There will be plenty of star power on display when the NFC champion Seattle Seahawks square off against the AFC champion Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday, Feb. 2.
But the big game is notorious for making heroes out of overlooked players.
Below I'll highlight three playmakers sure to leave their mark on Super Bowl XLVIII.
Date: Sunday, February 2, 2014
Start Time: 6:25 p.m. ET
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
Spread: Denver (-2.5), according to VegasInsider.com.
Eric Decker, WR, Broncos
Although Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker hasn't been quite as productive as fellow pass-catchers Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas this postseason, he's been a reliable chain-mover for Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
Decker has been targeted 13 times through two playoff games, reeling in seven balls 105 yards. However, all seven of his receptions have resulted in first downs for Denver.
Clearly, Decker is a player that Manning depends on in big moments and will look to in future ones against Seattle. Keep in mind that the fourth-year receiver is coming off a career year in which he was targeted 137 times and caught 87 passes for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns.
His stellar play has even caught the attention of Seattle's playmaking cornerback Richard Sherman, per The MMQB: "...Eric Decker is a great receiver with hands and speed..."
With Sherman likely covering D. Thomas on the outside, Decker's play will be critical to Denver's offensive success and ability to maintain drives against the league's No. 1 defense.
Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks
With Golden Tate flying under the radar and catching just five passes this postseason, Doug Baldwin has become Russell Wilson's top playmaker downfield.
Baldwin has been targeted 10 times in two postseason games, catching eight passes for 136 yards. What's more, three of Baldwin's receptions have gone for 20 or more yards, and five have resulted in first downs for Seattle. That's significant when you consider that the Seahawks have accumulated just 27 total first downs in these playoffs.
Tate and Jermaine Kearse are sure to provide timely playmaking for Seattle's offense vs. Denver. But other than Marshawn Lynch, there's no skill player on the Seahawks roster playing better or with more confidence than Baldwin.
Montee Ball, RB, Broncos
The Seahawks secondary has been talked about all season long and for good reason. Seattle's top-ranked unit, led by the polarizing Sherman, has erased opposing passing attacks throughout the year and has made big play after big play down the field.
Therefore, you can expect Denver's running backs to have a significant impact in Super Bowl XLVIII, especially the bruising Montee Ball.
With Knowshon Moreno slightly banged up following a rib injury suffered in the AFC Championship Game, the rookie Ball is poised to see several key touches as the Broncos look to neutralize the Seahawks' pass rush and attack Seattle's biggest weakness defensively.
Surprisingly, Ball has fared better than Moreno on the ground this postseason, averaging 4.3 yards per carry to just 3.8 for his teammate. Ball averaged 4.7 yards per carry during the regular season.
Seattle is allowing 134.5 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown per game this postseason. If the Broncos find themselves in a goal-line situation, they'll likely call on Ball to get them into the end zone.
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