It's the No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense. It's a quarterback who set multiple passing records, Peyton Manning, against the best secondary in the league, the aptly nicknamed "Legion of Boom."
It's a game with arguably the best set of receivers in the league (Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker and Julius Thomas), one of the most promising young quarterbacks in the league, Russell Wilson, and a running back capable of instigating earthquakes in Seattle, Marshawn Lynch.
It has everything you could want in a Super Bowl matchup, and it should be a close game but one I believe the Broncos will win. So what is the difference between these two teams?
When: Sunday, February 2 at 6:30 p.m. ET
Sunday, February 2 at 11:30 p.m. GMT
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
Watch: FOX; FOX Sports Go
Spread: Denver (-2.5), according to Vegas Insider (as of Jan. 22)
The Manning Factor (And His Cadre of Weapons)
You'll hear plenty of talk this week about how dangerous it is to give Manning an extra week to prepare, and that's definitely true. Of course, Seattle has plenty of smart minds working to develop a game plan as well, so the "film room" advantage is a bit overplayed.
What isn't overplayed is that the game's best quarterback probably has the best supporting cast of his career. There aren't many defenses that can deal with Welker, Decker and the pair of Thomases on the outside (though Seattle may be the one team equipped to slow them down). Add in the rushing duo of Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball and a very good offensive line, and Manning has his dream offense.
But neither the Saints nor the Niners presented nearly the weapons that Denver will. The Seahawks could key on both Graham and Davis. Against Denver, Julius Thomas is just one of a number of players capable of beating them. In an effort to slow Demaryius Thomas or Welker, the Seahawks could allow Orange Julius to be the key figure in the passing game.
That makes him a major X-factor.
Another huge key to this game will be whether or not Seattle's front four can generate pressure. Manning's quick release and a talented line have kept him protected for much of the year, but the Seahawks will put both to the test, as ESPN Stats & Info on Twitter notes:
Peyton Manning: pressured on 14% of dropbacks this year, lowest in NFL (incl. playoffs). Seahawks pressured opposing QB on 32% (best in NFL)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 21, 2014
Still, this game almost surely comes down to Manning's performance. And after setting NFL records with 5,477 passing yards and 55 passing touchdowns, betting against him this season hasn't been wise.
John Fox led the Carolina Panthers to a Super Bowl. Peyton Manning took the Indianapolis Colts there twice, winning one. Wes Welker has played in two, though he never managed to win one with the New England Patriots.
The point is, the Broncos come into this game with Super Bowl experience. They have guys who have endured the madness, the two weeks of hype, the absolute media storm that accompanies an actual football game.
And the Seahawks don't, as Kevin Negandhi of ESPN notes:
Currently, the Seahawks don't have a player with Super Bowl experience on their roster.. last team to do that- the1990 Bills— Kevin Negandhi (@KNegandhiESPN) January 21, 2014
Will that ultimately matter? Maybe, maybe not, but the Broncos are better off having players who have been to this circus before. A huge part of the Super Bowl is remaining focused on the game itself, and it will be a test for this Seahawks team to cancel out all of the outside noise.
The Run Defense
It's no secret that the Seahawks want to run the ball and that they are much more dangerous when they control the tempo of the game with the bruising Lynch and allow Wilson to make plays in the passing game once they've established the ground attack.
But the Broncos have been pretty darn good against the run this year. The team was eighth in rush defense in the regular season, allowing just 101.8 yards per contest, but more importantly gave up a total of 129 rushing yards to the San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots in the postseason, two very good running teams.
With the emergence of nose tackle Terrance Knighton and linebacker Danny Trevathan, the Broncos defense has quietly been the key of Denver's postseason run. If you think Seattle will simply run the ball down the Broncos' throats, think again.
The Broncos win, 23-21.