The Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos will play for the Lombardi Trophy at Super Bowl XLVIII, and there are stars on both sides who must play well for their team to win the big game.
Seattle's defense finished the season as the best scoring unit in the league, while Denver's offense did the same on the other side of the ball, as pointed out by ESPN Stats & Info:
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
While it's impossible to predict what these elite players will do in the biggest game of their careers, it is possible to come up with some educated guesses. But first, here's a look at when and where you can catch Super Bowl XLVIII.
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
Projected Stats for Top Stars
Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning obliterated a couple of NFL single-season records by passing for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns. That's an average of 342.3 yards and 3.44 touchdowns per game.
Broncos fans should temper expectations for the Super Bowl, however, as reaching those averages is highly unlikely against Seattle's "Legion of Boom" defensive secondary.
Neither New England nor San Diego comes close to Seattle when it comes to talented defensive backs and pass-rushers. Manning averaged 315 yards and two touchdowns against those two clubs in the postseason, and he'll be doing well to match those numbers in the upcoming contest.
In addition to Richard Sherman, who is the face of Seattle's defense, the Seahawks feature two safeties that have former 49ers great Ronnie Lott excited, as noted by Todd Dybas of The News Tribune:
Kam Chancellor right now is as good as any safety that’s played in the game of football. It’s hard for me to say this, but there was only one guy that I know that’s better and that’s Kenny Easley. He was defensive player of the year and best player to play the safety position, ever. He is getting to close to being in that community of greatness. And that is hard for me to say that because I have the utmost respect for Kenny Easley. That group, those two (Chancellor and Thomas), they’re playing at that level.
The Seahawks racked up 44 sacks and 28 interceptions during the regular season, and they tallied another three sacks and two interceptions during the playoffs. This defense will confound Manning, but he'll also come through with some big plays to keep Denver in the game.
Projected Stats: 310 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks
The battle up front between Denver's defensive front seven and Seattle's offensive line will be ferocious all game long, with Marshawn Lynch being the battering ram in this equation.
The Skittles-devouring running back went "Beast Mode" on both New Orleans and San Francisco, totaling 249 rushing yards and three touchdowns. He's been breaking tackles at a frantic pace, bringing his season total up to 106 after breaking seven more against the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, per Pro Football Focus:
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 has been incredible against the run thus far in the postseason, holding the Chargers and Patriots to just 129 yards and one touchdown on the ground. However, neither team featured an offensive line as accustomed to winning up front nor a running back as good between the tackles as Seattle does.
The Broncos don't have enough depth up front to handle this power-rushing attack. Lynch will have a big day running the ball.
Projected Stats: 125 total yards, two touchdowns.
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos
He finished the regular season with 92 catches for 1,430 yards and 14 touchdowns, and he added another 15 catches for 188 yards and two touchdowns in the Broncos' two playoff games.
It's widely assumed that Thomas will be defended by cornerback Richard Sherman throughout the upcoming Super Bowl. If this is the case, then it's highly likely Denver's top receiving threat will be rendered nothing more than a decoy.
For his part, Thomas welcomes the challenge, however, while remaining respectful of the fine players he'll be facing in the Super Bowl, via DenverBroncos.com:
(Sherman's) a great player. I'd love to have that matchup to show what kind of player I am. I don't know if we'll match up, but like I said, he's a great player. ... Whatever we put out there we just got to be able to execute. They are the No. 1 defense. They've got a great defense and we've got a great offense. This is what you play for.
Sherman is rarely beaten by any receiver, as Pro Football Talk points out:
In the last 2 seasons Richard Sherman has allowed a single receiver more than 3 catches in a game just once...Titus Young! (5)— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 24, 2014
Thomas won't have a big game, but with Sherman occupied, some of his teammates could against the other Seattle defensive backs.
Projected Stats: Three catches, 45 yards, zero touchdowns.
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