Offense trumps defense, this time
Statistically, the Seattle Seahawks have had the best season defensively since the 1985 Chicago Bears. The problem with that, however, is that it just ain’t 1985 anymore.
We all know the NFL has developed into a quarterback’s league over the past decade, and Denver’s Peyton Manning is in a league of his own. The dude cemented his Hall of Fame career this season setting NFL single-season records for touchdown passes (55), passing yards (5,477), points scored (606), most games with four or more touchdown passes (9), and tied NFL records for most games with 400 or more passing yards (4) and for most 50-point games in a season (3).
The least amount of points No. 18 and the Broncos put up were 20 in a loss to San Diego back on Dec. 12, so to say they’ll be held under that mark — even by the best defense in the league this season — to me, is preposterous.
Seattle’s defensive secondary is second-to-none, no question, but Denver has a ridiculous amount of weapons to overcome that. Look for guys like receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker to be mere decoys — taking guys like loudmouth Seattle corner Richard Sherman down the field and out of the equation — while Manning eats up short-yardage gains all evening with guys like slot specialist Wes Welker and tight end Julius Thomas, who both in my estimation will have a huge game.
I don’t foresee many, if any, home-run plays, as Manning will methodically chip away at Seattle’s defense — a defense that won’t be fueled by the highly-touted Seattle 12th man — and he’ll also superbly manage the clock, like he’s done over and over throughout his career. Also, don’t forget Knowshon Moreno in the backfield, who’ll supplement Manning’s five-to-eight yard completions with a few five-to-eight yard gains of his own on the ground.
Move the chains. Eat up the clock.
That Manning-esque cool and collectiveness directing the team is something that will become apparent on the other side of the ball. I predict young Seattle QB Russell Wilson will definitely be feeling the butterflies, which will most likely affect his accuracy and decision-making, especially if Denver is able to take an early lead.
Remember, Peyton’s won this thing before (2006, Indianapolis Colts), and he’d also be the first quarterback in NFL history to win the Super Bowl with two different teams if his Broncos are successful on Sunday.
Beast Mode Marshawn Lynch will get his yards, but I predict Seattle fails to capitalize in the red zone and is forced to kick field goals. It’s quite possible the mobile Wilson could outgain Lynch on the ground in this one if he’s forced out of the pocket and if Denver successfully gets the young QB to doubt his ability to throw the ball.
But the wild card in this game will be Seattle’s pressure on Manning. If the Seahawks are able to successfully collapse the pocket regularly, Manning (age 37) and his next-to-none mobility could be in jeopardy.
Denver will have to keep close tabs on the likes of defensive ends Michael Bennett (team-leading 10 sacks, including postseason) and Cliff Avril (9.5 sacks), along with standout middle linebacker Bobby Wagner (team-leading 144 tackles, 5 sacks).
It’ll be a close, exciting game, but I’m taking the NFL’s No. 1 mastermind over the NFL’s No. 1 defense, which used to win championships, back in 1985.
Prediction: Denver 24, Seattle 23.
Sun sports writer Michael Savaloja can be reached at 701-952-8461 or by email at email@example.com