After 512 regular season, and 10 postseason games, the NFL an hour closer to crowning a champion for the 2013-14 season. The final game of the NFL season will take place in New Jersey at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014. For the first time since 1993, both number-one seeds will meet for a chance to take home the Vince Lombardi trophy. Those teams are the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos.
How they got here:
Seahawks (13-3 regular season record):
- Defeated the New Orleans Saints 23-15 in the Divisional round
- Defeated the San Francisco 49ers 23-17 in the NFC Championship game
Broncos (13-3 regular season record):
- Defeated the San Diego Chargers 24-17 in the Divisional round
- Defeated the New England Patriots 26-16 in the AFC Championship game
During the regular season, both teams dominated one half of the game, while struggling in the other. For the Seahawks, they were number one in the league in yards allowed and points per game, while the Broncos scored the most points per game and gained the most total yards in NFL history. However, both the Seattle offense, and the Denver defense were in the middle of the pack.
This contest also features two quarterbacks that are drastically different in almost every way.
For 25-year old Russell Wilson, this is a rare opportunity to win a super bowl in only his second year in the league. He has been known as more of a mobile quarterback, and has struggled throwing the ball lately, completing only 57.5% of his passes over the last five games.
Helping out Wilson on offense will be 27-year-old running back Marshawn Lynch, who ran for 1,257 yards and 12 touchdowns this past season. Lynch, who is known for his love of Skittles, will have to get Seattle’s offense going early and often with his “beast mode” runs that he is famous for. Also, wide receivers Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate, who each had over 700 receiving yards this season, will look to provide big plays downfield throughout the game.
Then, there is 37-year old Peyton Manning, whose hall-of-fame career is now within a few years away from being over. His legacy is cemented as one of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game, and he proved it once again this season by throwing for an NFL record of 55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards. Manning once again led the Broncos to a 13-3 record and the number one seed in the AFC. Known as a pure pocket passer, Manning is exceptionally well protected by his offensive line, and has been in rhythm all season long.
Assisting Manning will be a plethora of talented receivers, such as Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker and Julius Thomas. Welker, who came over as a free agent after spending six seasons with the New England Patriots, battled through a concussion to catch 73 passes and 10 touchdowns. Demaryius Thomas had his second consecutive season of at least 90 catches and 1,400 receiving yards, while racking up 14 touchdowns as well. The key for the Denver receiving corps will be getting past the physicality of the Seattle secondary, known as the “Legion of Boom” for their hard hits and rough play.
On defense, the Seahawks are led by All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, who has been in the news lately for his post-game interview with Erin Andrews. Sherman fiercely talked about San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree, calling him “mediocre” multiple times. Sherman is coming off of a regular season in which he recorded eight interceptions and earned a Pro Bowl selection. Helping out Sherman will be safeties Earl Thomas (All-Pro) and Kam Chancellor. Both will look to prevent the deep ball from Manning, as well as keep Denver’s receivers from breaking off big gains from screens and short passes. Stopping third down conversions will be a key factor for the Seahawks defense, as Denver converted on third down over 46% of the time during the regular season.
For the Broncos defense, stopping the pass will be the biggest challenge. As noted above, Wilson has not been throwing the ball well as of late, but Denver allowed the 27th most passing yards per game in the regular season. However, Denver held both San Diego and New England’s passing game in check, giving up only three touchdowns in the two games. Leading the Denver D will be 15-year veteran cornerback Champ Bailey, who has seen an increased role since Chris Harris Jr. tore his ACL against the Chargers in the Divisional round of the playoffs. Bailey is making his first Super Bowl appearance, and has battled foot injuries since the end of the 2012-13 season.
Overall, these are two very good teams who have earned the right to play for the title of the best team in the NFL. Expect Seattle to come out physical on defense, making Denver’s receivers uncomfortable from the start. Meanwhile, expect Manning to take about a full quarter to get going with the passing game, but once he does, he will make several big, long drives that result in some form of points. Also look for Denver’s defense to stack the box with eight defenders in order to slow down Lynch and prevent him from any big runs.
Finally, since this game is being played in a cold and windy outdoor climate, expect the kickers for both teams to play a vital role in putting up points.
Other than that, grab your popcorn and some drinks, because it’s going to be a good one folks.