Super Bowl 2014: Biggest X-Factors for Each Team

Tyler Brooke@TylerDBrookeSenior Analyst IIJanuary 20, 2014

SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 19:  Cornerback Richard Sherman #25 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrates after he tips the ball leading to an intereption by outside linebacker Malcolm Smith #53 to clinch the victory for the Seahawks against the San Francisco 49ers during the 2014 NFC Championship at CenturyLink Field on January 19, 2014 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

One game remains in the NFL season, as the Seattle Seahawks will be taking on the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.

The Broncos didn't have too much trouble getting to the Super Bowl, with easy wins against the San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots. For the Seahawks, their road was much tougher, having to go through the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers to get to New Jersey.

With the stage set for the Super Bowl, let's take a look at the biggest X-factors for both teams.


Denver Broncos

Knowshon Moreno

Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

Peyton Manning and the rest of the Broncos receivers have torched opposing defenses all season, but Knowshon Moreno has been one of the most important pieces for Denver.

After so many disappointing seasons for Moreno, either limited due to injury or simply not meeting expectations, he finally broke out this season. For the first time in his career, he broke the 1,000-yard mark rushing, putting up 1,038 yards and 10 touchdowns while averaging 4.3 yards per carry. He also added another 548 yards and three scores through the air.

The reason Moreno is so important to the offense is that he keeps it balanced. Opposing defenses know that Manning is going to let it rip, but without a reliable running game, the Broncos could be contained. Instead, Manning doesn't have to worry about calling out pass plays with a guy like Moreno running out of the backfield. 

Moreno's presence also helps open up the play action, as Manning has been on fire when faking the run.

Peyton Manning in Play Action
Play Action69.011.7183136.8
No Play Action68.07.1377107.7
Pro Football Focus

Considering the defense the Broncos are going to be up against, Moreno is going to have to find a way to be effective out of the backfield to keep defenders on their toes.


Terrance Knighton

The defense for the Broncos has stepped up in the playoffs, and you can thank Terrance "Pot Roast" Knighton for that.

Knighton was an impact player on the defense during the regular season with 31 combined tackles, three sacks and an interception. At 6'3" and 335 pounds, he's a monster on the defensive line who's been able to pressure the quarterback and stop the run.

Against the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, Knighton was dominant throughout, as he helped lead the defense to hold New England to just 64 yards on the ground. He also came up with a critical sack on 4th-and-3, taking Tom Brady to the ground at the end of the third quarter.

The Seahawks are going to be a tough team to stop on the ground, which is why Knighton is going to have to have another big game like the one he had against New England.


Seattle Seahawks

Doug Baldwin

SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 19:  Wide receiver Doug Baldwin #89 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrates after the Seahawks 23-17 victory against the San Francisco 49ers uring the 2014 NFC Championship at CenturyLink Field on January 19, 2014 in Seattle, Washington.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Seahawks are a very physical team that likes to focus on a heavy ground game, but they also have Russell Wilson, who has been one of the most successful quarterbacks in the league. While Wilson is a playmaker at the QB position, he will need his weapons to get open. One of them, Doug Baldwin, has the chance to make some big plays.

It was a productive season for Baldwin, as he caught 50 passes for 778 yards and five touchdowns. In the playoffs, he's been a big help, catching eight passes for 136 yards and coming up with a huge return in the NFC Championship Game to help set the Seahawks up with great field position.

While he's not likely going to put up huge numbers against the Broncos, Baldwin can be that guy that makes one or two big plays to shift the momentum, and those are players that every team loves to have.


Richard Sherman

Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

I try to put under-the-radar players on here usually, but when it comes to Seattle's defense, no player is more important to its success than Richard Sherman.

The numbers say a lot about Sherman. He had 49 combined tackles, 16 passes defended and eight interceptions in the regular season and helped tip the final pass from Colin Kaepernick to Malcolm Smith for the game-ending interception in the NFC Championship Game.

According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), when opposing quarterbacks threw Sherman's way in the regular season, they posted a passer rating of just 47.3, which was the lowest in the NFL.

But Sherman brings so much more to the table. He sets the tone for the defense with his aggressive play and extreme amount of confidence. You could see just how fired up Sherman was after the NFC Championship Game in his interview with Erin Andrews.

While he might not be the most well-liked player in the league, Sherman is the leader of the defense for the Seahawks, and he's a big reason why they've been so good this season.


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