Who ya got?
It's the biggest event of the year in the sporting world, and no spectacle could be bigger than a Super Bowl in New York City (or, you know, close enough, according to the NFL). This year, MetLife Stadium will host quarterback Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos facing off against the "Legion of Boom" and the Seattle Seahawks.
It's the No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense—the two best teams in the NFL over the course of the past season. It's not just a bounce here or a lucky break there that got these teams to the Super Bowl. No, it's been near wall-to-wall dominance from both of these groups in the face of plenty of hardships that could (and have) sunk lesser teams.
Our NFL coverage team has gone deep into the well one last time to bring you our picks.
The Seahawks have the blueprint and personnel to stop the Broncos. (Remember the tough time Denver had against the Jaguars?) Still, I'm not sure they have the horses to put up enough points to win this one. Taking the better QB in a close one. Don't worry, Russell Wilson; you'll get plenty of chances.
I can't see Peyton Manning moving the ball consistently against Richard Sherman and the NFL's top secondary, but can he still control the tempo of the ballgame? I think he does with a balanced offensive game plan that allows the Broncos to produce enough in the second half to hold off Seattle for the Super Bowl title.
I just think this is Peyton Manning's time. He's peaking as a player. The Broncos defense is playing its best football. Manning has a running game behind him. It all sounds so familiar, like Elway some time ago. He won his legacy game, and now it's Manning's turn. He'll pick apart that Seattle defense and walk away with the game's MVP trophy.
The math here is simple: The Broncos will be able to move the ball and (sometimes) score against the Seahawks, but not as much as the Seahawks will be able to move the ball and score against the Broncos. Peyton Manning will play well, but not well enough. Marshawn Lynch will dominate the fourth quarter.
A top-ranked offense meets a top-ranked defense, and historically the defense comes out on top. It may be a cliche, but it's true that offense sells tickets and defense wins championships. The Seahawks secondary will do their job, and in the end, the better defense comes out with a ring.
Everyone's talking about the No. 1 defense vs. the No. 1 offense, and rightfully so. How Peyton Manning performs will have a big impact on the outcome of this game. Just as important, though, is the matchup of Denver's front seven against Marshawn Lynch and Seattle's offensive line. The Broncos made it to the Super Bowl by beating two offenses that hoped to expose that front seven and were unable to do so.
If the Broncos can force the game into Russell Wilson's hands and make this a battle of the quarterbacks, that's when we get back to the importance of Manning's performance. My money's on Manning to find the holes in the Seahawks defense.
The Denver Broncos defense will want to limit Seattle's run game. Their Seahawks counterparts will try to force the Broncos to run and limit the damage Peyton Manning can do. Ultimately, however, stopping Manning will be just too big a challenge for Seattle. Asking Russell Wilson to potentially win it in the air won't work in this game, with everything on the line and experience tipping Denver's way.
The Denver Broncos haven’t seen a defense like this all season. They have shredded teams with a good defensive line, good linebackers, a good secondary and even two of the three, but not one that is so good at all three levels. The Seattle Seahawks will also keep the ball on the ground and limit the number of opportunities Peyton Manning has to hurt them.
On a per-drive basis, the Seahawks had a better offense than the New England Patriots this season. The Seahawks are also going to get wide receiver Percy Harvin back, which will make the offense more explosive. In the end, Denver’s defense just isn’t going to be strong enough.
In a game that pits the league’s top defense with its top offense, I’m going with the unit that’s being led by possibly the greatest quarterback of all time. Peyton Manning will definitely find a way to churn yardage against this tough Seahawks defense. Manning won’t be able to make it look easy, but there’s no better mind on the planet at finding weak spots during the game and exploiting them.
—Seahawks 24-21 (OT)
I can't believe I'm doing this, because I'm not a believer that defense wins championships in the modern-day NFL. However, this Seattle D is special, the Seahawks are healthier, younger and have less to lose and I have a feeling Peyton Manning and that stacked receiving corps might have met their match. On the flip side, the Seattle offense can hang to more of an extent than the banged-up Denver defense. Seahawks win a thriller.
As unbelievable as Peyton Manning has been this season, the Seahawks defense has proven week in and week out that it is in a league of its own. Seattle's pass rush is as vaunted as it gets, the Legion of Boom makes quick work of opposing wide receivers and the linebacking corps controls the middle of the field. Offenses in the NFL may be all the rage, but defenses still win championships.
The Seahawks are the more complete team, with a defense that earned its top ranking and an offense that can pound people into submission. But I just can't pick against Peyton Manning, who put together 18 of the most dominant games ever assembled into one season.
A win in Super Bowl XLVIII would be one of his crowning achievements, and a fitting conclusion to his best season as a professional. Probably the only way the Broncos can win another Lombardi Trophy is with a superlative effort from Manning and his never-ending receiving options. I think they deliver exactly that, complete with a late drive to win it all.
Seattle's time to win a title will eventually come. But regardless of how Sunday ends, we can still appreciate Manning for what he really is: this generation's best player at the game's most important position.
Both defensive lines are going to be a problem for the opposing offensive line. Both running games are going to be utilized to try and control the tempo of the game. Peyton Manning will make plays by changing things at the line of scrimmage and Russell Wilson will make plays with his legs. But ultimately this championship game in the cold will be won by the team with the better defense. That's Seattle.
Consensus Pick: Broncos (7-6)