It’s Super Bowl time! You made it past a weekend where your only sports viewing options were bull riding, snowboarding and the NBA (I chose to sleep instead), and now we have one more football Sunday before turning our attention to college basketball.
Here is my prediction for Super Bowl XLVIII between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. (Sunday, 4:25 p.m.):
Let’s start with the number one thing you’ll hear constantly on Sunday and leading up to the game…the weather.
Much is said about Manning’s struggles in cold weather and it will be cold at MetLife Stadium on Sunday evening (temperatures in the mid-30s with a few wind gusts up to 25 MPH are expected).
Manning has a record of just 8-11 in outdoor games – including 1-2 this season – in which the temperature was below 40 degrees at kickoff.
Manning has played in the outdoor Sports Authority Field in Denver for the past two years, but he spent his first 13 NFL seasons playing his home games inside a dome – so many believe he just isn’t himself in cold weather.
I say, throw out all the numbers…this is the Super Bowl. Manning will find a way to warm up quickly on the field and the weather won’t be the reason the Broncos win or lose.
It will come down to two big questions….
Can the Broncos stop Marshawn Lynch?
San Francisco hadn’t yielded 100 rushing yards to any running back in the regular season or playoffs. Then, Seahawks’ RB Marshawn Lynch ran for 109 against the 49ers in the NFC Championship game. The result? The 49ers lost the game.
The Broncos are also good against the run – they have allowed just one 100-yard rusher all season and that was to the Chargers’ Ryan Mathews in Week 15. The result? The Broncos lost the game.
The Seahawks are a run-first team that depends on Lynch to open up their passing game; if the Broncos can contain Lynch, they’ll come out on top.
Who wins the secondary battle?
In the regular season, the Broncos’ 340 passing yards per game was the NFL’s best, while the Seahawks only allowed 172 passing yards per game (also league-best).
The Seahawks’ 28 team interceptions were tops in the NFL, and cornerback Richard Sherman’s eight picks led all players. The problem is Manning has four dangerous targets in Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker and tight end Julius Thomas who combined for 4,284 yards and 47 touchdowns.
Manning compiled a 40-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio inside the opponents’ 20-yard line in the regular season.
Seattle’s secondary is great, but it won’t be able to lock down all of Manning’s targets.
If defense truly wins championships, then the Seahawks will hoist the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday. But that won’t happen.
Seattle is a young and inexperienced team – no player on its roster has ever played in a Super Bowl.
The difference in this game will be the Broncos’ defense, which was ineffective for much of the season but has allowed 17 or fewer points in each of its last four games, including its playoff wins over San Diego and New England.
Denver’s defense isn’t as talented as Seattle’s is, but I think they will contain Lynch and do enough offensively to win the game.
Denver 21, Seattle 17