Manning vs Wilson, Offense vs Legion of Boom and Defense vs Lynch.
The countdown is on for Super Bowl XLVIII and we evaluate the key battles that will take place between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos at the MetLife Stadium on Sunday.
Both teams have been impressive all year, with the Broncos defeating the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game while the Seahawks overcame the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC.
Peyton Manning is bidding for a second Super Bowl while rival Russell Wilson is looking for his first, experience vs youth given the latter is twelve years his junior as the best offense in the league comes up against the best defense.
Our NFL experts Sumeet Paul and Scott Hazlewood discuss where Super Bowl 48 could be won and lost…
Pete Carroll vs John Fox
Scott Hazlewood: I think the biggest question we need to ask before this Super Bowl, or any Super Bowl for that matter, is how the head coach and their staff handle the unknown. Before any game like this there is so much tape watched and studied and then re-watched. Both teams know what they are going to bring to the table. But I think the coach who tries something out of left-field or handles an unexpected injury the best will gain the edge, your thoughts?
Sumeet Paul: Completely agree, while the players ultimately execute on the field, the preparation and analysis from the coaches put them in that position to prevail. This is the first trip to the Super Bowl for Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, although he does have big-game experience following his spell at USC, while John Fox is back for his second attempt after a decade away from the big one.
Both have been able to fulfil expectations to this point, making key adjustments at the right times while also leaving their opponents guessing. They will undoubtedly have studied for hours to identify any possible weaknesses, and it will be a battle off the field as much as there is one on it to determine who raises the Vince Lombardi Trophy on Sunday night.
A key part of their bid for success will be how their quarterbacks perform, although Peyton Manning has the experience and records, how do you see Russell Wilson competing?
SH: He might be able to, but put simply, he doesn’t have the range and scope of targets at his disposal that Manning does with the Broncos. The 49ers did a good job in limiting Wilson’s rushing game in the NFC title game, where he had five carries for zero yards, so that is something the Broncos will need to again take away from him, just so Wilson feels like he doesn’t have a Plan C if he needs it. The fact he has not thrown an interception in the playoffs at all speaks volumes about his coolness under pressure at just 25 years of age and in his second year in the league. But when the spotlight of a few hundred million people is on you, funny things can happen. Do you think Wilson can get it done?
SP: Not for me. Tom Brady came top of the list in a recent anonymous survey of players who were asked about which quarterback would you most want in clutch time. In my opinion, I’d be pretty happy if the ball was in Peyton Manning’s hands.
Wilson has proven himself an elite quarterback over the past two years, you don’t get to the Super Bowl by luck. However, if you’re looking at the options Manning has in terms of receivers, he will be the man to stop. Decker, Thomas, Welker are just three members of a dangerous offense that has shown that they know where to be and when to get there, all they have to do is wait for Manning to deliver.
Manning and Broncos offense vs ‘Legion of Boom’
SP: Naturally, the next question is then whether or not the intimidating unit that is the ‘Legion of Boom’ can stop Manning and his receivers. If they put the pressure on early and put the emphasis on the Broncos defense, we could be looking at a completely different ball game.
Sherman, Chancellor, Thomas and Thurmond et al have put together the meanest defensive record in the league this season, and will be geared up for putting on one more show, and the officials could play an important part too.
This really is a fascinating match-up considering it could swing one way or the other, but despite Manning’s lack of mobility, he has so many options given his passing range that the unpredictability could leave LOB second-guessing every play which leaves them vulnerable. Who prevails for you?
SH: It’s such fascinating game very rarely do you have the top two seeds, the most deserving teams in the Super Bowl, who also just happen to be the best attacking and defending teams in the league as well. Even though the team’s with best defensive record are close to 12-3 in Super Bowls, and it can be a lot easier to stop points from being scored than putting them up yourself.
I am going for the Broncos 27-24, with a lesser-known player from Denver putting up one of the plays of the game and Manning a deserving MVP winner.
Marshawn Lynch vs Denver Broncos defense
SH: As for Marshawn Lynch, I think he will get around the 100 yards rushing and he will get at least a touchdown out of it. He is just too hard to stop and, unless the entire Denver defence tries to stop him, he will get vital yards on third down when the Seahawks need them.
SP: Lynch has been awfully quiet this week, and it is almost an ominous sign ahead of the big game. He will undoubtedly be a factor on Sunday, and I agree that he will probably contribute a touchdown given his recent form and help Seattle advance out of tricky situations.
However, do the Seahawks have enough weapons to not only limit the Broncos but then out-score them too? Can’t see it happening. Lynch will arguably be their biggest X-Factor along with Wilson, and perhaps the returning Percy Harvin who may be the joker in the pack, but ultimately, the Broncos are rightfully the favourites to win.