Super Bowl Predictions 2014: Offensive Stars Who Will Underwhelm

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Super Bowl Predictions 2014: Offensive Stars Who Will Underwhelm
Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

Super Bowl predictions are like, well, you know. We all have them and, well, you know that too. 

Over the two-week period between crowning a conference champion and Super Bowl winner, literally anyone within earshot will tell you what they think of Seattle vs. Denver. Especially in this profession. You'll never be more flabbergasted in your life than when your grandma complains about all the mean things people are saying about Peyton Manning and how she hopes Mr. DirecTV will shut them up.

And, of course, this is perfectly understandable. This is the biggest sporting event in the United States and perhaps the entire planet, though the World Cup will have something to say about that. Despite our best efforts to talk ourselves into what football really is—a human car crash—we will discuss it in hushed tones during board meetings, dinners with our significant others and pretty much anywhere else.

I mean, what else are we supposed to do—talk about the Pro Bowl? Real recognize real. No one likes the Pro Bowl, not even the players.

So that leaves us in the utterly insane world of Prediction Land. Where you'll see some variation of 27-23 or 31-27—something with a 27—for the next two weeks. You'll hate it, complain about the wait and then voraciously read every take. Because we are stupid, stupid people.

But in lieu of the 200th breakdown, let's instead look at some individual players. And, since we're inherently negative species (Just me? Oh.), let's take a look at players—specifically ones on the offensive side—in danger of having a disappointing outing.

 

Demaryius Thomas (WR, Denver Broncos)

Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

Two words: Richard Sherman. While I don't have access to Pete Carroll's game plan for Super Sunday—though it'd be super awesome if I did, thanks in advance, Pete—odds are Sherman will be mirroring every one of Thomas' moves next weekend.

Sherman spent a good amount of time on Vernon Davis in the NFC Championship Game, so it's possible that Julius Thomas gets similar treatment, but that seems like a waste of resources.

Demaryius Thomas is Manning's most explosive option. Sherman is the best cornerback in football. It does not take an advanced degree in astrophysics, which I unfortunately do not possess, to figure this nonsense out.

And considering Thomas seems like a contract extension candidate this offseason, this is about the worst possible time for a Sherman matchup.

Drew Brees and Colin Kaepernick, two of the best dozen quarterbacks in football, tested Sherman a total of two times, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). One of those times led to the most famous postgame interview in NFL history, the other a holding penalty.

I half expect Sherman to start belting out the chorus of "No Church in the Wild" in every press conference. He's been Nnamdi Asomugha-in-his-prime good in a bigger, more physically imposing frame.

Sherman is one of a select few players who can match up physically with Thomas, a freak of nature in his own right. Thomas' two seasons with Manning have established him as one of the best receivers in the league—just so long as Tim Tebow isn't his quarterback.

It will be interesting, then, to see how the two match up when the whistle blows, but nothing about this postseason makes me want to bet against Sherman.

The Broncos will probably move Thomas around formations to help shed Sherman. Michael Crabtree still wound up with four catches and 52 yards, and Thomas should be happy if he winds up with a similar line.

It's the best quarterback in football and his favorite target versus the best cornerback in the league. Most times, you take the quarterback.

Not here.

 

Marshawn Lynch (RB, Seattle Seahawks)

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

A certain blond-haired sportswriter probably doesn't want you looking through his archives at the moment. When going through the Pro Bowl voting process, he may or may not have criticized Mr. Skittles as being unworthy of his robust vote total. Not that said blond person thought Lynch was bad or undeserving of a Pro Bowl berth—just not starter-worthy.

Well, it turns out he was right. Lynch wasn't Pro Bowl-starter worthy. Because Lynch was too busy being a worthy of a Super Bowl start.

It's impossible to argue against the results. Lynch has rushed 50 times for 249 yards and three touchdowns in the Seahawks' run to the Super Bowl, a total only slightly worse than Russell Wilson's yardage through the air. Lynch, and Lynch alone (OK, and the offensive line), was the only offensive reason Seattle advanced past New Orleans in the divisional round, and he became the first 100-yard rusher against the 49ers all season.

Lynch is very good at running the handegg. So good that doubting him is usually cause for getting eggs thrown at your forehead (ducks).

Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

But Denver's run defense has been nearly as indestructible. The Broncos are regarded by some as an all-offense, no-defense team—a la some of Manning's teams in Indianapolis. That's a somewhat fair assessment when accounting for the shaky secondary.

Not so when assessing Terrance "Pot Roast" Knighton and Denver run defense.

LeGarrette Blount managed just six yards on five carries in the AFC Championship Game, a nonexistent performance that came after perhaps the two best of his career. Tom Brady had one more rushing yard than Blount. Overall, the Patriots had only 64 yards on the ground—the fifth time in their last six games the Broncos have allowed fewer than 100.

It's been a quietly excellent part of Denver's attack all season. It ranked ninth in run defense DVOA during the regular season, per Football Outsiders, and showed no downtick despite injuries across the unit. 

Lynch excelled against a supposedly "better" run defense last week, but DVOA doesn't bear that out. The 49ers were only 14th against the run this season, a quietly middling number that, along with NaVorro Bowman's injury, helped Lynch have a stellar championship game. Stopping him isn't an option, but a shrug-worthy affair isn't out of the question.

 

Percy Harvin (WR, Seattle Seahawks)

Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

This one is more of a bummer than any real criticism of Harvin, who would very likely have a solid game in a normal circumstance. Unfortunately, Harvin's season has been anything but normal.

The Seahawks' most lauded offseason acquisition has managed just 39 snaps all year. After surprisingly coming back from what was considered a season-ending hip injury, Harvin re-injured the hip after just 20 snaps against the Vikings in November. He then came back from the re-aggravation to suffer two different head injuries in 19 snaps against New Orleans a few weeks ago, the latter being a concussion that kept him out against the 49ers.

Harvin was officially cleared concussion protocol Thursday, per Kevin Patra of NFL.com, meaning he's almost certainly going to play in the Super Bowl. 

That's obviously, in theory, a good thing for Seattle. Harvin is one of the most versatile and effective receivers in the league when healthy, able to line up in the slot, in the backfield or out wide. He's the type of weapon the Seahawks offense has been missing all season—that extra spark to take them from "pretty good" to "elite."

In fact, a 100 percent version of Harvin would probably be enough to swing the line in Seattle's favor and make it an unquestioned favorite in my projections.

Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

The problem is that no information we have indicates full health. Harvin caught exactly four Russell Wilson passes all season. He's been injured once per 13 snaps this season. Going back to his days with the Minnesota Vikings, Harvin has played a full season just once. Those 39 snaps are the only ones he's been on the field since Nov. 4, 2012.

And on and on and on. I hope Harvin is healthy. I hope he has a stellar game. Football is more fun when Percy Harvin is in it.

But we're working with probabilities here. Does anyone really expect a wideout with only 39 snaps under his belt, dealing with a hip and a few weeks removed from a concussion to be effective? Maybe as a decoy, but it doesn't look promising otherwise.

 

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