BRIAN: Broncos 35, Seahawks 23
Best case scenario for Seattle’s top-ranked defense: it keeps Peyton Manning and Denver to less than 30 points. It’s inconceivable that the highest-scoring team in NFL history records fewer than one touchdown per quarter. As stingy as Richard Sherman and the Seahawks’ D has been, it’s nothing Manning hasn’t seen before.
So, if the Broncos top out at, say, 28 points, can Seattle score into the 30s? Negative. Where is the offense going to come from?
Russell Wilson is a capable game manager who can run a little; although he was sacked 44 times in the regular season, third most in the league, and he’s been taken down for a playoff-high seven sacks.
Marshawn Lynch is a beast, and he’ll be the best running back on the field Sunday. But it will take more than Lynch to upstage the Broncos.
The Seahawks’ wide receivers are a model of mediocrity. Someone named Doug Baldwin is their second-best healthy wideout, with 50 receptions. I’ll believe Percy Harvin is a threat if, and when, he steps onto the New Jersey tundra.
The last six games, Seattle hasn’t topped 23 points. The Seahawks most prolific offensive displays this season were against Jacksonville in Week 3 (45-17) and Minnesota (41-20) in Week 11. Me, Tom Russo and nine GYFLers could score at least once against either of those teams — and Russo is pushing 70.
Manning earns his second Super Bowl ring going away. Too bad the Colts didn’t keep him around.
Speaking of Manning, there were plenty of No. 18 jerseys visible on TV the other night for the Indiana Pacers’ road game at the Denver Nuggets. New Palestine’s Matt Hayden got lots of love from the Pacers’ FoxSports Indiana broadcast crew of Chris Denari and Quinn Buckner. Hayden has been on TV frequently as an official member of the Pacers’ bench staff at home games, supplying drinks and towels to the players, among other duties. But this time, the camera zoomed in on Hayden sitting in the stands (taking in the game while visiting family in the Denver area) and Denari and Buckner mentioned what a great guy Hayden is, and all of the good work he does for the team.
Neat stuff. Reminded me of the previous incident of New Palestine making “national” news. Two years ago — Jan. 20, 2012 — Pacers mascot Boomer felined its way into Hancock County for a halftime dunking performance as the Dragons hosted Triton Central. Using one of those mini, one-person trampoline deals, Boomer soared into the air and followed through on a two-handed jam — and shattered the backboard. It made ESPN’s Sportscenter that night. The game was continued in the auxiliary gym, and Boomer and Pacers staff returned to New Palestine the following Monday to replace the backboard, at the Pacers’ expense.
Brian Harmon is the Daily Reporter sports editor. Contact him at (317) 477-3227 or at email@example.com.
GRANT: Seahawks 24, Broncos 21
I’m sticking with my pre-playoffs prediction of Seattle winning the Lombardi Trophy, but adjusting my forecasted score of 35-30 — there’s no way the Seahawks can score that much, as Brian illustrated in his prediction.
No, I think the group of people that will determine this game won’t be wearing Denver Orange or Seattle Blue, but black and white zebra stripes. That’s right, Terry McAulay and the rest of his officiating crew hold the fate of Super Bowl 48 in their hands.
In case you haven’t seen these two teams, here’s a quick synopsis of their respective seasons: the Broncos scored an NFL-record 606 points, largely off of Peyton Manning’s league-record 55 TD passes; the Seahawks yielded the fewest points in the NFL, mainly by playing defense with a level of physicality that would make Andre the Giant shudder.
Rule changes in the NFL over the years have shifted the balance of power to the league’s offenses, but the really good defenses have caught on to a caveat — no officiating crew wants to be the determining factor in a game. In other words, they don’t want to kill the vibe of a game — especially a Super Bowl — by littering the field with yellow laundry.
Seattle’s defense is predicated on tight man-to-man coverage, misdirecting receivers with (excessive) jamming techniques. You’re crazy if you think the Seahawk defense is going to change anything just because Manning is coming at them.
No, coach Pete Carroll’s team is going to talk the talk and walk the walk on Sunday, and that means taking wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker out of the game with physical play at the line and shadowing tight end Julius Thomas with human eraser Kam Chancellor.
Look, Seattle was the league’s most penalized team — Denver was second — but since the officials won’t want to be on the front page come Monday morning, the Seahawks are going to terrorize the Bronco pass catchers much in the same way Bill Belichick and the Patriots used to in the 2000s.
Denver’s defense will keep them in the game and get Manning the ball late with a change to tie the game or go ahead. But, I envision Manning having a well-timed pass inside the Seattle 30 go off Wes Welker’s hands and into the arms of all-world corner Richard Sherman after a perfectly-timed hit by Chancellor.
Grant Freking is a sportswriter for the Daily Reporter. Contact him at (317) 477-2320 or at firstname.lastname@example.org