Seahawks fans are lucky: they get the privilege of facing off against the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. While the high-powered offense might be scary, the Seahawks could not have asked for a better matchup. For every offensive weapon that the Broncos boast, the Seahawks have a piece to counter it. Whether it is in the trenches or the secondary, there is no Broncos player that does not have an equal on the Seahawks defense. However, there is an exception. One weapon that the Seahawks can’t match, that weapon being the best quarterback of the past decade, is Peyton Manning. No quarterback in this day and age is smarter or more analytical in his decision making than Manning. There’s only so much one player can do for a team though. Despite the superiority of Manning, there are 10 other players on the offensive side of the ball who all combine to make more of an impact than Manning himself, although it’s close. Here are some key matchups to watch when the Seahawks’ defense takes the field against the Broncos’ offense on Sunday, February 5th.
Wes Welker vs. Walter Thurmond/Jeremy Lane
There is no doubt here that this matchup is an advantage for the Broncos. Welker is a seasoned wide receiver and has consistently proven his worth throughout his long career. The small receiver has made his money by lining up in the slot, a position which is covered by Jeremy Lane and Walter Thurmond in the nickel package. Welker has above average hands and can escape you in an instant with his elite quickness. He runs very pure routes and is excellent at gaining separation, especially in small spaces. Welker has had a little history with drops though, especially in the Super Bowl when he was with the Patriots, and this will be something to watch. When Welker comes over the middle as he does often times, Kam Chancellor or Earl Thomas will be there more times than not. We all saw Michael Crabtree drop a pass this past weekend when Crabtree saw Kam Chancellor lining him up in his sights. The same fate could come down on Welker, but Welker has more experience in these situations than Michael Crabtree. Thurmond and Lane should be able to stay with Welker pretty well, but they likely will need some safety help when Welker decides to go over the top. Earl Thomas should help with this tremendously.
Wes Welker could have a big Super Bowl Sunday, but not if Walter Thurmond and Jeremy Lane have anything to say about it.
Demaryius Thomas vs. Richard Sherman
If you’re looking for a fun matchup to watch, this will be the one you’re looking for. Sherman is the best corner in the NFL, and Thomas is arguably a top five receiver in the league. It’s the matchup of the best of the best. Both players stand at 6’3”, with Thomas having the edge when it comes to speed. Sherman is obviously a physical corner and this should make up for his detriment in the speed category. Thomas has great hands, but we all know Sherman has great hands as well. Just ask Michael Crabtree. I would say Sherman has the edge in this matchup because of his length and jumping ability, but Thomas can also go up and get it. It’ll be interesting to see how many times Peyton Manning targets Thomas when Sherman is covering him. Kaepernick only targeted Sherman twice, but Manning is clearly the better of the two quarterbacks. After I saw the Peyton Manning pass to Thomas for a touchdown over Alfonzo Dennard in the AFC Championship game, I immediately thought of how Sherman would have played that ball. In my opinion, Sherman would have picked that off, or at least would have tipped the ball with his long arms. Sherman times his jumps perfectly when going up for the ball, and this is why I think he’ll be so affective against Demaryius Thomas.
The matchup between Richard Sherman and Demaryius Thomas will be a fun one to watch.
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Eric Decker vs. Byron Maxwell
This is a matchup where I think the Seahawks actually have an advantage. Decker is a receiver who won’t always burn you with his speed, but will run great routes on you. He’s had problems with drops in the past and even though it may look like he hauls in a pass at first, he doesn’t always hold on to the ball. I think this weakness of his will be exposed with Maxwell on him. Maxwell does a great job on not giving up on plays and has long arms just like Sherman to knock balls away from opposing receivers. Maxwell, with a little more development, could be the second coming of Richard Sherman. But he’s definitely not there quite yet. He’s not as lengthy or as tall as Sherman, but definitely has the speed to keep up with opposing receivers. The attribute of Maxwell’s that looks most like Sherman’s is his physicality. It’s what makes the Seattle corners so good. So if Maxwell is physical with Decker and can knock the former Minnesota star off of his routes, I think this matchup will work out to be an advantage for the Seahawks. Peyton Manning won’t be able to pick on any of these corners.
Byron Maxwell has really stepped his play up towards the end of the season.
Julius Thomas vs. KJ Wright/Kam Chancellor
Julius Thomas fits the mold of what seems like all current tight ends that have become stars: he’s an ex-college basketball player. What does this mean? It means two things. It means that Thomas is fast for his position and has great hands, because if you play basketball in college, you need great hands. Thomas has a great amount of quickness and agility for such a big guy (6’5” 250 lbs.). He’s caught 12 touchdowns on the year and he’s the main guy the Seahawks will need to watch when the Broncos are in the red zone. That being said, the Seahawks have the best red zone defense in the league and have dealt with similar targets already this season in Jimmy Graham (twice), Coby Fleenor, Tony Gonzalez and Vernon Davis. Kam Chancellor has done an excellent job on all of these targets as he shows as much strength on the field as all of these tight ends do. Earl Thomas has done a great job of coming down from his free safety position and breaking up passes intended for tight ends as well (remember the Saints game). KJ Wright is less of an assurance guarding Thomas since he has missed a significant amount of time over the past month. He looked very rusty against the 49ers, but with a bye week leading up to the Super Bowl, he should be able to gain back some of his old form. If the Saints game is any indication, the Seahawks should do just fine against Julius Thomas and the tight end position in the Super Bowl.
Make sure to stay tuned for more Broncos-Seahawks analysis in the coming days.
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