I can’t accurately express my joy right now through words, so let’s try this…
The greatest day of our lives this week is finally here, everyone. The top defense against the top offense, Richard Sherman against Peyton Manning, Bruno Mars against his popsicle microphone, and Bruno Mars’ hair against winter. It’s all happening, and all you have to do now is make sure the five pounds of guacamole are ready for consumption at 6:30 ET before taking the necessary precautions against double dippers.
Around these parts we’ve been analyzing everything surrounding this game for two weeks. That’s ranged from real analysis examining how the X’s will conquer the O’s, to that time I spent three hours of my life researching ways to beat every conceivable prop out there. Frankly, there’s little left to say at this point, and it’s time to play a damn football game.
Well, there is this one small matter: it’s prediction time. Our betting guru Rob Pizzola already fired off his pick and guided you in your money making adventures, and I explored three ways the Broncos could win, and three ways the Seahawks could win. So while not to repeat too much, I’ll tweak that format just slightly to a more definitive hot take.
Here are three reasons why the Seahawks will win:
1. Passing suffocation: By now you just might be aware that the Seahawks have a really good secondary, and three of its members were Pro Bowlers (it’s pretty easy to argue that Byron Maxwell would have made it a fourth had he started a full season). But it’s the specific way in which they’re really good that will be daunting even for Peyton Manning.
Manning largely finds his success with his uniquely advanced football eye and mind, as he’s able to quickly read what a defense gives him and then find the hole or open man after a blitz. The Seahawks don’t offer much for any quarterback to look at, mostly staying in their base 4-3 package because they’re confident in an ability to get pressure with only four rushers.
But once Manning releases the ball, the task is still challenging. A Richard Sherman number I’ve cited often (and once more here for good measure) is 58, which is the amount of times he was targeted throughout the regular season, a league low. Yet despite being challenged minimally, he still led the league in interceptions with eight, and recorded 16 passes defensed. That means his hands were on over a quarter (27.6 percent) of the balls thrown in his direction.
2. Tight end stuffing
Using their 2013 total receiving yards, the Seahawks faced a top 10 tight end seven times, and two of those games came against THE top tight end Jimmy Graham. The others were three against Vernon Davis, and then helmet mashing with Greg Olsen and Tony Gonzalez. How many total receiving yards did they give up to those beasts? 194.
Yep, that’s less than 200 yards over seven meetings against tight ends who each averaged more than 50 yards per game, and Graham was far ahead at 75.9. There’s been justifiable concern over how both Julius Thomas and Demaryius Thomas will be slowed sufficiently by this Seahawks secondary, simply because no other defense has managed to pull that off, or at least not for a full game. By deploying K.J Wright and giving him safety help often in the form of the hulking Kam Chancellor, Seattle should have the tight end half of that covered.
3. The Harvin factor
Sure, he could snap in half before our very eyes tonight (there’s a prop for that, right?), but a healthy Harvin completely changes the dynamic of this Seahawks offense with his versatility. We saw that even during his brief appearance in the divisional round, when he was targeted four times while playing for just over a quarter, and he was also given the ball once out of the backfield for a nine-yard carry.
With Chris Harris gone after ripping his ACL, Champ Bailey will likely attempt to keep up with Harvin in the slot, which will end poorly. Harvin also brings another dimension to the Seahawks’ read-option plays, as at the mesh point there’s could be a second fast and explosive body to account for in the backfield. When Russell Wilson motions to handoff, the decision between committing to either him or Marshawn Lynch already sucks, and it certainly doesn’t get any better when that split-second call is better Wilson and Harvin.
With all that said, this game will be stupid close. Although scoring will happen it’ll mostly come in the form of field goals, and on the Broncos side it won’t come at nearly the same level that we saw all year when that offense set a single-season record with 606 points. So I’ll just leave this here then…
Fearless prediction you can maybe laugh at later (or now?): Seahawks 20, Broncos 16