The matchup for Super Bowl XLVIII is set and it will be a good one.
Both No. 1 seeds have reached the big game and, for the first time since 1990, it will feature the top overall offense (Denver) against the top overall defense (Seattle). Both teams went 13-3 on the year and will come into the game after each dispatching one of their biggest rivals in the conference championship game.
The game will be played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., and the weather could certainly play a factor.
So who has the edge? That will be heavily debated over the next two weeks, but it is definitely one of the most intriguing Super Bowl matchups in recent memory.
From 1977-2001, these two teams were actually AFC West division rivals, meeting twice per season. For most of that time, Seattle played its home games at the Kingdome.
During that time, Denver enjoyed a 32-18 series advantage and leads the all-time series 34-19.
The teams have met once in the postseason, a 31-7 victory for the Seahawks on Christmas Eve in 1983. That victory marked the first playoff win for Seattle in franchise history.
The teams most recently met earlier this year in a 40-10 preseason win for Seattle.
Peyton Manning will be making his third appearance in the Super Bowl after his most prolific season in the league.
Manning threw for an NFL-record 5,477 passing yards along with 55 touchdowns. However, it is what Manning brings to the team from a preparation standpoint that makes him invaluable.
For Seattle, Russell Wilson has led his team to the Super Bowl in just his second season in the league. While he hasn't gotten the kind of recognition Manning has, he has put together two solid seasons in Seattle.
Wilson has passed for 26 touchdowns in each of his two seasons while compiling a quarterback rating over 100 in both years.
This will be the classic battle of tested veteran versus young upstart. While Wilson has tremendous control of his team, Manning is able to find and exploit the weakness in every defense he faces.
Do the Seahawks have a weakness on defense? That remains to be seen. Manning has a huge edge over Wilson in experience along with more explosive weapons on offense.
Many felt the offensive line could be one of the biggest problems the Broncos would have to deal with following season-ending injuries to Dan Koppen and Ryan Clady early in the year.
Instead, the unit has performed quite nicely. Denver gave up a league-low 20 sacks while Seattle allowed more than twice that with 44.
Louis Vasquez proved to be worth every penny that the Broncos gave him when they signed him in the offseason. He and center Manny Ramirez have been the driving force in the Denver running game.
On top of that, Chris Clark has done an excellent job filling in for Clady.
While the Seahawks are often able to create big running lanes for Marshawn Lynch, their offensive line isn't quite as versatile as Denver's.
When Seattle Runs the Ball
The Seahawks have one of the most dynamic running backs in the league in Marshawn Lynch.
During the course of the regular season, Lynch ran for 1,257 yards and 12 touchdowns. In Seattle's two playoff games this year, he has 249 rushing yards and three more scores.
Lynch is also a threat out of the backfield and is able to break numerous tackles. He is as good as it gets when it comes to gaining yards after contact.
The challenge will be on the middle of the Denver defense to wrap up and bring Lynch to the ground.
When Denver Runs the Ball
For the Broncos, one of their keys to success this season has been their ability to stay balanced on offense.
Between Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball, the team has created a successful backfield duo whose members complement one another quite well. Most importantly, both players have protected the ball lately.
For Denver to win the Super Bowl, the running game is crucial. In what will likely be inclement weather in New Jersey on February 2, the team could lean on the running game to set up the pass.
With interchangeable pieces like Moreno and Ball, both should play a huge role in the big game.
Seattle Passing Offense vs. Denver Defense
The Seahawks are not known as a prolific passing offense, but Wilson is an accurate passer. According to ESPN.com's Terry Blount, wide receiver Percy Harvin is also expected to practice this week with the hopes of playing on February 2.
Wilson is very good at throwing on the run and displays a strong arm when necessary. He is deadly when he is forced out of the pocket and can evade even the best pass-rushers in the league.
Because of that, Denver will need to be careful about how it attacks Wilson. If it forces him to the outside, he could easily find Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin or Jermaine Kearse on a deep route for a huge gain.
Denver Passing Offense vs. Seattle Defense
This will be the marquee matchup, so to speak. Everyone is going to want to see if Manning can throw on what is easily the best secondary in the NFL.
The Broncos are excellent at taking advantage of mismatches, and with the weapons they have on offense, a mismatch usually exists.
Richard Sherman is the best cornerback in the league. If you don't believe that, just ask him.
Sherman will likely be tasked with matching up against Demaryius Thomas for much of the game. Even if Sherman is able to shut Thomas down, how will Seattle deal with Eric Decker, Wes Welker and Julius Thomas?
That will be one of the very interesting subplots in this game.
The Seahawks defend the middle of the field well and are very physical. In order for Denver to have success, its wide receivers will have to be physical as well. That is something they haven't done well in the past. Remember the loss to Indianapolis earlier this season?
It will be interesting to see how the game is officiated.
Denver and Seattle each have excellent place-kickers. Matt Prater missed just one field goal during the regular season while Seattle's Steven Hauschka was errant on just two of his 35 attempts. Both possess strong legs and are accurate from over 50 yards out.
In the return game, the Broncos have the ultimate wild card in Trindon Holliday. If he can be trusted to hang on to the ball, he could be inserted for a game-changing kick return.
With his win over New England on Sunday, John Fox became just the sixth coach in NFL history to take multiple teams to the Super Bowl.
Fox knows what it's like to play in the Super Bowl and came very close to winning it with Carolina following the 2003 season.
His counterpart, Pete Carroll, could become just the third coach in history to win both a Super Bowl and a BCS National Championship.
Both teams have solid coordinators, as Jack Del Rio and Adam Gase of Denver as well as Dan Quinn of Seattle could soon be in line for head coaching positions.
Gase and his uptempo offense helped Denver set records this season, but he may want to take a more methodical approach in this game in order to control time of possession.
For Del Rio, his biggest tasks will be to contain Lynch and the Seattle running game along with not allowing Wilson to get outside the pocket and make big plays downfield. Against New England, Denver allowed just 64 rushing yards to a team that ran for 234 yards and six touchdowns in the divisional round against Indianapolis.
Who Has the Overall Advantage?
Seattle will look to get its ground game going initially to keep Manning and company on the sidelines with the plan to let its defense win the game.
Denver needs to shut down the run as it did against New England and get the ball into the hands of Peyton Manning. If the Broncos use the run to set up the pass, they can make the weather a non-factor.
They need to stay balanced on offense while being aggressive at just the right time. If the Broncos can get up by multiple scores and force Wilson and the Seahawks to play from behind, the team should bring a third championship to Denver.
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