The Denver Broncos bring the No. 1 offense in the league, while they match up against the best defense in the league in the Seahawks. For Seattle head coach Pete Carroll, there are three main areas he should focus on improving preparation for the big game.
Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks
After a torrid 11-1 start to the season, the second-year quarterback threw only four touchdowns and three interceptions while losing two of the last four games. After another subpar performance in the NFC Divisional Round victory over the New Orleans Saints, Wilson broke out for 215 yards and a passer rating of 104.6 in last Sunday's victory over division rival San Francisco 49ers.
The Seahawks will need Wilson to be this effective against Denver in order to have a shot at winning. When Wilson is playing well, running back Marshawn Lynch becomes even more effective as it makes it difficult for opposing defenses to predict which play is coming.
Wilson will have to show that he is the leader of that offense by staying on his feet and executing passes when he needs to.
Without a quality performance from Wilson, the Seattle offense will have a difficult time keeping pace with the heavy-loaded Broncos offense.
Richard Sherman, CB, Seattle Seahawks
There is no denying the fact that Richard Sherman is the most talented cornerback in the game today. However, with being a professional comes the responsibility of carrying yourself in a classy way.
By now we have all seen the post-game rant that Sherman went on with Erin Andrews regarding San Francisco wide receiver Michael Crabtree. It was completely uncalled for, and Sherman later apologized for overshadowing the true story of the night: his Seahawks heading back to the Super Bowl.
A graduate of Stanford University, Sherman is a very intelligent young man. Although he has climbed his way to the top at his position while trash-talking almost every opponent, the Seahawks have to be worried that his antics will backfire on him.
Next Sunday he will be tested by quarterback Peyton Manning, who is coming off the greatest statistical season ever by a quarterback. While Sherman has been backing up his talk his entire career, this game will determine what he really is made of.
Seattle must also be wary of possible distractions Sherman may be causing within the organization. At the most important two weeks of practice in the entire season, the Seahawks must be certain that the attention to trash-talk does not get in the way of quality practice time.
He has put the limelight on himself, and now it is time for the self-confident Sherman to show up.
Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
We saved the best and most important factor for last on this list in veteran quarterback Manning.
The 37-year-old set the single-season touchdown passing record this season when he threw for an incredible 55 scores. He has helped players like Julius Thomas and Demaryius Thomas blossom into playmakers in this league.
While Seattle features the top-ranked defense in the NFL, the Seahawks will have their hands full next Sunday when trying to contain Manning and his potent offense.
As stated earlier, the team will need Sherman to play lockdown defense as he has all season. Allowing Demaryius Thomas to burn him will be detrimental to the team’s chances of winning the Super Bowl as Manning will continue to pick apart the secondary.
If Sherman does his job, then it is up to the rest of the secondary to stick with their receivers and play tight defense. Manning doesn’t make many mistakes, so Seattle better be ready to match up against him.
The Broncos and Seahawks are both evenly matched for the most part, which gives this game the potential to be a Super Bowl for the ages. The outcome of the game will be determined by how these three main concerns for Seattle are dealt with. If Manning is kept at bay and Wilson has a big game, the Seahawks could have the upper hand on the Broncos.
However, containing the great Manning is no easy task, so we will see just how good this top-ranked Seattle defense really is next Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
*Statistics Courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference