A clash of offense vs defense will be the story of Super Bowl XLVIII between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks, which will be about the legacy of Peyton Manning and the rare occasion of awful weather hurting these teams who luckily are used to less than optimal conditions when playing at home.
It’ll be the first time since 1990 when the number one offense in the NFL matches up with the number one defense. The Giants (defense) won that game against the Bills 20-19. It is also the first time since the 2009 in which the two number 1 seeds meet up in the Super Bowl, a game Peyton Manning was involved on the wrong side in with the Colts losing to the New Orleans Saints.
Manning, despite a lot of big (or silent) mouths on the other end of the field, grabs most of the focus. Not just the MVP he picked up for the fifth time of his career, but the trajectory of the last two years: Neck problems and surgery that made him miss the entire 2011 season before leaving the Colts, joining the Broncos and leading them to two consecutive 13-3 seasons. The first one ended in the first postseason game. The second one, 2013, was about breaking records: 5,477 passing yards and 55 touchdown passes for a team that averaged NFL bests of 37.9 points, 340.3 passing yards and 457.3 total yards.
This offense isn’t just about Manning: He’s throwing to DeMaryius Thomas (92 receptions, 1430 yards), Eric Decker (87 receptions, 1288 yards), tight end Julius Thomas (65 receptions, 788 yards) and Wes Welker with 73 receptions and 10 touchdowns on his first season with the team. Knowshon Moreno had a big year on the ground, rushing for 1038 yards and 10 touchdowns.
The Seahawks present defense: Allowing the fewest points (14.4), total yards (273.6) and passing yards (172.0) allowed. They forced a league-high 39 turnovers. They finished 8th in the NFL when it comes to sacks with 44.
Offense? Russell Wilson doesn’t make mistakes, but his arm, no matter if Percy Harvin is on the field or not, doesn’t win games. It’s been Marshawn Lynch with 1,257 yards in the regular season and 249 more in two postseason games that sets the tone.
The Seahawks haven’t been having much of a passing game in the playoffs so far, averaging 148 yards per game in the air. However, it isn’t too rare to find teams without too much of an aerial attack getting to the big game; They’re the 6th team to reach the Super Bowl with fewer than 200 pass yards per game in the postseason, and 3 of the previous 5 won the Super Bowl, going back to the Ravens in 2000.
Will the Seahawks make the most of Chris Harris not playing? The Broncos defense isn’t exactly a scary one when it comes to stopping anything, including the pass, but there’s a big impact to Harris being on the field. Teams complete over 61% of their passes (compared with 58%) against Denver without Harris, and also improve their yards per attempt to 9.3 (from 6.7) without him, which means we might see the Seahawks do more than just run the ball with Marshawn Lynch during the game.
The Broncos have done a great job of keeping offenses off the field in the playoffs, running the clock very well with Peyton Manning mixing it up between running and passing. they’re the 6th team to reach the Super Bowl with fewer than 200 Pass YPG in the postseason, and 3 of the previous 5 won the Super Bowl.
If you’re looking for signs that might be coincidental, there’s this: the last 8 Super Bowl champions have played the New England Patriots at some point during that season, which gives the Broncos the edge. Each of the last 7 Super Bowl champions have played the Cowboys, Eagles, and Redskins in the regular season. The Broncos played the NFC East this season, and also the Patriots twice, including the postseason. The Seahawks haven’t played any of these teams this season.
Prediction – Great defense usually comes up with its hand out on top against a great offense in Super Bowls. Despite Peyton Manning and his offense, this time won’t be different, and the Seattle Seahawks will win the big one.