When the Seattle Seahawks (13-3) go head-to-head with the Denver Broncos (13-3) in the 2014 Super Bowl, the focus will be on the biggest difference-maker for each franchise.
With quarterback Peyton Manning controlling the pace of the Broncos offensive attack and running back Marshawn Lynch keeping drives alive for the Seahawks, the championship will be decided by how the key player on each team performs.
Here is all the vital viewing information for Super Bowl XLVIII and a full breakdown of the players that will have the most impact on the outcome of the game.
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
When: Sunday, Feb. 2
Kickoff Time: 6:25 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
Spread (via Covers.com): Denver -2.5 (as of Jan. 21)
Denver’s Key Player: Peyton Manning, QB
The Broncos defensive unit has tightened up thus far in the postseason and their play will be a major focus in the Super Bowl, but the biggest key to victory for Denver will undoubtedly be the play of quarterback Peyton Manning.
Manning overcame one of his demons by beating Tom Brady and the Patriots in the conference championship and is now looking to add another championship chapter to his legacy. While the Seahawks defense may be as stingy as they come—giving up just 172 yards passing per game—Denver has been performing at an elite level all season.
Led by the MVP-worthy campaign of Manning, the Broncos racked up 457.3 yards per game and registered a new NFL record of 606 points:
Add in the fact that the team boasts weapons like wide receivers Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker, tight end Julius Thomas and running back Knowshon Moreno, and it is clear that a diligent planner like Manning will have multiple ways to beat the Seahawks on each play.
With two weeks to prepare for Seattle and the momentum he built from throwing for 400 yards against New England, Manning will lead his team to victory.
Manning’s Predicted Stat Line: 30-of-40 for 400 yards and three touchdowns.
Seattle’s Key Player: Marshawn Lynch, RB
The Seattle Seahawks have an offensive unit that is based first and foremost on the rushing attack, and the key to success in the Super Bowl will be getting the ball to Marshawn Lynch early and often.
Lynch is the toughest runner Denver has faced all postseason. While the Broncos will likely stifle the Seahawks star early in the game, four quarters against an explosive runner like Lynch will take their toll.
Once the defense begins to wear down, Lynch can enter "Beast Mode."
In the two postseason games against New Orleans and San Francisco, Seattle’s power back has racked up 50 carries for 249 yards and three touchdowns. He has also averaged an impressive five yards per carry over that stretch.
As tough as the 49ers front seven was in the NFC Championship, Denver has been just as stingy against the run this postseason. The Broncos allowed just 65 yards on the ground to San Diego in the divisional round and just 64 yards to New England in the conference title game.
The Seahawks depend on Lynch to make up for the offensive inconsistencies of young quarterback Russell Wilson and the passing attack, and his consistency on the ground in the Super Bowl is crucial.
If Lynch doesn’t put the team on his shoulders and have his biggest day of the 2014 playoffs, Seattle will not be able to keep pace with Manning and the Broncos. He will rack up the yards and one touchdown, but it won’t be enough to control the clock and keep Denver on the sidelines.
Lynch’s Predicted Stat Line: 20 carries for 85 yards and one touchdown.
*Stats via NFL.com.