By Zach Walker
Seattle Seahawks vs Denver Broncos
Sunday – February 2 – 5:25 PM
MetLife Stadium – East Rutherford
A Look at the Seahawks Offense
Quarterback: Well, it really doesn’t matter if you are a die-hard Seahawks’ fan; the Broncos have the edge in a head-to-head battle. But the Seahawks have worked ways of maximizing Russell Wilson’s strengths, and I really took notice in the NFC Championship game. In a designed rollout, the Seahawks offensive line will roll with him, effectively making a new pocket about five yards horizontally along the line of scrimmage, and this gives Wilson both more time to fine receivers and clearer throwing lanes. The only thing anyone can knock Russell Wilson about is his height, besides that, he has the intelligence and, definitely, the determination and drive. I question his arm strength at times, and then he’ll make a throw like he did in the Championship game, on 4th down, a slight roll then a blast to Jermaine Kearse, who was wearing a 49er in coverage. What would a Super Bowl win do for Russell Wilson? It would basically guarantee Wilson to have another seven years as a Seahawk, as it will benefit sub-6’1″ quarterbacks for a long time, along with the obvious success of him and Drew Brees and potentially, Tajh Boyd and Johnny Manziel.
The Runners: Half of the watching population will have a bowl of Skittles on their list of football munch-ables, as the “Beast” Marshawn Lynch is definitely in the Top 5 of running backs in the league. He runs like he’s losing balance, then punishes, like a 215 pound pendulum. He has some of the best vision in the game, taking advantage of over-eager linebackers trying to stop him for a loss, and side-stepping like he’s about to walk into a glass-sliding door. Everything for the Seahawks on offense is run-first, so Lynch is the key that the Broncos will have to attempt to control, or they’ll have to write down the license plate number of the back that just ran them over and toppled their hopes of a championship. And the Seahawks don’t have a lightning to Marshawn’s thunder, they just have more thunder with second year back Robert Turbin, who doesn’t have a ton of carries, because Lynch is so strong, but in potential conditions, the injection of Turbin into the game is going to be critical for the effectiveness of Lynch to take full effect. Michael Robinson is a great fullback, at a position that is often taken for granted, and he proved his team-first attitude when he acted as a buffer between the media and Lynch, that’s a good teammate, and it just shows a willingness to block even words getting at Marshawn Lynch.
Pass Catchers: Once again, the Broncos have the edge. Heck, the Broncos have five players with 10 or more receiving touchdowns, and that has never been done. But the Seahawks have worked with what they have. In Dallas, we all know Golden Tate, the player that laid a peel-back block on Sean Lee, then went on to make a play that ended the replacement referees, with some of the most obvious offensive pass interference ever witnessed. But the Seahawks have a solid troop of pass-catchers. Percy Harvin is the X-factor in the game for the Seahawks. If he can get three catches, and make an impact on special teams, with either a good run back off a kick-off or a big punt return, he could be a good investment. The under-the-radar player for the Seahawks is Doug Baldwin, who leads his team in all receiving categories, except touchdowns, but Wilson seemingly knows where Baldwin will be through-out the un-folding of a play. Zach Miller has not been the factor that he showed he could be in last season’s playoff game versus the Falcons, but needs to be a factor, if not in receiving, in blocking for the run game.
Offensive Line: There is mixed things about the Seahawks O-Line. They obviously do a solid enough job, but they are still vulnerable, especially on the right side of the line. Max Unger is a beast from the center of the line, and the left side of two 1st rounder’s Russell Okung and James Carpenter is very sound, but Breno Giacomini and J.R. Sweezy are beatable. In pass protection, Sweezy and Giacomini are best in the swinging-gate, move-the-pocket roll-out plays where they can play a sort-of man/zone block scheme. The cold men in the middle of each play for both teams is going to be a great watch, for both teams, but if the Seahawks can chain together first downs on the ground, they can take the game.
Defense and Special Teams:
Defensive Line: When you can have Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril coming in off the bench to rush the quarterback, you’re doing something right. Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane, and Chris Clemons are a formidable enough, then factor in Avril and Bennett and Manning shouldn’t get comfortable. Red Bryant is known for his special teams play, is a loaf hanging over a guard to try and block. Bennett and Avril both have 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles, and have both been down-right disruptive against the Saints and 49ers. The Seahawks have the edge in the defensive line.
Linebackers: Bruce Irvin has one of the fastest first steps off ball in the league, but hasn’t yielded any results in the playoffs. Bobby Wagner is on the verge of becoming an elite middle linebacker and has 24 total tackles in this postseason, and Malcolm Smith takes up the third spot. The Broncos have a very under-rated rushing attack, and keeping those Broncos backs in front of them is going to be a good matchup, as well as handling Julius Thomas at the line of scrimmage. If the game gets ugly, weather wise, these linebackers are going to have to ratchet down the game, and make Manning play through the tough conditions.
Defensive Backs: THE talk of pre-game. Richard Sherman put a target on himself, and it could either go two ways: Either he gets beat and everyone enjoys it or he has the game he says he can have and he becomes an icon. But just like at pretty much every other position in every game, there is another player, and if he wanted to, Peyton Manning could just completely throw away from Richard Sherman, which is likely to happen. I anticipate Manning to test Sherman about a couple of times early, to gauge his success, and then a couple times late. Bryon Maxwell isn’t quite Sherman height, but he’s close, and if Sherman has DeMaryius Thomas, then Maxwell will need to play big against Eric Decker, who has great size (6’3″) and skill of his own. Who covers Wes Welker is the question, because who can cover a player who can play as crisp as Welker can, but for the Seahawks sake, let’s hope that Welker continues his Super Bowl streak of big dropped passes. Kam Chancellor is a light weight linebacker playing strong safety, and can knock the block off of a pass-catcher at any moment. That leaves Earl Thomas, one of the game’s best play-busters, and can be the reason Peyton has to stick around for another season and keep chasing that second ring.
The Circumstances: Every Super Bowl matchup gives everyone something different, something they’ve never seen before, and this Super Bowl is a completely unique snowflake. It’s in New York/New Jersey, which is perhaps the best place to hold all of the pre-game week long activities, because it’s New York, and there are endless things to do leading up to the game. And it being an open air stadium, the elements might affect the game, I’m sorry if I spoiled that for anyone. But everyone has said how the wind conditions are going to affect Peyton Manning and force him to put in sub-par performance, as if the wind is working for Seattle, and that it won’t equally affect Russell Wilson. It affects everyone, players, coaches, and even fans attending. If the weather on Super Sunday is as advertised, the onus shifts to the men in the trenches, the linebackers, and the running game, and the Seahawks have the edge, but the Broncos aren’t exactly without a run game.
This is the first ever meeting of two teams, where one team’s offense is number one in yards and points racked up per game, and the other team’s defense is number one at preventing yards and points per game. And the Seahawks are the first defense since 1985 Chicago Bears, who I’ve been told were good, to lead the NFL in fewest points and yards and who also lead the league in takeaways.
Prediction: It’s an unbelievable thing, when millions of people can witness a legend in action, and if he wins, Manning WILL go down in history as the greatest quarterback in NFL history. Do I think that will happen though? No, I see the Seahawks winning 24-21.