On Sunday, one of the biggest pizza-eating days of the year, the top offense of the Denver Broncos will take on the top defense of the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII at Metlife Stadium in the Meadowlands, with the possibility of a snowstorm in the mix.
The Broncos have been led this season by future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. The 16-year career of the gunslinger out of Tennessee was in jeopardy in 2011 after being told he might not play again following four neck surgeries. It seems his neck has been doing fine ever since, as Manning had 55 touchdown passes and threw for a new league record of 5,477 passing yards this season. The Broncos had a couple of great weapons for Manning last season with Demaryius Thomas (92 catches, 1,430 yards, 14 touchdowns) and Eric Decker (87 catches, 1,288 yards, 11 touchdowns). They upgraded by adding former New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker this past offseason. Welker had a tremendous season with his new team as he snatched 73 catches for 778 yards and a career high 10 touchdowns. With Welker in the slot, the Broncos wide receiving core turned from a dynamic duo to a terrific trio for defenses to keep up with this season.
Meanwhile, the Seattle Seahawks have become one of the most exciting teams to watch this season thanks to second-year quarterback Russell Wilson (3,357 yards, 26 touchdowns) and former Buffalo Bills running back Marshawn Lynch (1,257 yards, 12 touchdowns). Wilson’s success has come without his top two receivers, Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice, but reports have said that Harvin is probable for Sunday’s game. Don’t expect him to be the difference maker in the Super Bowl though, when compared to what Doug Baldwin has been doing lately. Baldwin has emerged as the team’s No. 1 option in the passing game and has helped Wilson tremendously. And then there’s Lynch. The former Bills’ first-round draft pick out of California has been given a second chance in Seattle, and has made the most of it, averaging 1,350 yards per season since his first full season with the Birds back in 2011. Lynch has been successful this season because the Seahawks have one of the best offensive line rosters in the league. If they can keep giving him holes to go through, Lynch could be eating a lot of Skittles and go into “beast mode” on a struggling Broncos defense. Seattle has been successful on the defensive side as well, which is the reason why they’ve been getting all the media attention of late, especially in the secondary with Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas at the strong and free safety slots and Richard Sherman at cornerback.
Comparing the two quarterbacks, Wilson may be able to extend plays more by moving around in the pocket, but Manning has the advantage in this match-up due to his superb ability to read the defense before the play begins.
In the running game, Seattle has the advantage, and if I had to choose, I’d rather have Lynch instead of Knowshon Moreno due to his ability to extend what would be a five-yard loss into a three-yard gain.
The weather will be a factor too, and Manning has struggled in the cold in the past, but he has a lot of NFL experience to get through it.
Lynch and Wilson will be able to do their thing. However, Seattle is the first team since the 1990 Buffalo Bills to appear in the Super Bowl without anyone on the roster having previous experience in the Big Game so there will be some jitters in the early going. If the Broncos lose, this could really hurt Manning’s legacy.
Super Bowl XLVIII should be an enjoyable game to watch with a David-Goliath type battle between a veteran quarterback looking to enhance his legacy and a second-year quarterback looking to start his own.
I’m taking the Broncos, 27-24.
Joseph Kraus is a sophomore at North Tonawanda High School.