It hasn't even been 24 hours since the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos punched their ticket to the Big Apple for Super Bowl XLVIII, but the betting lines are taking shape with the early action from fans.
As of Monday afternoon, the Broncos are currently slight favorites in what figures to be a close battle in the NFL's first-ever cold weather bowl.
It's early, but the weather calls for a high of 37 degrees and a low of 25 with a chance of rain and snow, according to a recent AccuWeather forecast. But that hasn't stopped commissioner Roger Goodell from telling people that he will sit outside and watch the game, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.
It will be a battle of strength versus strength, as Seattle's stingy defense will clash with Denver's record-breaking offense in the Super Bowl. Here's an early look at the matchups on both sides of the ball followed by a prediction.
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
Date and Time: Sunday, Feb. 2, at 6:25 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
Broncos Offense vs. Seahawks Defense
The Broncos enter this game as slight favorites following their methodical 26-16 defeat of the New England Patriots on Sunday in Denver.
Who Has the Edge?
Runaway MVP candidate Peyton Manning offered his steady hand to the offense once again, going 32-of-43 for 400 yards and two touchdowns, while kicker Matt Prater accounted for the team's other 12 points.
Though the passing game was humming, Denver had trouble moving the ball on the ground against New England. Knowshown Moreno (14 carries, 59 yards) and Montee Ball (12 attempts, 43 yards) led an attack that barely eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the day.
In the NFC Championship, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick exposed Seattle's run defense by totaling 130 rushing yards on 11 carries. But the Seahawks won't be getting a mobile quarterback this time around, which bodes well given their recent production in passing situations.
Through the air, Kaepernick struggled, going 14-of-24 for 153 yards, a touchdown and two costly interceptions. The last interception, of course, was created by a pass breakup by Richard Sherman, who was very fired up for his postgame interview.
Seattle's defensive line has been a force this postseason, with Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril leading the way, proving to be smart offseason additions by the team. Sherman highlights the team's menacing secondary that also includes All-Pro safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor and cornerback Byron Maxwell, who has held up well as the oft-targeted cornerback opposite Sherman.
Sherman will likely be matched up with Demaryius Thomas throughout the Super Bowl in one of the key individual battles of the contest.
It will also be interesting to see how Denver's offensive line holds up against the Seattle pass rush after allowing a league-best 20 sacks during the regular season.
Moreno and Ball will surely be counted on for some production, but ultimately, I suspect this game will come down to Manning against Seattle's secondary.
Seahawks Offense vs. Broncos Defense
If there's one area of concern for the Seahawks, it's on offense, where they've hit some lulls throughout the postseason. But the team put together enough plays on Sunday to claim a hard-fought 23-17 win over its bitter rivals from San Francisco.
Who Has the Edge?
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson hasn't been a prolific passer so far in the playoffs, going a combined 25-of-43 for 315 yards and a touchdown in victories over the 49ers and New Orleans Saints. With a backfield mate like Marshawn Lynch, though, he doesn't have to do it all.
Lynch looked like an absolute beast against the 49ers, carrying the ball 22 times for 109 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown run, making him the first rusher to total at least 100 yards against the Niners all year.
Looking at this matchup between Seattle's offense and Denver's defense, it appears that both teams' strength is the running game. While Denver's passing defense ranked among the league's worst, the team's rush defense ranked a respectable seventh in the regular season, tied with Seattle in giving up 101.6 yards per game.
The key to the Denver rush defense has been the big fella in the middle, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. He will be Lynch's biggest obstacle to overcome. Knighton is a load at 6'3", 335 pounds, and while he might not show up in the box score, his presence and impact in the trenches are undeniable.
Wilson doesn't have many established weapons in the passing game without the services of injured receivers Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin, so expect the team to try and pound the ball with Lynch. Keeping Manning off the field is Seattle's best defense, and the best way to do that is to feed Lynch all game long.
Who Will Win?
There will be plenty of hype over the next two weeks as the Super Bowl madness descends on New York and New Jersey. This matchup of two No. 1 seeds doesn't disappoint, pitting the best offense and best defense against each other.
Ultimately, I feel like Seattle's shortcomings in the passing game will come back to haunt the team in a contest where it will likely need to put up more points than usual. Denver averaged 37.9 points per game in the regular season, while the Seahawks gave up just 14.4 per contest, so something has to give.
In the end, I think Seattle will slow down Manning a little bit and give him some problems, but not enough to derail him from winning his second career Super Bowl title.
Prediction: Broncos win 27-23