The weather for Super Bowl XLVIII has taken its share of the spotlight leading up to the big game, and if the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos want to overcome the conditions, they both must run the ball effectively.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has been content with playing a safe, ball-protection style all year long. Who can criticize him for it? His team was 13-3 in the regular season and is one win away from the organization's first championship.
While the run game will continue to be the biggest key for both teams, Wilson's play will still factor in the final result.
Here's the information needed to watch the world's biggest sporting event.
Date: Sunday, Feb. 2
Where: MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
Start Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
TV Info: Fox
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
Spread (Bovada): Denver -3
Wilson Must Keep Defense Honest
Wilson will continue to ride the backs of his team's shutdown defense and formidable rushing attack. Because of that style, the Broncos are likely going to make Wilson beat them with his arm.
As Jordan Raanan of NJ.com writes, Wilson primarily makes sure that his offense doesn't put Seattle's defense in tough situations:
Seattle’s young quarterback hasn’t exactly lit it up in the playoffs. He’s accounted for one touchdown in two games. By the time the Super Bowl comes around, Wilson will have gone two months since he threw for over 215 yards in a game. We’ll hear all about how this great kid has immediately stepped in and taken the reigns and done everything necessary to win. But, and it's a big but, his biggest responsibility is not to lose the game for the Seahawks.
He's shown the ability to make big plays throughout the season when needed, but it seems logical to think the Broncos consider him the lesser of two evils when compared to Marshawn Lynch and the ground game. He'll need to protect the ball and help move the chains in order to keep Denver's offense off the field.
It's no secret the Seahawks are a run-first team and they have had success this postseason with that approach.
When the Broncos scheme to take the run game away, Wilson must execute and make them pay through the air. If not, it could be a long day for Seattle's offense.
Stay Away From Richard Sherman
The NFL's best cornerback isn't likely to give another entertaining postgame interview like he did after the NFC title game, but he might be going to Disneyland if Manning tries him in the Super Bowl.
Sherman backs up his talk on the field and forces quarterbacks to make precise throws to beat him.
If Manning insists on challenging Sherman, he might pay the ultimate price.
Nothing shifts momentum or gives a team an edge quite like a huge return on special teams. If Seattle's Percy Harvin can give Wilson and the offense short fields to work with, it will be difficult to contain the Seahawks.
For Denver, decent returns could be even more important to the bottom line, since sustaining multiple long drives against Seattle seems unlikely.
According to Football Outsiders, the Seahawks allowed the third-fewest yards per drive in the NFL and the least amount of points per possession this season.
Trindon Holliday is a dangerous return man who took a kickoff and punt back for a touchdown during the regular season. Keep an eye on him and special teams in general in this matchup.
Manning vs. Earl Thomas
As important as Sherman is to the Seahawks defense, the duel between Manning and Thomas is even more important. While Seattle's defense doesn't do a ton of movement before the snap, Thomas is key to organizing assignments.
Seahawks analyst and NFL great Warren Moon spoke about Thomas with Jim Corbett of USA Today:
Earl covers a lot of ground. I call Earl a heat-seeking missile because he is always where the football is — a missile guided to the football because he's become such a good student of the game.
Thomas covers ground like a young Ed Reed. He's also a force in the run game almost to the level of Pittsburgh Steelers star Troy Polamalu.
The man who gets the best of this matchup will give his team the best chance to win.
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