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NFL: Seahawks And Broncos Battle For Super Bowl XLVIII Success

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Welcome to the greatest sporting spectacle on Earth. The Super Bowl is the annual main event of the NFL, a glitzy and glamorous affair with huge hype, much analysis and a farcically long half-time show (this year featuring Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers). At some point, a game will also break out. And this one should be a cracking encounter, with Peyton Manning bringing his outstanding Denver Broncos offense to meet the Seattle Seahawks and their top ranked defence. Here, we look ahead to the game and preview some of the factors that could decide the game.

Denver Broncos versus Seattle Seahawks (kick-off Sunday, 23:30)

The bookies have had a tough time trying to decide who the actual favourite is for this game, which sounds about right as both teams are very strong in their own right. While Denver have blown away many opponents as Peyton Manning has broken all sorts of passing records during the season, Seattle arrives with a power house of a defense that is capable of matching up with and taking on the Broncos strong receiver corps, with their own tough-talking gang of defensive backs known as the “Legion of Boom”. This is the clash where both teams strengths will meet, and if either side can gain an advantage in this area it would make it a very tough game for the other to win.

On the flip side, it seems that the other side of the ball could really hold the key. There is a reason lots of the analysis at the moment is about “the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object”, as the strong points of both these sides are going to clash. But if the Seahawks can find a way to tear it up against the Broncos defense, then that sets up their defense to play the game as they want to. But if the Broncos defense, which was pointed out as the soft underbelly of the side before the Playoffs began, continues to step up the way it has done in the post-season games, that can swing the game back towards the Broncos. The Seahawks offense depends on a strong running game, led by Marshawn Lynch (known as “the Beast”). If Lynch gets into “Beast Mode”, he can tear defenses apart. The running back is able to bounce off tackles, making positive yardage in situations where lesser backs would be losing yards. He scored a vital touchdown in the Conference game against the Forty-Niners, where he was able to wait for a key block on a Niner linebacker, find the hole on the other side, then step beautifully past the oncoming safety and made his way to the end zone. In a tight game in poor conditions, as Sunday’s game will be, a big performance from a top running back can swing the game his team’s way.

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There is no reason to assume Lynch will have it all his own way against the Broncos defensive line, of course. Though they are depleted on the edges, having lost both Von Miller and Derek Wolfe to injury, the key defensive piece for Denver in their Conference win over the Patriots was the defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. Time and time again, Knighton was able to disrupt the Pats offensive line and get pressure on Tom Brady, forcing a key stop on fourth down at one point, turning the ball over for his team. The Seahawks offensive line has certainly seemed shaky at times, with no player having played all sixteen regular season games in one position. If Knighton can be a disruptive influence, he could make it pretty difficult for the Seattle running game to get going. He is likely to see a number of double-teams though, so it may be up to someone else to step up and give the Seahawks a headache.

The Seahawks have a propensity for making big plays as their Quarterback, Russell Wilson, scrambles around desperately in the back field. It will be interesting to see if Wilson stays in the pocket more often, or if he continues to bail out early under pressure and use his speed to try and make plays. The Seahawks are also fortunate enough to hold a true wild-card for this game, with the return of wide receiver Percy Harvin to the line up. It is highly unusual to have a player whom there isn’t a great deal of game tape to study, but Harvin has been blighted by injury this season, and a concussion removed him early from the divisional round game against the Saints. As such, the Broncos are largely guessing about how Seattle may use Harvin. He has explosive playmaking ability, and can be used on all sorts of play designs (he took a successful end-around in the New Orleans game, as well as making long catches), and he brings an explosive element to a Seahawks offense that needs an injection of dynamism.

Denver have their own strong running game (as if having Peyton Manning at QB throwing to the likes of Wes Welker, Demariyus Thomas and Eric Decker wasn’t enough), with Knowshon Moreno, Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman all capable of making good yards for their team. They benefit from teams unwillingness to commit a lot of defenders to stopping the run because of how dangerous Manning is with ball in hand, but the Seattle philosophy may present a new challenge for Denver, as they like to let their defensive backs battle it out with receivers, leaving their linebackers to go after the runners and press the QB. Whether they will remain so bold against this powerhouse defense remains to be seen, but Pete Carroll’s side likes to challenge offenses.

There are lots of questions out there, and the only way to get answers will be to let the game kick off. Can the Denver defensive backs step up, or are they really a liability? Can Seattle get Beast Mode going, or will the Broncos be able to disrupt it? Have Seattle got enough offensive weapons to win the Super Bowl? Is Peyton Manning destined to finish his career with just one Super Bowl Ring? Does a star defense really win championships, or will the Broncos offensive power win the day?  We will find out Sunday. It promises to be an excellent game, and we can only hope it lives up to it’s billing. As for calling it, I’m sticking with the team I thought would win it out from the start of the season.

Verdict: Seattle Seahawks

Images courtesy of NFL and sportspyder.com

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