Super Bowl XLVIII Preview
23:30 – MetLife Stadium, New Jersey
For the first time in a long time, NFL fans will be treated to a Super Bowl between the two best teams in the league: the #1 ranked offense in Peyton Manning’s Broncos, and the league’s #1 ranked defence, led by trash talking Richard Sherman. It’ll be a clash of styles and ideologies, both as successful as one another, but we will have to wait a little longer to find out if defence really does win championships, or whether the NFL has changed to a high-powered offense dominated league.
I can’t help but think that this could be one of the most attritional, evenly matched season-enders of all time, and I’m really looking forward to the battle. Who knows, it could even be snowing, raining, hailing or blowing a gale come Sunday night: football is a game that should be played outside, so it’s only right that the biggest game in all of football is played in view of the elements.
So let’s take a journey through each team’s strengths and weaknesses, and find out what they have to do to win the game, starting with the explosive Denver Broncos.
It is plainly obvious that this team revolves around the future hall-of-fame QB Peyton Manning, and it has been so successful for Denver this season. Almost 5,500 yards and 55 touchdowns equals arguably the best season an NFL Quarterback has ever put together, and especially at the age of 37, Manning has answered every critic. Playing in the cold against big-time pass rushes and top class secondary’s has posed no problem for Peyton this year, when many thought he couldn’t possibly perform at the ‘Indy standard’ of old.
Manning’s list of targets is as long as Calvin Johnson’s arm: Wes Welker, Demayrius Thomas, Eric Decker, Julius Thomas, Knowshon Moreno, Jacob Tamme. That’s not including the rest of the step-ins on the offensive side of the roster who have played their part as the season has gone on. No matter how good the Seahawks’ secondary is, they will struggle to keep every target quiet, Manning will find someone open.
On the other side of the ball, the Broncos’ defense has made some real strides recently: stopping the run when it mattered and pressuring the QB. DT Terrance Knighton has been a wrecking ball in the last few weeks, and if he can keep his level up, the Hawks will find it hard to keep him from fighting his considerable way into the backfield. Obviously Von Miller is a big miss for this team, but they seem to have rallied together as a unit to raise their performance to a very good level, especially in shutting down the Patriots’ power running game in the AFC Championship.
But the Broncos aren’t a perfect machine, their safety play leaves a lot to be desired, and their linebackers can be picked on in pass coverage. Even the legendary older Manning brother isn’t infallible: he has a habit of throwing interceptions at bad times, although he hasn’t done so recently. Is one due? Injuries have also taken away quite a few starters for Denver, especially on the defence, and they will be hoping that their squad players and backups can step up and play at the top level when it matters the most.
To win the Super Bowl, the Broncos will have to do two main things: run the football well and stop the opposition doing just that. Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball have a massive role to play for the AFC Champs, they have to grind out the tough yards between the tackles to stop the Denver offense from becoming one-dimensional, allowing the Seahawks’ big corners to pressure their receivers and force mistakes from Manning. They will also have to be available for quick passes and short dump-offs when nothing is open downfield, otherwise Manning will be throwing into danger all night.
Defensively, they have to keep up their good play against the run whilst remaining disciplined in their gaps and zones, just in case Russell Wilson decides to take off. They need to fix him in the pocket and pressure him, so that he has to throw into tight coverage provided by Champ Bailey and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie at corner. If they can stop Marshawn Lynch from rushing for 80+ yards, the Broncos will give themselves a huge chance of lofting the Lombardi Trophy.
Later on today Mike will give you his thoughts on the Seattle Seahawks, before giving his verdict on the big game itself.