The Denver Broncos appear locked in as 2.5-point favorites Sunday morning and shouldn’t drift far from that point this stage. However, some of the factors that are generally referenced in support of Denver could actually work more in the Seattle Seahawks‘ favor on Super Bowl Sunday.
Much is made about No. 1 offense vs. No. 1 defense and rightfully so, though the team boasting a dominant defense could prevail convincingly — aided by a huge boost from one lesser-publicized area.
The suddenly nice weather in North Jersey will actually benefit Russell Wilson more than Peyton Manning.
I’m not talking temperature or Manning’s record on either side of 40 degrees, but wind and precipitation. The swirling winds of the Meadowlands can create nightmares for the deep ball — see 2008-2009 NFC divisional round game — and rain clearly doesn’t help that facet either. So the 20 percent chance of precipitation and sub-10 mph wind aids Seattle’s deep passing game.
These chunk plays are what the Seahawks need to generate sufficient offense to keep up with Denver and the Broncos can route opponents in short-to-intermediate game alone. Any weather patterns facilitating shot plays benefits Seattle.
Many metrics over the course of 2013 suggest defending deep passes is currently strength for Denver, and I believe that’s just no longer the case. Denver never totally recovered from losing safety Rahim Moore; more recently seeing slot corner Chris Harris drop is having ripple effects throughout the defense.
Pro Football Focus’ Ben Stockwell notes that the Broncos defense holds the fourth-lowest completion rate on the deep balls to help offset the Seattle O’s No. 1 rate in that regard. Much of being successful on shot plays is the of element surprise and teams that have been trailing by multiple scores against Denver this year haven’t had that luxury. Denver’s secondary has also shown holes in defending deep down the stretch. While Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is playing the deep ball as well as anyone in the league, his comrades are leaving opportunities to strike.
Philip Rivers exploited this late in the divisional round (after offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt finally woke up) as Keenan Allen ripped chunk after chunk, rattling off 17-points in the blink of an eye. Tom Brady had his chances to hit Austin Collie and Danny Amendola in the first half of the AFC title, and just missed them. The opportunity was there yet the dirty secret on Brady is that — since 2007 — he just hasn’t thrown the deep ball very well, as tweeted by PFF’s Pete Damilatis.
In Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate and Jermaine Kearse, the Seahawks possess three of the top 22 receivers in PFF’s deep catch rate, and now-healthy Percy Harvin could prove absolutely lethal in this regard. Rodgers-Cromartie can take away one, but the wealth of deep options presents more than Denver’s secondary can handle. Outside of DRC, the next highest PFF coverage grade is owned by Quentin Jammer — the guy who Allen beat like a drum three weeks ago.
Look for Wilson and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to take advantage of what Brady and Whisenhunt could not.
Prediction: Seahawks 31, Broncos 20 [Bovada alternative point spreads: SEA -3.5 (180+), SEA -7.5 (325+), SEA -10.5 (450+), SEA -13.5 (+550), SEA -17.5 (+1000)]