After 17 weeks of NFL regular-season games and three rounds of playoffs, the best teams have advanced in both the AFC and the NFC to force a Super Bowl matchup between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. Both teams finished the regular season with identical 13-3 straight up records, and they were both the No. 1 seed in their respective conference.
Each team had to get by a tough division rival on their way to this expected matchup, and each team is ranked at the top of the league at what it does best. For Denver, that would be moving the ball through the air and scoring points, while for Seattle, it would be stopping teams through the air and keeping them out of the end zone. The following is a brief look at my five reasons why the Seahawks could come out on top when they square off against the Broncos on Feb. 2 in the Super Bowl.
5. The Underdog Has Been Getting the Bone (Lately)
BetOnline has opened Seattle as a 2.5-point underdog for this game with the total set at 47.5. Looking back at the history of the Super Bowl, according to Covers, the underdog is 14-33 SU in this game, but a look at recent trends paints a different picture. The underdog has won five of the last six Super Bowls both SU and against the spread, and this streak reached four games in a row with Baltimore’s victory over San Francisco in last season’s Super Bowl.
4. Conference Trends Prevail
The NFC has had the upper hand lately when it comes to winning the big game with a 4-2 SU record over the past six years. Before this run, the AFC had won six of the previous seven Super Bowls. Go back another seven years and you would find the NFC holding a 5-2 edge in Super Bowls from 1994 to 2000. I am sticking with these seven-year patterns holding true with a Seattle win.
3. The Tell-Tale Turnover Ratio
It would be hard to find anyone who would not agree that turnovers are a huge part of any NFL game, let alone the biggest game of the year. Looking back at the trends for both the regular season and the playoffs, Seattle has a huge edge in this department.
Denver posted 26 takeaways during the regular season, but it matched that number by turning the ball over 26 times as well. The Broncos did not turn the ball over in this past Sunday’s 26-16 victory over New England in the AFC title game, but they did cough up a fumble and interception against San Diego in their 24-17 win in the divisional round.
The Seahawks led the NFL in turnover ratio during the regular season at plus-20. They turned the ball over 19 times, but an opportunistic defense created 39 turnovers (28 interceptions and 11 fumbles) on the other side of the ball. They kept it going in their two playoff victories with a ratio of plus-three.
2. Pound the Rock
Denver is obviously known for its passing game with Peyton Manning at the helm, but it also did a decent job running the ball this season behind Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball. The Broncos averaged 117.1 rushing yards a game, which was ranked 15th in the NFL.
Russell Wilson has done a good job at managing the game for Seattle at quarterback, but a passing offense that is averaging just over 200 yards a game will not strike fear in too many defensive secondaries. What will strike fear is the power running game of Marshawn Lynch. He has gained 249 yards and scored three touchdowns on 50 carries in two playoff games. This followed a season average of 4.2 yards a run on 301 rushing attempts.
1. Defense Wins Championships
Everyone loves a big-play offense that can light up a scoreboard, but defense still wins championships. Something has to give in this matchup with Denver boasting an offense that was ranked first in the NFL in average passing yards (340.2), total yards (457.3) and points (37.9) going up against a Seattle defense that was ranked first in passing yards allowed (172.0), total yards allowed (273.6) and points allowed (14.4).
In a cold-weather venue such as MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, where the wind blows hard in any and all directions, I am siding with the Seahawks’ defense in this showdown.