The matchup for Super Bowl XLVIII is set as the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks will battle for the Lombardi Trophy in what is sure to be a blizzard at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Feb. 2. For the just the third time in the past 20 years, the No. 1 seed from the NFC and the top seed from the AFC both advanced to the Big Game and put simply, everyone wanted to see this matchup from the beginning of the season. Why? It’s the best offense in the NFL against the league’s top defense.
Since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, the team with the best defense in points allowed has reached the Super Bowl 15 times and those teams went 12-3 in those games. Indeed, the Seahawks boast the stingiest defense in the league and they have a running game that is definitely the most physical in today’s NFL. Those two elements are usually all it takes to win a ring in the most competitive football league in the world, but that’s not easy when arguably the best player to ever play the game is on the other side of the ball.
Peyton Manning made some really good defenses look silly this year, but he hasn’t played one like the Seahawks’ in the 2013-14 campaign, which is why the predictions will be almost impossible over the next two weeks. But isn’t that the way we want it?
The NFL has become more wide open over the past decade than it’s ever been and to the average fan, nothing could make watching the games better. Any team can be beaten on any given day and there are truly 12 teams with a real shot to win it all every season. But this year the Broncos became the all-time best when it comes to scoring points, so maybe the real question is the opposite of the common one: Can the Seahawks stop Manning and company?
The main factor that most people forget when talking about Manning’s 55-touchdown, 5,400-yard season is that he did it with a 1,000-yard rusher by his side, which is incredible given the number of snaps it takes to put up the kind of aerial stats he did this year. Three times in the AFC Championship Game, the Broncos ran the ball for first downs on critical third downs and one was a third-and-nine on which Manning audibled to a running play. In the past, that would have never happened, but that’s how the Broncos have overcome all the injuries that have plagued them this year and that’s how they have remain balanced during Manning’s aerial assault on the record books.
On the flip side, Russell Wilson is about to become one of the most polarizing players in the league. He is an extremely underrated playmaker, especially when compared to Manning, but he also has a tendency for being careless with the ball, which is typical for a player who can make big plays out of broken ones as often as he does. It probably won’t be said much over the next two weeks, but Wilson is the X-factor in this game. If he can make plays the way he did in the NFC title game without the mistakes that resulted in crucial turnovers, the Seahawks will win their first Super Bowl. If not, their defense can’t hold Manning and the Broncos’ offense at bay for the entire game without any points to back it up.
With so many unknown factors and uncharted waters for both teams to navigate, this year’s Super Bowl could be one of the best in recent memory. One thing is for sure: The NFL’s two best teams are facing off for the game’s biggest prize and nobody — even the advocate of the underdogs and Cinderellas — is complaining.