Like any other football game, Super Bowl XLVIII is all about matchups. The coaches have to figure out the moves and countermoves, while the players are the ones who do it on the field.
This game is truly reserved for the best of the best, as the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos were their respective conference's No. 1 seeds coming into the postseason.
Here's all the info you'll need ahead of the game.
When: Sunday, Feb. 2, at 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
TV Info: Fox
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
Spread: Denver by 3, according to Bovada
With so many talented stars on the field, your mouth waters thinking about some of the players who will be facing off against one another. The team lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy will likely be the one that wins these three matchups.
Broncos Offensive Line vs. Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett
The Broncos are one of the best—if not the best—teams when it comes to pass protection. Football Outsiders ranks the Denver offensive line No. 1 in adjusted sack rate.
Some of that is due to having a quarterback like Peyton Manning, who has a quick release, but there's no questioning how well the unit has performed, especially following the injury to Ryan Clady earlier in the season. Of course, that wasn't the only injury to hit the offensive line, per Vidur Malik of SI.com:
Clady's left Lisfranc sprain, which he suffered after signing a five-year deal in the offseason, was the most high-profile loss, but there certainly were more. In June, center J.D. Walton had another surgery on the ankle he injured last season, and was released in December. Center Dan Koppen tore his ACL in July. Guard Chris Kuper has only started six total games the past two seasons after dislocating his ankle in 2011.
Since this is the NFL, there's no time to sympathize for fallen comrades, and that's no better demonstrated than the fact that Koppen's replacement, Manny Ramirez, made the Pro Bowl team as an alternate.
Getting after the passer was a problem for the Seahawks last year, and they spent a lot of money to sign both Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett in the offseason. Those decisions have proven to be extremely shrewd, as the two have become a deadly duo.
It's no secret the more time Manning has in the pocket, the more he'll succeed. As good as the Seattle secondary is, it will be picked apart if Manning has time to check down to his third, fourth or fifth options.
The more Bennett and Avril are pressuring off the edge, the better off the Seahawks will be. Even if they don't get a hit on Manning, as long as they rushed the pass, they will have done their jobs. That increases the chance of Manning making a mistake and unfurling a throw that defenders in the secondary can snatch out of the air.
Marshawn Lynch vs. Denver Front Seven
As Marshawn Lynch goes, so go the Seattle Seahawks. And if Percy Harvin's recovery takes longer than projected, more will be thrust upon Lynch's shoulders.
The Denver Broncos weren't one of the best teams defensively in 2013—Football Outsiders ranks them 15th in defensive DVOA—but they did well against the run, limiting teams to 101.6 yards per game, tied for seventh in the league.
Seattle will need Lynch to have another huge game, because putting the game in the hands of Russell Wilson may not be a winning proposition. The second-year star is a great game manager, but it remains to be seen if he has what it takes to go toe to toe with somebody like Manning, especially on a stage as grand as the Super Bowl.
Demaryius Thomas vs. Richard Sherman
Demaryius Thomas has grown by leaps and bounds over the last couple of years. A little over a year ago, the star wideout noted that he'd have to actually learn all of the routes in the playbook because of Manning's arrival, per 790 The Zone in Atlanta (via SportsRadioInterviews.com).
Thomas said, "You’re gonna have to run the whole route tree now. The comebacks, the slants, the posts, the ins. And I didn’t have to do that much when I was my first couple of years in the league.”
Although he hasn't reached Megatron territory, Thomas remains one of the best receivers in the league, as Manning has helped turned raw potential into real production.
As the No. 1 target for Manning, Thomas will see plenty of Richard Sherman in the Super Bowl, who's the best cover corner in the league. Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post thinks this will be Thomas' biggest test to date:
Denver's Demaryius Thomas will be the target of Sherman's wrath. D.T. hasn't seen a cornerback like this all season. We'll learn much about the soft-spoken, stud receiver. In order to win the big game, Thomas will have to win the mind games against a master. In Denver's three losses, Thomas caught four passes in each game. In Denver's 15 victories, Thomas averaged 6.3 catches. He had seven catches for 134 yards in the AFC championship game.
Between the skill of Manning and the depth of talent in Denver's receiving core, the passing game can survive if Thomas is limited to only a few catches. But if he's taken completely out the game by Sherman, the Broncos will be in big trouble.
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