With this being the case, it will be the exploitation of each team's weaknesses that decides the outcome of the NFL's championship game. It's not often that best teams make mistakes, but when they do, the top team will take advantage.
Before breaking down each team's finer points, take a look at some useful game information that you're not going to want to forget.
When: Sunday, Feb. 2, at 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
TV Info: FOX
Live Stream: Fox Sports GO
Spread: Denver by 3, according to Bovada
The Broncos offense is the best in the history of the NFL. Peyton Manning and his collection of star receivers put points on the board at the expense of opposing defenses in 2013.
Manning threw for 55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards—both NFL records—en route to two playoff wins against the San Diego Chargers and the New England Patriots. His ability to spread the ball around to the open man, regardless of which option that receiver is, is just one of the many things that make him arguably the top quarterback in the game today.
Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker and Julius Thomas have made Manning's job very easy in 2013. When one of the four isn't open, one or two of the others are. When one receiver is in tough double coverage, one or two are in much more favorable single coverage. These weapons will have a tough go of it against Richard Sherman and the Seahawks secondary, but with so many pass-catching options, Manning will still rack up yards.
Perhaps the biggest advantage is the Broncos' balance offensively. Despite Manning's pass-happy numbers, the Broncos commit to the run frequently. Manning knows he needs the run game to establish his play-action game.
Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball will need to move the chains effectively to keep this offense moving. Manning will still tally completions but far fewer than he's accustomed to. The run game will be crucial.
The Seahawks secondary is perhaps the biggest strength of both teams in this game. Yes, it trumps even the production of Manning.
Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas have given quarterbacks and offensive coordinators fits this season. A combination of hard-hitters and ball hogs makes this secondary the best of arguably any unit in the NFL.
At the very least, it's the most dominant.
Lynch will be looking to go "Beast Mode" against the top run defense in the NFL. He racked up 109 yards and a touchdown on the ground against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, and playing against that type of defense in the previous game should help to prepare Lynch for this one.
Wilson has more touchdown passes over his first two NFL seasons (52) than anybody not named Peyton Manning. He is dynamic with his legs and is great at taking what the defense gives him. Should Seattle win, it will more than likely be because of him.
ESPN's John Clayton doesn't like Manning's chances in the cold. Via accuweather.com:
If it is going to be anywhere between 19 and 25 degrees, the colder it gets, the tougher it gets because gripping the football can become a problem. If it's going to be sleety or rainy, that's going to be a problem that he (Manning) is going to have and that will definitely have an impact on the game.
Denver played at MetLife Stadium on Sept. 15 against the New York Giants (a win), but the game-time conditions then were far less extreme than they will be on Feb. 2. Even the Seahawks, who played at MetLife against the Giants on Dec. 15, didn't experience the same frigid temperatures these teams will.
Manning will be spending the next week preparing to play in the cold, but that might not even be enough.
The Broncos defense is also somewhat of a weakness. Despite a strong run defense, the Broncos have been known to let opposing quarterbacks do well against them from time to time.
A quarterback like Wilson will take advantage of holes in the defense. Denver often leaves a few too many holes in the defense against good teams.
I think you can do the math here.
Seattle is perhaps the best-built team in the NFL. There aren't too many glaring weaknesses to point out.
The play of offensive guards has been an issue at times this season. In November, Marshawn Lynch averaged 5.2 yards per carry. In December, that dropped to 3.6 yards per carry. Lynch is the motor that keeps this offense moving. A big reason why the team went 3-2 in December was because of his drop in production.
Guards James Carpenter and J.R. Sweezy will need to block for Lynch. Considering the fact that he's best between the tackles, their job becomes even more important.
Wilson's reputation as a game manager might also prove to be a weakness. If Manning somehow solves Seattle's secondary, then this game will become a shootout. Unfortunately, that puts Seattle at a disadvantage.
Wilson isn't proficient at putting 300 yards on the stat sheet. Seattle won't be able to hang if this game gets into the 30s in terms of points scored per team.
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