Everyone should be more than familiar with the two narratives the media wants to play up heading into the contest — the weather in East Rutherford, New Jersey and the league’s No. 1 offense facing the league’s No. 1 defense.
Both are compelling story lines that deserve our attention because make this game unique; however, they are barren when it comes to analyzing the actually game, its 106 players and all of its various schemes.
What is lost in all the media hoopla is the obvious fact that Seattle will have to out score the Broncos record-setting offense if they’re going to hoist the Lombardy Trophy Sunday night.
Let’s see how the Seahawks’ offense matches up position by position:
Quarterback: Russell Wilson
Manning makes this a mismatch, but Wilson isn’t as far behind as Bronco fans would like to believe. He has a tremendous knack for making the big play in the big moment and is more-than capable of throwing the deep ball despite his short stature. Almost more importantly, he has an ability to make defenses miss both in the pocket and in the open field. Mobile quarterbacks have always posed a threat to the Denver defense, which is now missing five of its starters, including edge-rusher Von Miller and containment-specialist Derek Wolfe.
Surprisingly, the Broncos have played their best defense of the season, and of the entire Manning era, without some of its key players on the defensive side. Wilson has had more than enough to prepare though, watching tape of the improved unit against San Diego and New England this postseason. If he is patient and doesn’t force the ball, he will find opportunities to slowly pick apart the Denver secondary and turn broken plays into crucial first down conversions with his legs.
Like the rest of the offense, nobody should sleep on Russell Wilson.
Running backs: Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin, Michael Robinson
Lynch stole the headlines on Media Day and is more than capable of stealing them again Sunday from Manning and Sherman. Lynch will have his work cut out for him for the third straight game though as the Broncos run defense is playing with a mile-high confidence after shutting down LeGarrette Blount in the AFC Championship Game.
Beast Mode is known for his tenacious, physical style of play, but if the Broncos turn this one into a shootout, he may be watching the game from the sidelines like Blount did two weeks ago. Similar to the quarterbacks, the margin separating the two teams’ running backs is a lot smaller than most would expect.
Now, to be clear, Seattle has an edge because of Lynch — one of the game’s top three players, but Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball could prove to be the difference makers in this one and shouldn’t be written off.
Wide receivers: Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Percy Harvin
While many believe Percy Harvin to be the X-factor for the Seahawks’ receiving corpse, Kearse is actually the player that poses the biggest threat to Denver and shouldn’t be overlooked in preparation for Sunday. The good news for the Broncos is that they’re familiar with the un-drafted, second-year pro out of Washington. He burned them in the preseason both on offense and on special teams. Similar to all of Seattle’s playmakers, he can score at any moment and can line up at any spot.
When looking at this matchup though, one thing stands out: the Seahawks receivers are boom-or-bust, whereas Denver’s are more consistent and can find space anywhere on the field. As much as Seattle’s secondary will test the Broncos’ receivers (more on this tomorrow), fans can expect an equally tough showdown between Denver’s secondary and the Seahawks wideouts. Champ Bailey, Dominique Rodgers Cromartie, and Mike Adams have all made headlines for various reasons over the last ten days. Not saying this is what gives them an edge, but it’s certainly added motivation.
Tight ends: Zach Miller, Luke Wilson, Kellen Davis
It’s a mistake to undervalue Miller, as most executives have done throughout his entire career. He is a consistent tight end who practices against the best secondary football every week. Even though the Broncos have defended tight ends brilliantly this postseason, this experience should help Miller and put him in a position to make a game-changing catch.
Nonetheless, Denver has the edge here for one reason, and it’s not because Julius Thomas is better than Miller — they have more depth. Virgil Green and Jacob Tamme will see 10 to 15 offensive plays each Sunday, while Luke Wilson and Kellen Davis may combine for six or seven plays.
Offensive Line: Russell Okung, Paul McQuistan, Max Unger, JR Sweezy, Breno Giacomini
This unit was embarrassed a little more than a month ago in a loss at Arizona. They’ve seemed to overcome those struggle, but still don’t have an edge on Denver’s offensive line which ranks No. 1 in the NFL.
With that said, there is a blatant storyline brewing here that I hope I don’t have to listen to come next Monday: the unit that received the least amount of attention all week, and struggled all season long, came together on the biggest stage and helped carry Seattle to its first Super Bowl in franchise history. This is my nightmare.
Stay tuned letter in the week for defense and special teams breakdowns and my prediction for the Super Bowl.