Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos answered all their critics in the postseason. After a 13-3 regular season record, and a record-breaking offensive performance in 2013, the Broncos are the 2.5-point favorites over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII, per Vegas Insiders.
Two points is obviously not a lot, but with two teams that are so good at what they do, it is about as large a margin as you'll find.
Here's a look at the particulars.
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
When: Sunday, Feb. 2, at 6:25 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
Spread: Broncos -2.5, per Vegas Insider
Over/Under: 48, per CBS Sports
The Seahawks Aren't Slouches
An argument can be made for the Seahawks. Their defensive performance this year has been just as impressive as the one put on by Denver's offense.
In a year when NFL teams averaged 24.3 points per game, Seattle surrendered just 14. In the postseason, they were just as impressive. Before Seattle held the San Francisco 49ers to 17 points—three of which were set up by an early Russell Wilson fumble—it held the high-powered New Orleans Saints scoreless through three quarters.
The Saints scored 15 in the third quarter to make things interesting, but Seattle's defense has been as good as advertised in the postseason. Manning does represent a new challenge for them. However, per TD Daily, cornerback Richard Sherman knows he and his team must approach this game differently.
Richard Sherman On Peyton Manning: 'You Can't Get In Peyton's Head. If You Get In His Head, You'll Get Lost' http://t.co/T8PkyNtzLr— TDdaily (@TDdaily) January 20, 2014
So why is it right to have Denver as the favorites?
The Broncos' Defense Has Stepped it Up
Denver set single-season NFL records in scoring and total yards, but this team is in the Super Bowl largely because of the way its defense has risen to the occasion. Most recently, the Broncos held the New England Patriots to 16 points—just three in the first half.
The 16 points sound impressive, but the details make it it even more significant.
Denver held the Patriots to just 64 yards rushing. New England had averaged 250.4 yards on the ground in the two games prior.
Before the AFC Championship game victory over the Patriots, Denver's run defense was on display against the San Diego Chargers in the divisional playoff round. The Chargers used a ball-control offense to keep possession 33 more minutes than Denver in the two regular-season games.
Thanks to Denver's defense holding the 'Bolts to 65 yards on the ground in the rubber match, the Broncos and Manning owned the time of possession in the game, 35:27 to 24:33.
Bleacher Report's Russell Baxter shows how good the Broncos' defense can be.
Denver's run defense is going to have to be stout to contain Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch. If Denver can be half as good against the run as it has been lately, and Manning and Co. can at least be decent against the Legion of Boom secondary, the Broncos should win the Super Bowl.
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