2013 NFL Playoffs

Seahawks vs. Broncos: Who Has the Edge at Every Position in Super Bowl XLVIII?

Eric MackFantasy Football Lead WriterJanuary 20, 2014

Seahawks vs. Broncos: Who Has the Edge at Every Position in Super Bowl XLVIII?

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    Peyton Manning vs. the Legion of Boom: You couldn't ask for a tastier matchup in the battle for NFL supremacy.
    Peyton Manning vs. the Legion of Boom: You couldn't ask for a tastier matchup in the battle for NFL supremacy.Elsa/Getty Images

    You might have been rooting for the underdogs this past Sunday, but a matchup of the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos figures to be the ultimate battle of wills.

    Great defense against great offense. The best quarterback season of all time against a secondary that has made a name for itself—one that lets you know all about how good it is, thanks to Richard Sherman's brashness—shutting the passing game down in a quarterback-friendly era.

    Peyton Manning trying to win himself, Denver and John Elway one more Super Bowl. Sherman and Co. trying to back up their unpopular arrogance and win their first.

    We break down this delectable Super Bowl XLVIII matchup position by position in this nine-part slideshow.

Peyton Manning vs. Seattle Seahawks Secondary

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    This is the ultimate battle. The winner of this should decide the game's outcome, no matter who has the edge in all of the other spots in this game. Seriously.

    Peyton Manning in the greatest season in quarterback history against the No. 1 pass defense in football—almost too good to be true.

    The last time the No. 1 scoring offense matched up against the No. 1 scoring defense in the Super Bowl, as Adam Schefter tweeted Sunday, was the 1990 season, when the New York Giants defeated the Buffalo Bills on Scott Norwood's missed field goal at the buzzer. Defense won that day, and defense wins championships.

    Right?

    Not so fast.

    If not for a missed field goal barely wide right, offense would have won that day. Also, this is a new NFL since that January 1991 game—one with stricter rules aiding receivers in tight coverage. It is a more quarterback-friendly league. The edge almost always goes to the quarterback.

    You should also note this: Colin Kaepernick, directing the 30th-ranked passing offense, was one foot short on a final, fateful throw from beating the self-proclaimed No. 1 cornerback in the game, Richard Sherman, for an NFC Championship-winning touchdown. You have to figure Manning in lieu of Kaepernick is capable of dropping that ball over the top to Michael Crabtree for the game-winner.

    The Seattle Seahawks secondary is very good, easily the best in the league, but Manning is an all-timer amid the greatest season in quarterbacking history. Yes, the Seahawks cornerbacks and safeties are younger and more physically gifted than Manning at this stage of their respective careers, but you cannot quantify the impact on the game Manning's experience and mind have.

    We have to give the edge to Manning. The intangibles put him over the top. Omaha!

    Edge: Denver Broncos

Denver Broncos Receivers vs. Seattle Seahawks Legion of Boom

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    Regardless of your opinion of Richard Sherman's unsportsmanlike response to his game-winning play Sunday, you have to agree with his postgame comments to Fox Sports sideline reporter Erin Andrews—at least a portion of it.

    What the heck were Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers thinking? How do you test Sherman in that spot? Go anywhere else.

    You have to try Byron Maxwell—now starting for the suspended Brandon Browner and nickel corner Walter Thurmond—on the other side, no? Maybe just chip away to get closer even in the final minute?

    Hindsight is 20-20, but you have to pick your poison with the Seattle Seahawks secondary just as much as defenses have had to pick their poison with Peyton Manning's weapons this season.

    Richard Sherman takes your best wide receiver out of the game. In the Broncos' case, that is Demaryius Thomas, who is a far more difficult matchup for anyone than Michael Crabtree—even if Crabtree isn't as sorry as Sherman made him out to be postgame.

    Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas can put the inside receiver (Wes Welker) and seam threat (Julius Thomas) on lock. The final piece figures to be Eric Decker against Maxwell or Thurmond. In part-time duty, Maxwell graded out as the No. 13 cornerback, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), though.

    Even if we honestly believe Demaryius Thomas' 40 pounds gives him the advantage on Sherman in tight coverage—something Manning has been able to squeeze into before—we just wouldn't feel right giving this matchup to the Broncos.

    Edge: Seattle Seahawks

Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball vs. Seattle Seahawks Defensive Front

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    When your quarterback sets the single-season record for passing yards and touchdowns, your running game tends to get overlooked. Knowshon Moreno had a career year heading into free agency, though.

    Regardless of how good Moreno was, you cannot possibly see the Denver Broncos putting their Super Bowls fate on the legs of Moreno over the arm and mind of Peyton Manning. That would be like the San Francisco 49ers testing Richard Sherman with the game on the line. Those kind of coaching decisions go down as far more than questionable.

    The Seattle Seahawks did have the seventh-best run defense in football, after all. Seattle defensive tackle Brandon Mebane ranked just behind the likes of Gerald McCoy and Ndamukong Suh in Pro Football Focus' rating system (subscription required). Clinton McDonald was top-20 against the run there too.

    Knowshon Moreno left Sunday's AFC Championship with a chest injury, while Montee Ball finished up. Ball is good, but Moreno is really the difference-maker in the Broncos' run game.

    Neither is going to be a huge factor against the best defense in football.

    Edge: Seattle Seahawks

Denver Broncos Offensive Line vs. Seattle Seahawks Defensive Line

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    Peyton Manning wouldn't have been able to set records this year without the play of his offensive line.
    Peyton Manning wouldn't have been able to set records this year without the play of his offensive line.Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

    This matchup will draw far less fanfare leading up to the Super Bowl, but it can decide the game far more than any other single matchup. It will be a battle for the ages.

    The pass protection for Peyton Manning works hand in hand with the No. 1 passing game. The pass rush for the Seattle Seahawks works hand in hand with the No. 1 pass defense.

    The Broncos ranked second to the Cincinnati Bengals in protecting the passer, according to Pro Football Focus' ratings system (subscription required). The Seahawks ranked No. 1 at getting after the passer there.

    Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Red Bryant all ranked in the top 15 among defensive ends at PFF. Bennett and Avril were top-five in pass-rushing. Chris Clemons was top-15 there as well.

    The Broncos' Orlando Franklin (17th) and Chris Clark (21st) were among the top tackles. Louis Vasquez is arguably the best guard in football, and he ranked third at PFF. Manny Ramirez has a top-five PFF rating at center.

    Yes, this is a humdinger of a matchup—one too close to call. Both sides are going to win some and lose some throughout the day.

    Edge: Push

Russell Wilson vs. Denver Broncos Secondary

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    After looking at the Seattle Seahawks defense against the Denver Broncos offense, many aspects of that marquee matchup were close. This one is not.

    The Denver Broncos might have done enough against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on Sunday in the AFC Championship, but the Broncos secondary is banged up, aging and one of the worst in football. Only six teams allowed more than 4,000 passing yards this season, and the Broncos were the sixth of those.

    Not only can Russell Wilson create time for himself in and out of the pocket, but he also doesn't hurt himself with mistakes. Wilson has thrown just nine interceptions in 18 games this season.

    You can debate the quality of his targets, but you should not question who has the edge if the Seahawks decide to open it up against a 35-year-old Champ Bailey, who wasn't a starter until Chris Harris was injured, 34-year-old nickel corner Quentin Jammer and patchwork safeties Duke Ihenacho and Mike Adams.

    Maybe the Broncos don't want Peyton Manning's offense to make this one a shootout. It might not be pretty for this secondary.

    Edge: Seattle Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks Wide Receivers vs. Denver Broncos Secondary

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    Unlike when the Denver Broncos have the ball, we are not going to split our vote here. We gave Peyton Manning an edge on the Seattle Seahawks' dynamite secondary because of intangibles, despite giving the Legion of Boom an edge covering the Broncos receivers.

    No matter how little you think of the Seattle Seahawks' mediocre set of wideouts and ends, you cannot like the Broncos secondary against anyone. The New England Patriots might not have taken full advantage of it, but you can bet the Seahawks will.

    Yes, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a shutdown corner—ranking in the top five, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required)—but the Seahawks really don't have a No. 1 receiver to shut down.

    That makes the Seahawks a tad more difficult to defend. You cannot be sure exactly where the throws are going to go. They don't throw to an individual as much as merely the open man.

    Doug Baldwin, feeling slighted, told Jayson Jenks of the Seattle Times after Sunday's victory:

    I was able to watch a special on ESPN with Keyshawn Johnson and Cris Carter. They were talking about the wide receivers for the Seattle Seahawks. They said that we’re not the main entrees. They said that we're the appetizers. I'll take that. We're the appetizers. But we're one hell of a good appetizer.

    Add the fact Percy Harvin (concussion) might be cleared to add a different dimension to the passing game, and you have to like the Seahawks' chances of making big plays in the passing game.

    Baldwin continued to Todd Fredrickson of The Herald of Everett, Washington:

    It irritates the hell out of me when guys constantly want to talk about receiving, talking about we're average, we're pedestrian. Well guess what? We're going to walk our a$$ to the Super Bowl as pedestrians.

    Edge: Seattle Seahawks

Marshawn Lynch vs. Denver Broncos Defensive Front

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    No matter how many matchup advantages the Seattle Seahawks might have on the Denver Broncos, here is where the Super Bowl will boil down to if you are a Seahawks supporter. Marshawn Lynch and Co. have got to play keep away from Peyton Manning.

    The Seahawks need to do to the Broncos defense what those 1990 New York Giants did to the K-Gun Buffalo Bills offense. Great defense can beat great offense, if and only if the great defense's offense actually can retain possession.

    That's a mouthful, a smash-mouthful.

    Lynch led the fourth-best rushing offense in football, which is slightly higher than a very good Denver Broncos defensive front ranked against the run: seventh (or eighth if you consider the fact the Seahawks' own defense tied the Broncos in rushing yards allowed in two more attempts, giving them a fraction's advantage).

    As good as the Seahawks' defensive front is, the Broncos' might be better. Pro Football Focus graded Denver's the third-best in football by its proprietary rating system (subscription required). Meanwhile, the Seahawks rush offense tied for the top rating at PFF.

    This is another matchup too close to call.

    Edge: Push

Seattle Seahawks Offensive Line vs. Denver Broncos Defensive Line

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    This Super Bowl might hype Peyton Manning against the Legion of Boom, but the winner will ultimately be decided by the winner of the battle in the trenches. It is no surprise two of the best defensive fronts in football are playing for the world championship.

    As much as Pro Football Focus' rating system loves the Seattle Seahawks offense in the run game and the passing game, it doesn't rate the offensive line play that highly. The Seahawks, ironically, drew minus ratings (subscription required) both blocking the run and pass-protecting.

    Meanwhile, the Broncos were in the positive ratings in both aspects defensively. Defensive lineman Sylvester Williams, Shaun Phillips and Robert Ayers don't get enough credit, but they match up well against a Seahawks offensive line that doesn't have a top-20 player at center, guard or tackle. Max Unger, No. 21 at center (subscription required), is the only one close.

    This advantage is arguably the most lopsided of all the matchups in this Super Bowl breakdown.

    Edge: Denver Broncos

Denver Broncos vs. Seattle Seahawks: Intangibles, Coaching and Final Tally

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    Super Bowl XLVIII won't be played before Seattle's 12th Man, but it will be played in winter weather.
    Super Bowl XLVIII won't be played before Seattle's 12th Man, but it will be played in winter weather.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The Seattle Seahawks have more talent on paper, perhaps. Games, particularly Super Bowls, are not won on paper.

    They are won on the field, by solid game plans and, usually, by the better quarterback. There are some other variables to consider.

     

    Weather Conditions

    The Seattle Seahawks have the trademarks of a team more capable of winning in inclement weather, even if the Denver Broncos are more accustomed to playing in a blizzard. It is too early to tell what Super Bowl Sunday weather at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey might be, but don't count on it being passing-friendly.

    Edge: Seattle Seahawks

     

    Coaching

    You can argue Pete Carroll has become on of the game's better motivators as head coach. You can also argue against John Fox in Super Bowls. He lost to the Baltimore Ravens as a New York Giants defensive coordinator in Super Bowl XXXV and lost to the New England Patriots as Carolina Panthers head coach in Super Bowl XXXVIII. You cannot argue against Fox having more experience in these situations.

    Edge: Denver Broncos

     

    Experience

    Russell Wilson is playing in his first Super Bowl in just his second year in the league. Peyton Manning is playing in his third Super Bowl in 16 seasons. Neither team has a lot of Super Bowl experience, but the Broncos have it in the right spots...at quarterback and head coach.

    Edge: Denver Broncos

     

    Matchup Scorecard

    MATCHUPSEATTLE SEAHAWKSDENVER BRONCOSEDGE
    Peyton Manning vs. SEA++++++++++Denver Broncos +
    DEN WRs vs. SEA++++++++++Seattle Seahawks +
    DEN RBs vs. SEA+++++++Seattle Seahawks ++
    DEN OL vs. SEA DL++++++++Push
    Russell Wilson vs. DEN+-----Seattle Seahawks ++
    SEA WRs vs. DEN------ Seattle Seahawks +
    SEA RBs vs. DEN++++++++Push
    SEA OL vs. DEN DL++++ 

    Denver Broncos ++++

    As much as Seattle wins more positions in our analysis preceding this final slide, the overall edge has to go to the Denver Broncos and their intangibles. Regardless, this should be an epic battle that goes right down to the wire. It will certainly be fun to watch unfold.

     

     

    Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, is the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this season. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game.

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