Super Bowl XLVIII features a few of the NFL's most popular players like Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson, Wes Welker and Richard Sherman, but they aren't the only key players suiting up when the Denver Broncos take on the Seattle Seahawks.
This game features two teams that are evenly matched, which is clearly illustrated when you look at the betting line, which currently has Denver as a favorite to win by three points, via Bovada. Nobody should expect a blowout, and the final result will likely boil down to how well a few key role players perform.
Here's a look at when and where you can catch Super Bowl XLVIII, followed by a closer examination of a few underrated stars who will either help or hurt their respective teams when the action kicks off on Feb. 2, at MetLife Stadium.
Date: Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
Start Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
Spread: Denver (-3) via Bovada
Underrated Stars Who'll Decide the Game
Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle Seahawks
Golden Tate and Percy Harvin will get a lot of love from the national media leading up to the big game, but there's no doubt Doug Baldwin is a player Denver will be focusing on just as much.
The former Stanford Cardinal tallied 50 catches for 778 yards and five touchdowns during the regular season—good, but not great numbers, which is why he flies so far under the radar.
However, the talented wideout broke through with the best performance of his young career in the NFC Championship Game, catching six passes for 106 yards against San Francisco.
B/R's Tyson Langland breaks down his impact for Seattle and makes a bold declaration about his value in the upcoming Super Bowl:
Of his 50 receptions, 36 of them went for first downs and 14 went for 20 yards or more. It’s safe to say he has been Wilson’s safety blanket all season long.
Nevertheless, pundits shouldn’t pigeonhole Baldwin. Even though the numbers suggest otherwise, he is one of the most gifted and complete wide receivers in the NFL. Shoot, in my eyes, Baldwin will be the unsung x-factor for the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Denver's defense will be keying in on Harvin and Marshawn Lynch throughout the contest. If Baldwin can produce another big-game performance like he did against the 49ers, then he will make Seattle's offense incredibly difficult to stop.
Danny Trevathan, LB, Denver Broncos
Denver's defense has been phenomenal down the home stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs—especially against the run. Without Von Miller in the lineup, it's been Danny Trevathan who has stepped up to lead this unit, and he's playing better now than he ever has.
Although, the Broncos have a stiff challenge in front of them for the Super Bowl, as Lynch has been on a roll, rushing for 249 yards and three touchdowns in his last two starts.
But this isn't new territory for Trevathan or the Broncos. Remember, LeGarrette Blount came into the AFC Championship Game as hot as molten lava, having rushed for 431 yards and eight touchdowns in his previous three starts.
Blount finished the game in Denver with just six yards on five carries, and the Patriots managed 64 rushing yards in the contest, as Trevathan was quick to point out, via Irv Moss of the Denver Post:
We're here now, and we've just got to get this one more win. We have to play for 60 minutes. People said New England could run the ball. You have to handle that stuff as a challenge and take it upon ourselves to go out and show them what's up.
He'll need to be at his best, as will his defensive teammates, to ensure Lynch doesn't carry Seattle to a championship.
Byron Maxwell, CB, Seattle Seahawks
Seattle's "Legion of Boom" defensive secondary is only as good as its weakest link, wrote Richard Sherman recently, in SI.com's MMQB:
The best teams in the league are only as good as the guys on the bottom of the depth chart who you’ve never heard of, who get called on when injuries and suspensions transform rosters in midseason. ...
For the Seahawks, Byron Maxwell is that guy. And he’s one of the many reasons I believe we’ll not only survive, but also dominate on our way to the Super Bowl.
Sherman wrote that before Seattle forced Colin Kaepernick into three turnovers in the NFC Championship Game. Maxwell deflected two passes in that game, and the Seahawks were able to keep Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin largely under wraps: The duo combined on nine receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown.
Sherman will likely be locked up on Demaryius Thomas throughout the Super Bowl, leaving Maxwell to likely contend with Eric Decker and sometimes Wes Welker.
Seahawks fans will surely feel comfortable about this arrangement, however. Maxwell only started five regular-season games, according to Brian Nemhauser, but he made the most of his opportunities:
He'll need to continue playing lights-out when the Seahawks play the Broncos. Denver's offense was the best in the league during the regular season, and the Broncos feature a phenomenal quartet of playmaking receivers.
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