Burning Issue: Who is going to win the Super Bowl, Seattle or Denver?
The two best teams in the NFL meet in New Jersey Sunday night to see who wins the Vince Lombardi trophy. Two JOE writers make the case for either side.
Sean Nolan says... The Peyton Manning fairytale comes to a crushing end at the hands of the brutal and brilliant Seahawks on Sunday night.
Since the first weekend, the 2013 NFL season has been all about Peyton Manning. He threw seven TDs in the season opener against Baltimore, broke all sorts of records for TDs and passing yards during the regular season and cruised through the play-offs where he is favoured to win his second Super Bowl ring on Sunday night.
But here is why I think Peyton will still be behind his brother when it comes to winning the big one; Seattle are a better team. This might seem overly simplistic but the NFL is very much a meritocracy. The nature of the game, with set pieces and micro management, means that while there will always be the odd shock along the way, the best team usually wins.
And despite the records that Peyton and his offence ran up this season, the cliche that defences win championships is a cliche for a reason; it's true. And Seattle are the best defensive team in league. The Seahawks only allowed 273.6 total yards per game and 172 passing yards per game. That puts them miles and miles ahead of the rest of the league, and even their run defence is is EXACTLY the same as Denver's (101.6yards per game, stat fans).
That superb defence is built on their top-notch secondary. Post-match interviewee extraordinaire Richard Sherman is an interception machine, leading the league with eight this season, despite being rarely targeted and he is more than ably assisted by the likes of Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. Manning will have to be very, very careful with his throws and a few picks will really swing the balance to Seattle.
But Seattle aren't managed by Big Sam, so they have a bit about them going forward. At QB, Russell Wilson might be the best youngster in the game. He can't run quite as well as Colin Kaepernick and he can't quite as well as Andrew Luck but he does both jobs better than most, and as a game manager he is superb. He rarely makes the wrong decision and he actually had less interceptions than Manning - nine v 10 - though that is with far fewer attempts.
And if Wilson doesn't unlock Denver, then Marshawn Lynch, that most beastly of running backs, will do the damage. Almost impossible to stop, he bounces off tackles for fun and achieves many, many yards after contact, a hugely precious ability.
Finally, just watching both conference finals, the Denver win over New England just seemed slow compared the high pace of the Seattle/San Fran clash. The Seahawks play with a fierce intensity, and I simply don't think Denver will be able to cope with that over four quarters.
I expect it to be close, and I expect Manning to play well and possibly run up a big yardage, but scoring will be a different matter so I'm going for Seattle to win, by a field goal or two.
Adrian Collins says... A record breaking season for Peyton Manning will be finished off with a Super Bowl ring for one of the greats of the game
The air of destiny looms over this Broncos team, and even with the moves they made in the offseason, you could see that they were setting themselves up to give Peyton Manning the best weapons possible to really prove himself again this year. With the clock ticking, he will never have a better set of circumstances in which to win the coveted Lombardi trophy, and while his record to date in the Playoffs might suggest that the crumbles under pressure, he has shown so far this year that those worries are perhaps a thing of the past.
On a personal level, I never had any strong feelings for or against Peyton, but after the emotion that he showed when leaving Indianapolis and possibly facing the end of his career, we finally saw the human side to the relentless machine, and that was very endearing. He has also run the offence this season in the way that we know he can, shifting the play, moving the defences around to find the gaps that he wants, and in particular during the first few weeks of the season, making defences look as if they were amateurs up against a pro.
The Seahawks defence will not be so lightly brushed aside however, and the secondary are well equipped to be able to pick Peyton off and cause him more than a few problems. However, the have not faced an offence like the one that they will on Sunday, as Peyton has so many targets to choose from that he can find the matchups where there are weaknesses. He has the patience to go short, which Wes Welker does so well, and he can open up the field with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, not to mention TE Julius Thomas.
Oh yeah, there's also Knowshon Moreno, who not only has the ability to make plays on the ground and get those vital first downs, but it also opens up the play action. Add to that the fact that Montee Ball has impressed when needed, and their run game is a viable option, even if it's not one that they immediately turn to. That said, in the postseason the stats on the split between the two are closer than many would imagine, having gone for the rush on 62 occasions, and looked for the pass on 79.
In the end, the game may come down to the battle not of Peyton and the Seahwaks defence, but rather of Marshawn Lynch (one of the few Seahwaks that seems likeable) and 'Pot Roast' Terrance Knighton. As we saw last wee, the man is a force of nature, and he can be the difference maker on that line that will decide if Beast Mode can get engaged or if they'll keep him quiet for the evening.
There is no arguing that the Seahwaks have a great defence, and the absence of Von Miller for the Broncos definitely weakens them, but Danny Trevathan has emerged as a new leader on that side of the ball, and they won't be giving anything up easy either. Keeping Wilson inside the pocket and forcing him to make plays that they can read will be key, as his biggest throws against Seattle came when the play looked to be dead. Simply put, he gives himself more time to pick a pass and the receivers get more time to beat their men when he does that, but we don't fancy seeing Knighton coming running at us full tilt, which may keep Wilson regined in a bit more.
Sure the Seahwaks will play hard and look to bring pressure on Peyton, but every team that plays them has tried that, and so far in the post season, his OL hasn't coughed up a single sack. Not one. If you give Peyton free reign to pick you off, he will do it all day long, and not even Seattle's defence can cover all his weapons.