartest free safety in the game, Earl Thomas, the Broncos' receiving corps will get twitchy as they try to pull plays out of the middle. Expect alligator arms and numerous turnovers due to fumbled balls.
I predict at least 2 or 3 interceptions from Seattle's stalwart, ever vigilant defensive giants. Points on turnovers, and time of possession loom huge in this epic game of the century. If Seattle can keep Marshawn Lynch active and move the chains, and thus keep the ball out of Manning's hands, all the Seahawks will need are a few turnovers and reasonable passing game to win this one.
So that brings us to Seattle's passing game versus the mostly average Denver pass defense. If for whatever reason Marshawn's running game is not moving the chains, Russell Wilson will merely activate one of three major offensive weapons not named Beast Mode. The first is the most obvious weapon, Percy Harvin, who breaks open Seattle's game for all offensive ball carriers.
Then the rest of Seattle's receivers, Golden Tate in short plays, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse on deeper plays, and even tight end Zach Miller should get some short action as a result. Don't forget that Lynch can catch the ball too, and manages to get open in the middle for what would become some dangerous yardage when targeted.
But the final weapon that The Mere Presence of Percy Harvin makes even more viable represents the biggest of them of all: QB Russell Wilson. His read option game, and his ability to scramble and create plays out of disaster, will pull Seattle out even if they get down under the vaunted Peyton Manning offense. When the field is spread out the way Harvin is sure to spread it, I will have no reservations whatsoever repeating this corny-ass mantra: In Wilson We Trust.
In Wilson We Trust.
Here's looking forward to the best Super Bowl matchup this side of Y2K. 31-27 Seattle.
Kris Brannon: I believe it's Seattle's time. They have the tools to when this game, a more complete team. The average person can't name anybody from the Broncos besides Manning, ok maybe Welker. Seattle ends its 35 year men's title drought. Seattle 34, Denver 17.
Taylor Bartle: The NFL could not have scripted it any better. The number one offense against the number one defense. The young upstart quarterback vs the crafty veteran. This game is the stuff of legends.
It will no doubt be a great game, with big plays coming from either side and most likely coming down to the wire. And if there's one guy who you want to have the ball in a tight game, that guy is Peyton Manning. If it comes down to the final two minutes and Denver gets the ball, I'm going to be nervous.
I won't be ready to throw in the green towel with the big blue 12 on it, yet, though, because of the four guys known as the Legion of Boom. Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Byron Maxwell have shown again and again the ability to make the big plays. I predict three picks from Seattle, with one of them winding up in the end zone.
But don't sleep on Seattle's offense either. While Denver has scored 50 points throughout the playoffs, they faced the 9th and 10th defenses in the league. Seattle faced the 3rd and 4th best and scored 46. Russell Wilson has thrived in pressure-packed moments. If he continues that trend, the Seahawks are bringing home the hardware.
They say defense wins championships, and I think the Legion of Boom is going to get it done. My final score prediction; 20-14. #GoHawks
Steve Sterns: Denver having players and coaching staff with previous Super Bowl experience helps them here. Seattle is a young team that thrives off momentum and crowd energy. Both things are difficult to sustain in a neutral environment with innumerable interruptions to the action on the field. Seattle's keys to win are to force turnovers, keep Denver's offense off the field, and make big plays on offense. If they don't do those things, the Broncos offense simply has too many weapons to stop. Denver hasn't turned the ball over yet in the postseason and is as dialed in as any team I've ever seen. All year long, the Broncos have lost one player after another to season-ending injuries and the next man up has answered the call of duty. 27-17 Denver.
Max Churaisin: No matter how you put it, this is the match-up of dreams. You've got the number one offense challenging the number one defense, the quarterback of the present versus the quarterback of the future, and the Legion of Boom trying to stop one of the most formidable receiving corps put together. Most importantly though, in what's becoming a rarity, you've got a Super Bowl that pits the number one team from both leagues against each other.
A phrase uttered so often in these last two weeks, usually by Seahawk fans, is that defense wins championships. If that's so, how come only once in the last seven Super Bowls has the team that gave up less points in the regular season gone on to win? It seems like a great quarterback will take a team further than a great defense will, and because of that, I think Denver has the edge. There's constant questions about how the weather will be like and will Peyton Manning be able to perform at his highest in low temperatures. Between the cold and the Seahawks' defense, I think Manning won't quite be at the top of his game. However, this is record-breaking Peyton Manning we're talking about. On an off day,he's still better than most and he'll still get the ball down the field. It's just a matter of how many "touchdown ducks" he'll be able to get.
The Seahawks definitely have the better all-around team, and the key will be if their offense can keep pace, especially against an improved Denver defense. I think Russell Wilson is due to finally break out, and I expect Marshawn Lynch to continue dominating as he has the last two game. I think the biggest x-factor though will be Percy Harvin. If Seattle gets a Percy Harvin who looks like a guy playing in just his third game of the season, than Seattle will fall. However, if Harvin plays like the elite wide receiver of last year, I think it'll be enough to get Seattle the victory. Wouldn't it be funny if if Harvin ends up being Super Bowl MVP after missing basically missing the entire season?
In the end, I think this is going to be a game decided by field goals. I think the Legion of Boom will do a good job keeping Manning out of the end zone and allow Wilson and company to go back-and-forth with Denver. I'm going to go out on a limb and predict seven field goals between the two teams, which will tie the record for most attempts in a Super Bowl, and break the record for most made. I'm going to cheer hard for the Seahawks, and for once I hope I'm wrong, but if I were a betting man, I say Denver wins, 26-23.
Mike Baker: The Seahawks will collect 2 interceptions, and 1 fumble, struggle to convert in the first half, settling for a few field goals. The second half will have the Seahawks running play-action pass off the success they had running in the first half.
The Seahawks will have success running and eating up time on the clock. The Seahawks will recognize at half time that the defense the Broncos have is not as formidable as what the Seahawks faced in the past two months.
Seahawks will, in no particular order, run, run, run, kick, kick, kick, TD (rush), TD (rush), TD (pass).
The Broncos will have some real home runs throwing the ball, but the disruption to the timing their receivers enjoyed in the AFC just will not be there. The passes will get shorter and shorter, quicker and quicker, making a sustained drive a lot of work.
The Broncos will run, in no particular order, pass, run, kick, kick, TD (pass), TD (pass), TD (pass).
Seahawks, 30 - 27