It's a tad premature, but other than maybe a bit of a weather factor, I don't see anything swaying me far from what I'm about to predict here.
Five short months ago there were 32 teams in the NFL playoff picture, as the season was about to begin. The rest have been sent packing, and left standing are the league's two best clubs fighting for all the glory on Super Bowl Sunday.
|Photo from: yahoo.com
Who wins the coin toss? How long will the anthem be? How many times will Boomer Esiason say the words Peyton Manning? I can't tell you the answers to these questions, nor do I care to, so if these are the questions on your mind, here's your cue to stop reading this article. What will follow is merely a preview and final score prediction for Super Bowl XLVIII.
Sorry to disappoint.
The Seattle Seahawks escaped with a win last weekend, thanks in large part to the turnover machine that was 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The No. 1 defense in the NFL took over the game, forcing 3 turnovers in the final 11 minutes of the contest, as the Seahawks outscored their rivals 20-7 in the second half en route to a 23-17 victory.
All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman sealed the game with a tipped ball that landed in the arms of teammate Malcolm Smith in the closing minute of a thrilling contest. In his now legendary postgame interview with Erin Andrews, Sherman gave himself the moniker of "best corner in the game." He may be on to something there, though, considering he was the least targeted cornerback in the NFL this season and still managed to pull in 8 interceptions. While his comments about his skill-set may or may not be true, Sherman's controversial rant certainly had a polarizing effect on fans, and was clearly the story of the week for all media outlets. But you've already heard that tale.
The Seahawks stout defense has allowed only 32 points in their two playoff games, and are playing like a unit possessed. This is nothing new. Through 18 games now, Seattle is allowing a mere 14.6 points per game on average. They held league-lows in yards per passing attempt allowed (5.8), passes of 20+ yards allowed (30), yards per game allowed (273.6) and points per game allowed (14.4). As the league's clear-cut No. 1 defense, the Seahawks have allowed a grand total of only 18 passing touchdowns all season.
The Denver Broncos took care of the New England Patriots in their game Sunday, and although the final score of 26-16 may suggest otherwise, they did it with relative ease. There was a point that the Patriots could have clawed their way back in the game, but for the second consecutive week, Denver's defense took care of business and brought their club to victory.
Peyton Manning's critics like to talk of his playoff follies, and to be honest, even as a huge Manning supporter, there is some validity to the claim that he struggles in the postseason. On Sunday, however, he did anything but struggle. Peyton went 32 of 43, passing for 400 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. Not a bad day at the office, but nothing out of the ordinary for No. 18 this year. The season's runaway MVP would love nothing more than to silence critics with a second ring, to cap off his amazing season.
The Broncos are a wrecking ball (thank you Miley Cyrus for that gem) on offense, and it's clear they're a very different beast than their upcoming adversary. Denver led the league in yards per game (457.3) by a margin of 40 yards more than any other NFL team. Their margin of domination in overall points scored was even more impressive, with 606 points total, compared to the second place Chicago Bears at 445. Their offense scored 45 or more points five times this season, and even managed to light up the scoreboard in defeat, scoring 30 or more points in two of their three losses. The unstoppable force that is Denver's offense reached the end zone an amazing 76 times during the regular season, which absolutely dwarfs the second place Bengals, who only hit pay dirt 54 times.
The final game of the year marks the first Super Bowl where the top offense in points and yards will face the top defense in points and yards allowed. The numbers don't lie, and what is in store is anybody's guess. It seems like no one can stop Denver, yet nobody can score on Seattle. It's clear that one team has to break, but the question is, whom?
There are several factors to look at, none of which are concrete. Looking at head-to-head matchups is almost pointless, since they only play each other every four years, but for the sake of discussion, Denver is 3-2 in the last 5 meetings between the two clubs. Again, though, it's a moot point, considering neither quarterback in the game and several other guys weren't even with their respective team the last time the two squads met in 2010.
You could look at the preseason shellacking the Seahawks laid on the Broncos (40-10), but if you do, please don't bet any money. We all know (or should know) that the preseason is worthless in the grand scheme of things. I'll say this; if all 22 starters from both teams acquire H1N1 and are all forced to sit out, the scales are tipped in Seattle's favor.
The best guideline you can find is what bookies think, because any bettor knows that the odds makers in Las Vegas sure know what they are doing. The problem is, even Vegas doesn't know what to do with this game. The Broncos are the favorites, but by less than a field goal, and that came after they were initially listed as a slight underdog immediately following the Conference Championship Games Sunday. It might as well just be a pick 'em game with the spreads I've seen thus far.
So that leaves it in my very....er....capable hands? I'll be honest, I don't even know what to do with this game. I'm actually going to pick with my heart, not my brain. Do not worry though, I'm not about to bet my first born on this hunch.
You shouldn't either.
Growing up in Calgary, Canada, the main network feeds from the States we get are all based out of Seattle. You would think that would sway fans towards the closest team to home, and for many, it certainly does. However, for those of us whose loyalties lie elsewhere, the Seahawks have become more of a nuisance than anything else.
I remember watching a Redskins-Giants game that was heading into overtime one Sunday afternoon many years ago. As the overtime period was about to begin, the local broadcast cut out the game in order to show the opening kickoff in a meaningless Seahawks game against the Arizona Cardinals. And as a die-hard, life-long Redskins fan, you can imagine I was far from pleased. FOX received a strongly worded letter that day, but I'm sure it found its way to the receptacle before anybody important read past the first few curse words. On that fateful day, I decided two things; One, I now hate the Seattle Seahawks, and two, Sunday Ticket will be a staple in my house for the rest of my life. Now that I've had Sunday Ticket for many years, my disdain for the Hawks has waned heavily, but I would be lying if I said I don't still hold ill-will towards them.
Now, I've never particularly cared for the Broncos one way or the other, but as stated above, I am a big fan of Peyton Manning, and I would love to see him cement his legacy further with another ring. Since my Redskins aren't winning a Super Bowl any time soon, games like these are the only things I've got to live for as a fan. So, as said, I am following my heart on this one. Although Peyton struggles mightily in the cold, and New York will be anything but warm next Sunday, I'm still picking the Broncos in a close one.
Broncos: 23, Seahawks: 20
Thanks for reading my playoff predictions over these last several weeks. All the best to everyone, and enjoy this wonderful time of year. After this game, all that's left is the cold of winter.
Sorry I had to be the harbinger of bad news.