There are a few obvious favorites to win the MVP trophy at Super Bowl XLVIII.
The Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks both reached the big game after finishing the regular season as No. 1 seeds in their respective conferences with 13-3 records. Furthermore, they bring the league's top-ranked offense and defense to the table, as pointed out by ESPN Stats & Info:
Two top seeds haven't reached the Super Bowl since 2009, and it's becoming increasingly rare to see the two top regular-season teams play for the Lombardi Trophy.
Both teams feature recognizable stars, and there are a couple of players who are arguably the best in the league at their positions. With that in mind, here's a look at when and where you can catch the action, followed by a closer examination of the players most likely to earn the MVP trophy when the game is over.
Date: Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
Start Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
Spread: Denver -2.5 (via Vegas Insider)
Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
You can't have a list of potential Super Bowl MVPs without the league MVP at the top. Peyton Manning not surprisingly was voted the MVP and Offensive Player of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America, as noted by Steve Gallo of USA Today:
Manning was out-of-this-world good all season long, smashing the NFL's single-season marks in passing yards (5,477) and touchdowns (55). Thanks to his excellence, Denver's offense earned top marks in total offense and scoring offense, averaging 37.9 points per game.
After he shredded New England's secondary to the tune of 400 yards passing and two touchdown strikes, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick highlighted Manning's ability to win before the ball was ever snapped, via Ron Borges of the Boston Herald:
As always he did an excellent job of reading the defense. He got us in some situations that were less than ideal with his astute play-calling and recognition. We disguised and I think we got him a few times but he certainly got us a few times, too.
If Belichick had a hard time stopping Manning, then it's a safe bet the Seahawks will be in for a stiff challenge at MetLife Stadium at Super Bowl XLVIII. And if the Broncos win the game, then you can be sure Manning will have had everything to do with the victory.
Just ask Dick Vitale:
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks
Marshawn Lynch is the engine that makes Seattle's offense go—no disrespect intended to Russell Wilson, who is one of the most promising young signal-callers playing in the league today.
The Skittles-eating warrior destroyed New Orleans' defense to the tune of 140 rushing yards and two touchdowns, carrying his team's offense on a day when Wilson didn't have his best stuff.
He followed up that masterpiece with another in the NFC Championship Game, rushing for 109 yards on 22 carries and one touchdown—a signature "Beast Mode" scamper that crushed the spirit of San Francisco's stalwart defense.
He also broke seven tackles, according to Pro Football Focus, which also noted his staggering seasonal total:
The Seahawks will likely feature Lynch heavily to start the game in the hopes of chewing up the clock, thus keeping Manning on the sideline. If he can get into an early groove against Denver's front seven, then Lynch will carry Seattle to a Super Bowl victory and earn the MVP trophy.
Richard Sherman, CB, Seattle Seahawks
If this game boils down to a defensive struggle, then you have to like Richard Sherman's chances of winning the MVP.
Love him or hate him for his polarizing persona, there's no arguing Sherman is one of the league's most dominant defenders at any position—if not the most dominant.
B/R's Zach Kruse broke down Sherman's prolific 2013 resume following the NFC title game:
Coming into Sunday, Sherman had allowed just 30 receptions over 17 games in 2013, and his eight interceptions and 45.9 passer rating against led all NFL cornerbacks. He finished back-to-back seasons with eight picks and a passer rating against under 50.0, a feat no other cornerback can claim.
In the divisional-round win over the Saints, Sherman didn't allow a catch and was targeted just once by Drew Brees.
The 49ers rarely tested Sherman Sunday, and when they finally did, a chance to complete a comeback win was lost. His twisting deflection in the end zone allowed Malcolm Smith to come up with an easy interception with just 22 seconds left.
Three kneeldowns later, and the Seahawks were officially NFC champions. Sherman's play sealed the deal.
If Sherman comes up with another shutdown performance against Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Co., creating a turnover or two in a defensive battle that the Seahawks win, then he could win the trophy.
That said, defenders have won the MVP trophy just seven times in the past—most recently a decade ago, when Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Dexter Jackson won it.
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