Any team that reaches the Super Bowl inevitably presents difficult challenges for its opponent. This is certainly true of the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos, who lost just six games between them all year long.
As ESPN Stats & Info points out, this upcoming championship game features two teams that are used to being No. 1:
Seahawks-Broncos is No. 1 scoring offense vs No. 1 scoring defense, No. 1 total offense vs No. 1 total defense and matchup of No. 1 seeds.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 20, 2014
One challenge both teams will have to face is the weather, which will feature temperatures in the mid 30s to mid 20s and could include snow showers, per AccuWeather.
Even under perfect conditions, however, these two teams bring some special qualities to the table that will prove difficult to combat in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Here's a look at when and where you can catch the action, along with the current betting line, followed by an examination of the biggest challenge both teams must overcome to win the game.
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
Seattle Seahawks: Pressure Peyton Manning into Mistakes
As good as Seattle's secondary is (it's the best in the NFL), Peyton Manning will find his receivers and make big plays if he has time to sit in the pocket, according to B/R's Christopher Hansen:
Denver’s offensive line is going to go a long way in determining the outcome of the Super Bowl. If the offensive line continues to perform like it has most of the season and Manning can sit in the pocket, it’s going to be a long day for the Seahawks.
One of the biggest reasons Manning was able to break passing and touchdown records in 2013 is that his offensive line has been phenomenal all year long—despite losing the starting center and left tackle.
Manning hasn't been sacked a single time in two postseason games, which has helped him throw four touchdowns and only one interception.
ESPN Stats & Info notes the interesting battle brewing between Denver's league-best offensive line and Seattle's league-best defense when it comes to allowing and applying pressure:
Peyton Manning: pressured on 14% of dropbacks this year, lowest in NFL (incl. playoffs). Seahawks pressured opposing QB on 32% (best in NFL)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 21, 2014
The Seahawks tallied three sacks and four additional quarterback hits against San Francisco and New Orleans, but it'll take a more consistent effort against Manning in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Denver Broncos: Shut Down Marshawn Lynch
Seattle's offense begins and ends with Marshawn Lynch pounding the ball between the tackles.
The man known as "Beast Mode" blew up the Saints and 49ers to the tune of 249 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the playoffs, despite the fact that both teams knew he was coming.
Lynch's ability to break tackles is legendary, and after breaking seven against the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, Pro Football Focus noted his total for the season (including playoffs) was up to 106:
Marshawn Lynch forced another 7 missed tackles vs SF. Now has 106 in 2013 inc playoffs. #Beastmode— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 20, 2014
Denver's defense will certainly have its hands full trying to stop Lynch from running away with the game, but this isn't a new challenge. San Diego and New England combined to rush for just 129 yards against this unit.
Terrance "Pot Roast" Knighton has emerged as a key defender for the Broncos during this stretch. He spoke about what his team has done thus far and the challenge ahead, via The Denver Post:
We stepped up to the challenge last week, stopping New England's run game (in the AFC title game). San Diego had success running the ball in the regular season and we stepped up to that challenge in the playoffs.
It just gets worse and worse each week. Going against a back like this — we obviously have to stop him and can't allow him to get going. A guy like that who builds momentum and has confidence that he can run the ball just makes it worse for us.
Knighton, Danny Trevathan and the rest of Denver's defenders on the front seven will need to play the best game of their season in order to keep Lynch from enforcing his will. And when Lynch starts grinding out yards on the ground, Seattle's offense tends to come through with huge plays in the passing game.
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