Super Bowl XLVIII Preview

Get ready for the Super Bowl with this jam-packed preview. 

The Headlines

The Cold: The first cold-weather Super Bowl might not be as frigid as expected. Despite a recent Polar Vortex, the forecast for Sunday is a high of 49ºF with a low of 28ºF.

Spotlight On Sherman: Seattle Seahawks CB Richard Sherman’s emotional post-game interview after the NFC Championship seized headlines from coast-to-coast. When he plays in the country’s largest sporting event, Sherman will radiate passion-sparked emotion.

Peyton’s Legacy: Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning will undoubtedly end up in the Hall of Fame after his career concludes, but to be dubbed as the best signal caller to play the game, the former Tennessee Volunteer needs at least one more ring. A second career Super Bowl title would make the GOAT conversation that much more interesting.

Positional Matchups

Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas vs. Seahawks CB Richard Sherman: Thomas is a threat both vertically and in screen plays. He will be face-to-face with Sherman, and extremely physical yet patient cornerback. Sherman and Thomas stand at 6’3” alike, and the physicality of this battle won’t disappoint.

Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno vs. Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner: Moreno resurrected a career that was down in the dumps just a few months ago. After seizing the reins of a crowded backfield, Moreno has been a workhorse. On the flip-side, Wagner, a 2012 rookie, totaled 120 tackles in 14 games this regular season. This matchup will be extremely physical.

Seahawks C Max Unger vs. Broncos DT Terrance Knighton: “Pot Roast” Knighton was a star in the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots. Knighton racked up eight tackles and a 4th-down, driving-ending sack. He anchored a defensive unit that contained a run-heavy offense to 64 yards on the ground. Unger, one of the league’s top interior offensive linemen, is an underrated blocker. This battle of the trenches will set the tone for the rest of the game.

Comeback Situation Analysis

Seattle Offense vs. Denver Defense:

While shockingly trailing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home, the Seahawks needed to put points on the board fast. In this play, where a completion racked up 22 yards, the ‘Hawks sent their tight end downfield in a deep corner route. One of three wideouts on the right (two WR’s, one TE) hooked across the formation, while the slot flared out. The crisscrossing wideouts opened up the top of the defense.

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In a Week 5 matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the Broncos, both teams were knotted up at 48 with just over 2:00 remaining. The Cowboys, who were backed up inside their own 15, were facing a 2nd-and-long. Denver only rushed three. They sent their sole linebacker in a hook zone. The Broncos man-covered three of the four opposing receivers, while dropping four DB’s into a zone at the first-down mark. One DB dropped deep. Cowboys QB Tony Romo threw the ball to the uncovered slot, but it was in the hook zone and intercepted by LB Danny Trevathan.

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If the Seahawks are in an offensive two-minute situation, they need to attack the top of the defense. In all likelihood, Denver will cover the first down area and they won’t have much support past the chains.

Denver Offense vs. Seattle Defense

In the aforementioned Cowboys-Broncos battle, the Broncos were down by a touchdown with less than eight minutes on the clock. They were not in a frantic two-minute situation, thus using play action to throw the defense off guard. Manning faked a handoff to Moreno, and two wideouts (two WR’s) to the left of the formation drove to the right at various depths. The two wideouts (one TE, one WR) on the right ran vertical routes downfield. The check-down was open, and Moreno racked up 13 yards.

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The Niners were driving on Seattle late in the NFC Championship when QB Colin Kaepernick’s pass was intercepted. Sherman tipped the football, and the buzzing (red) zone defender hustled to intercept the pass. The Seahawks played the end zone when the Niners needed seven points, and the plan paid off.

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In this situation, Denver will have to exploit different zones and use pick plays to prevent physical man coverage. The Seahawks will have to mix zone coverage with man coverage to prevent Manning from finding tendencies.

Key Factors:

Seattle Seahawks:

  • S Earl Thomas has to lock down the top of the defense. If there are open zones, Manning will pick apart the Seattle’s top-ranked defense.
  • Seahawks WR’s Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, and Jermaine Kearse need to create separation against defensive backs. WR Percy Harvin is recovering from a concussion, and his fellow wide receivers need to step up because Harvin won’t be 100%.
  • Seahawks DE’s Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett have to pressure Manning every pass play. If the pocket collapses quickly, Manning will not be able to locate all of his open targets on a consistent basis and go through all of his post-snap reads.

Denver Broncos:

  • If Sherman shuts down Thomas, WR Wes Welker, WR Eric Decker, TE Julius Thomas, and RB Knowshon Moreno will have a larger role in the passing attack. They can ill afford to drop passes.
  • Without DE/OLB Von Miller, the pass rush needs to fly off the ball to make QB Russell Wilson uncomfortable. DE Shaun Phillips has to pressure Wilson early and often to create 3rd and long situations.
  • Knighton needs to wreak havoc in the trenches to slow down RB Marshawn Lynch, one of the NFL’s top power-style backs.

The Verdict: If the Broncos jump out to an early lead and tire out the “Legion of Boom” defense, the Seahawks will not be able to come back due to their inconsistent receiving core.

The Pick: Broncos, 30, Seahawks, 20

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