In the aftermath of the Pats' disappointing 26-16 loss in the AFC Title game, many of us just want this season to just "go away". If you're like me, you feel that it would be a complete disaster if the hated Horseface rides off into the SB sunset with a second ring, and surely an accompanying SB MVP award, regardless of whether or not it's merited. Then, the media staged Peyton love-feast thereafter will be both non-stop, and nauseating. So, let's don those "I love Richard Sherman" tee-shirts, and grab those sickly blue green pom-poms, and hope for a Seattle slew performance this Sunday. Below is my analysis of the upcoming game, and my prediction:
(15-3) Seattle Seahawks (+2.5) vs. (15-3) Denver Broncos: To this day, the media pokes fun at the Josh McDaniels era in Denver, from 2009-10. They primarily point to his using the 25th overall pick in 2010 to draft QB Tim Tebow. But, what the media fails to mention is that Josh also drafted RB Knowshown Moreno and DE Robert Ayers in 2009, and OG Zane Beadles, LT Chris Clark (claimed off the waiver wire after being released by the Minnesota Vikings in 2010), along with WRs Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, in 2010.
Those picks made it easier for John Elway to convince then free agent QB Peyton Manning that he should come to Denver. Speaking of Elway, for his work this offseason in nabbing free agents WR Wes Welker, DT Terrence Knighton, RG Luis Vasquez, and CB Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, he should be named NFL Executive of the Year.
Though Peyton Manning and his prolific WR corp get most of the credit for Denver's phenominal success this season, the Broncos OL are the true, unsung heroes. Peyton was sacked just 18 times all season. On those rare occasions where the opposition has been able to occasionally mess up his hair, the Broncos took their three losses...against Indy, New England, and San Diego. Denver withstood the loss of the man generally considered to be their best OL, LT Ryan Clady. They plugged in LT Chris Clark, and barely missed a beat: http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/eagles/20140129_Broncos__offensive_line_instrumental_in_Manning_s_success.html
If Denver is to win this Sunday, this no touching Peyton policy must continue. Aside from their near flawless pass protection, the Denver OL also produced a 1300 yard rusher in Knowshon Moreno.
So...what can the Seattle defense do to slow down this Denver juggernaut? I suspect that coach Pete Carroll will dust off the film of the NY Giants upset win over the Patriots six years ago....and try to emulate some of the things that the Giants "D" did against Tom Brady's then record breaking offense. Look for the Seahawks to be extremely physical with the Denver receivers at the line of scrimmage, and for them to send some of their pass-rushers up the middle of the line. The idea will be to disrupt the timing between Manning and his receivers, make him hurry his throws, and force a mistake or two.
On offense, the Seahawks want to run Marshawn Lynch, 24/7. But, judging by the way they played against the Patriots two weeks ago, Denver's two DTs, rookie Sylvester Williams and the Vince Wilfolk-like Knighton, will be substantial obstacles.
Just as Seattle did against the 49ers, look for the mobility of Russell Wilson to become a factor in making plays. Wilson can extend plays, which occasionally sometimes results in a deep completion. Two weeks ago against the 49ers, the Seattle offense did nothing until Wilson found WR Doug Baldwin deep, on a scrambling, extended play. The return of fleet but oft injured WR Percy Harvin could be the wildcard needed to free up the Seattle TEs, and their running game.
Folks, like the Giants/Patriots game in 2008, this one will be a lower scoring game than expected. Whether the Seattle OL can control Knighton, and whether the Denver OL can pick up the exotic blitzes and stunts that I expect Carroll to throw at them, will be key. Demaryius Thomas v. Richard Sherman will be a classic match-up, which Sherman will win. But, Wes Welker and Julius Thomas will be hard to stop underneath.
How the game is officiated will be huge. If the refs let them play, I like Seattle. But, if Peyton starts getting the ticky-tack PIs and illegal contact calls, I can see the young Seattle team getting frustrated, and making mistakes. But, regardless of what the refs do, the Seahawks must be willing to take a couple of personal foul calls in order to lay down the law with the Denver receivers...and must hit Manning.
Whatever happens, let's hope that the Seahawks are given a fair shake this time...unlike their last SB appearance against the Steelers. If the spread was 3points or more,I'd take Seattle. But, with just a 2.5 point spread separating these teams, and having little faith in the integrity of NFL officials in a Peyton Manning game: PICK: Broncos.