By Dennis Glade
Times Herald Columnist
---- — We're more than halfway through Super Bowl week and the hyperbole has reached its usual ridiculous plateau. If you haven't been paying attention here's a recap — Marshawn Lynch is a jerk, Peyton Manning's legacy depends on this game and Richard Sherman is a thug, unless he's not.
So much of the Super Bowl analysis can fill anyone's head with so much garbage that has nothing to do with the actual game that will be played on Sunday night at Metlife Stadium in New Jersey. Manning matching up against the exciting, young Seahawks secondary, or the Broncos front seven against Seattle's dominant running back, Marshawn Lynch.
This game features Denver's No. 1 offense against Seattle's No. 1 defense. This is a football fan's dream. Manning has torched opposing defense's all season, while the Seattle defense, led by All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman has yet to meet an offense it couldn't handle.
If you look at the matchups for the Denver offense, Manning could be stuck for most of the game throwing to just Wes Welker and Eric Decker. Demaryius Thomas will be blanketed by Sherman and All-Pro tight end Julius Thomas will matchup against Seattle safety Kam Chancellor. Manning will have few opportunities to find both Julius and Demaryius, but having Welker, Decker and the running game of Knowshon Moreno could be enough given the immense talents of Manning, but the Seahawks defense won't make it easy.
The Broncos want to pass at least 40 times per game, but the Seahawks couldn't be more different than their Super Bowl opponent. Seattle wants to pound the rock with Lynch and use second-year quarterback Russell Wilson in the read-option and improvisation in the pocket. Lynch made both the Saints and 49ers front seven's pay with 249 yards on 50 carries and three touchdowns in the past two playoff games. Seattle is an old school team that depends on running the ball,
Lynch's success on the ground has allowed Wilson to make plays through the passing game. Wilson barely topped the century mark through the air against New Orleans, but in the NFC Championship he completed 15-of-25 passes for 215 yards and a crucial third quarter touchdown. Wilson's performance in his last game is exactly what Seattle needs for its quarterback, who has thrown 52 touchdowns in his first two full seasons, which is second all-time behind Dan Marino's 78. Denver can't win unless Manning has a big game, but Wilson just needs to convert timely third downs and avoid turning the ball over.
Coming out of Wisconsin, Wilson stood just 5-11 and most didn't giave him a chance to be a successful NFL quarterback, but here he is starting in the Super Bowl. This moment won't be too big for Seattle's mentally tough signal caller. But don't get it twisted, Wilson is a dynamic weapon for the Seahawks offense. If Denver's defense doesn't account for him on every play, Wilson might mess around and win the game MVP. Wide receiver Percy Harvin left the divisional round game against the Saints with another concussion, but he will be active Sunday evening. Harvin might get hurt again, but before that potentially happens he could leave his mark on the game with a big play on offense or in special teams.
In the 11 days since Sherman's outburst with FOX reporter Erin Andrews, the Seattle cornerback has been the most talked about player in any sport. Sherman and his secondary mates hold the key to quieting the talk of the Manning greatest of all-time narrative. Manning's matchup against the ballhawking secondary is the most fascinating Super Bowl storyline in quite some time. Manning could cap off one of the greatest quarterback seasons ever if he can win Sunday, or he will lose his second Super Bowl in three attempts. Unlike 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Manning won't be tricked into throwing at Sherman, he'll just ignore whatever receiver is matched up with the Seahawks polarizing defender.
In 2002, the Buccaneers' No. 1 defense had allowed just 12 points per game and the Raiders' top-ranked offense scored 28 points per game. The result was a 48-21 Tampa Bay win and three defensive touchdown's for the Buccaneer defense that featured Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, Ronde Barber and Simeon Rice. That Tampa Bay team made 2002 MVP Rich Gannon look awful for 60 minutes, I don't expect Manning to throw five interceptions and three for touchdowns the way Gannon did, but Peyton will have a tough time against Pete Carroll's defense.
The Denver defense may have scored 37.9 points per game in the regular season, but Manning's offense hasn't faced a defense like Seattle's, which gave up 14 points per game. Something has to give with two teams that couldn't be more different. The Broncos have won 15 of 18 games this year with their dominant offense, but as always, defense wins championships.
Prediction: Seattle 26, Denver 21
MVP: Marshawn Lynch