Friday, January 31, 2014

Super Bowl Preview: Seahawks vs. Broncos

By Jackson Safon

The big game is nearly upon us. Less than 48 hours away. It is Blue Friday and this city is gearing up for its biggest game since February 5, 2006. So naturally I, along with everyone else, will continue to analyze and analyze until it is finally time to snap the ball and watch the game play out. Because I am sure you have read plenty of Super Bowl coverage, I will start out with one of the most under-covered, yet most important details of the big game. The jerseys. Because it is the AFC’s year to be “home”, the Broncos got first choice at the jersey they want to wear, and they chose their home orange. Not only is this a perfect chance to try and popularize the nickname “Orange Julius” for Julius Thomas, it allows the Seahawks to create the best possible uniform combination they have: White tops and blue bottoms. They are my absolute favorite jersey combo the ‘Hawks have and I was giddy when I found out it was what they are wearing. Yes, giddy about a jersey choice.

The game itself is shaping up to be an outstanding one. Even if you have not read my statistical analysis from earlier this week, or any other Super Bowl coverage for that matter, you probably know that the matchups between the two teams are perfect. Best offense vs. best defense. Best quarterback vs. best secondary. Both teams match up great for one another, which means it is going to be an awesome game. Something has to give however and it will be fascinating to see which side slips up first. Both teams will most likely have to make plays with the part of their offense that is the weaker link, rushing for the Broncos and passing for the Seahawks. In any case, a positional group comparison is another way to analyze the two teams and try and predict the unpredictable.

Russell Wilson vs. Peyton Manning
Russell Wilson is an outstanding second year quarterback who has been breaking records left and right for young quarterbacks. He could end up being the best player in Seahawks history and potentially even in Seattle history. But Peyton Manning had the best season of any quarterback in NFL history. Even if he isn’t the best of all time, he is the best of right now, and no doubt takes the cake against Wilson. Seahawks: 0 Broncos: 1

Marshawn Lynch in the open field is scary.
AP Photo
Running Backs:
Marshawn Lynch/Robert Turbin vs. Knowshon Moreno/Montee Ball
Moreno had almost 1,600 all-purpose yards this season and 13 touchdowns to boot. Marshawn Lynch had almost the exact same amount of yards and only one more touchdown. Numbers never lie they say? Well they do in this case, because Marshawn Lynch is a better running back than Knowshon Moreno and everyone knows it. Montee Ball had a relatively strong rookie campaign and has showed flashes of greatness, but this category absolutely goes to BeastMode and the ‘Hawks. Seahawks: 1 Broncos: 1

Wide Receivers:
Percy Harvin/Golden Tate/Doug Baldwin vs. Demaryius Thomas/Eric Decker/Wes Welker
Percy Harvin will play and he will start and he will not miss a snap and he will win the Super Bowl MVP and he will save the world. Not quite, but he has been practicing at full-speed all week and expects to play a full complement of snaps. Here’s to every Seahawk fan out there who will be holding their breath the first time he touches the ball, not because of nervousness, but because of the fear that their breathing itself could actually cause Percy Harvin to get hurt. He is one of the most electric players in the NFL when healthy so let’s just hope he can stay that way. Golden Tate is the leading NFL receiver in forced missed tackles, and Doug Baldwin is turning into an absolute baller. The Broncos’ receiving corps however is probably the best in the league. Is Eric Decker a bit overrated? Probably. Are their numbers inflated by Manning’s ridiculousness? Obviously. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that they are all very talented. Demaryius Thomas is one of the most physically gifted receivers in the NFL, Eric Decker is a very strong all-around receiver, and Wes Welker could be the best slot receiver of all-time. Broncos. Seahawks: 1 Broncos: 2

Tight Ends:
Julius Thomas and Peyton Manning could prove to be a lethal combo.
Zach Miller/Luke Willson vs. Orange Julius/Jacob Tamme
Zach Miller was a star in Oakland, but has become one of, if not the most overpaid player on the Seahawks roster. When he’s running with the ball it almost seems as if he’s wearing lead ankle-weights. Luke Willson on the other hand is one of my favorite young Seahawks. He is a really quick player with good hands. Orange Julius Thomas is one of the new breed of former basketball players turned NFL tight ends. He is 6 foot 5 inches, 250 pounds and runs a 4.6 40-yard dash. He is electric, and has become one of the tougher to defend young tight ends in the game. Seahawks: 1 Broncos: 3

Offensive Line:
The Seahawks offensive line is rated as the worst pass-blocking line in the NFL according to Football Outsiders, while the Broncos are the best in that category. Additionally, FO rates the Broncos run-blocking line as better than the ‘Hawks as well. They have worked well together the entire season and are just a better unit than that Seahawks have right now. Seahawks: 1 Broncos: 4

Defensive Line:
The interior part of the Broncos defensive line is one of the better in the league, as Sylvester Williams and Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton are a pair of monster run stoppers. Shaun Phillips on the outside is a veteran who is still performing at a pretty high level as well. The Seahawks however have the best defensive line in all of football as I have detailed before. They have pass-rushers in Chris Clemons and Cliff Avril. Run stoppers in Red Bryant and Brandon Mebane. Plus they have guys that can do both in Michael Bennett and Clinton McDonald. Unbelievably talented and deep group. Seahawks: 2 Broncos: 4

The Seahawks have an unbelievable set of four linebackers right now in Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner, Malcolm Smith, and K.J. Wright. With Wright fully healthy, I’m not sure how Pete Carroll and the coaching staff will decide who to start between Smith and Wright. Bobby Wagner is playing at a pro-bowl level, Malcolm Smith is playing out of his mind, Bruce Irvin is still a deadly pass-rusher, and K.J. Wright could be the most complete linebacker on the team. The Broncos have some good backers as well in Wesley Woodyard and Danny Trevathan, but they simply don’t stack up with the ‘Hawks unit at all. Seahawks: 3 Broncos: 4

K.J. Wright should be back up to 100% as he has had two full weeks to rest his foot.
USA Today Sports

The Seahawks’ best single positional group, and probably the Broncos’ worst. Go Hawks. Seahawks: 4 Broncos: 4

Special Teams:
This is actually a very close matchup and one that could prove key in the Super Bowl. Both teams are obviously outstanding, so every single edge will be important, whether it be field position, clutch kicking, or the return game. Steven Hauschka and Matt Prater are two of the best kickers in the NFL, but because of Prater’s better range, I will give him the nod. Jon Ryan and Britton Colquitt are a pair of outstanding punters, but Ryan has been slightly better in most statistical categories. The return game could play a huge part as well, as the Broncos allow the most kick return yards in the NFL. Welcome back Mr. Harvin. Trindon Holliday, the returner for the Broncos is no slouch however, he has broken big returns in big moments throughout his young career. On paper this category is a wash, but whoever wins this part of the game could serve to have a huge advantage. Seahawks: 5 Broncos: 5

Both Pete Carroll and Jon Fox coached together as assistants on the Iowa State football team, and both have become very successful head coaches in their own right. Darrell Bevell and Adam Gase are the offensive coordinators, and Bevell it seems has reigned in Russell Wilson’s play, which has been frustrating to see. Because of this, and because of Gase’s willingness to let their offense loose, I think the Broncos get a slight nod in this category. Seahawks: 5 Broncos: 6

The Broncos have a slight edge in positional groupings, but I think this is as close of a matchup as you can get. Both teams have some of the all-time best units in the Broncos offense and Seahawks defense. Russell Wilson will have to make some plays, whether it be with his legs or his arm, in order for the Seahawks to win this game. Winning the turnover battle will be key, winning the explosive play battle will be key, and taking advantage of opportunities will be key. I am nervous and excited. Less than 48 hours. Cautiously predicting a Seahawks win 27-24.

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