The biggest stage in football often features the best players in the game. And when the the Super Bowl officially kicks off on Sunday, several of the most notable players will take the field in the most-watched sporting event of the year.
The huge setting can bring out the best or worst in some of the best players.
Peyton Manning is a great example of this fact. One of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the game and at least of this era is constantly questioned for his shortcomings in the playoffs, and Super Bowl in particular, because he only has one ring.
But quarterbacks certainly aren't the only names that show up on the biggest stage. With two great running backs sharing the same backfield with Manning and Russell Wilson and wide receivers like the ones the Broncos possess, there is star potential at nearly every offensive position.
Then there's the two defenses. The Seahawks have not only been the best defense this season, but they've been historically great, as ESPN Stats and Info points out:
The @Seahawks are the first defense to lead the NFL in points allowed, yards allowed and takeaways since the 1985 Bears.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 25, 2014
With the game just mere days away, here are a few players who will be standouts in the Super Bowl.
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
When: Sunday, Feb. 2, at 6:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
Simply put, Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history and can leave no doubt that he belongs on the Mount Rushmore of signal-callers with another Super Bowl win.
Manning not only set the passing yards record for a single season, but also passed for the most touchdowns in one year. Needless to say, he's worthy of being the offensive MVP for the regular season and could accomplish the feat in the Super Bowl as well for a second time in his career..
Ernie Palladino of CBS put the quarterback's star power into perspective in his recent column leading up to the game:
He came back, with Denver, and threw for 4,659 yards and 37 TDs in a 13-3 2012. And now here he is, after a record-setting 55-touchdown season, a 13-3 record, and two rousing playoff victories.
Young Russell Wilson is turning into a fine, exciting quarterback. And sure, he’s a story, as is Sherman’s big mouth and the overall ferocity of that Seahawks’ defense. But it all pales compared to Manning.
He is the star here, no doubt. And if there is any extra treat in store for the viewing audience besides seeing this master of the audible work his receivers through the Seahawks’ defense, it will occur only if Denver falls behind. Manning, fueled by both will and skill, is also the master of the comeback, as his career record 40 indicates.
With 22 games played in the postseason and a chance to finally surpass the .500 mark in his career in January and February, expect Manning to put on a show and be a candidate for his second Super Bowl MVP award.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks
Here are the two things Marshawn Lynch likes: Cold weather and contact. He'll get a lot of both when the Seahawks take on the Broncos on Sunday.
Lynch has been successful running the ball in both Seattle and with the Buffalo Bills and will be right at home in MetLife Stadium. And when it comes to running up the middle, the Broncos might have met their match with Lynch, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
Want to know how important Lynch's success is for the Seahawks? Andrew Mason of the Broncos' official website notes why the ability to get Lynch going is crucial for Seattle:
The Seahawks are …
- 11-1 when Lynch rushes for at least 120 yards, and 29-24 when he doesn't;
- 10-4 when he averages at least 5.5 yards per carry, and 30-21 when he doesn't;
- 9-0 when he scores at least two touchdowns and 28-10 when he scores at least once, and 12-15 when he doesn't score at all;
- 13-1 when he touches the football at least 25 times, and 27-24 when he doesn't, although this is misleading, as his touches are most often connected to the game situation.
The difference is stark in the postseason: when Lynch breaks the century mark in the playoffs, the Seahawks are undefeated, punctuated by his memorable performance in a wild-card stunner over the defending champion Saints there years ago. When he was held in check by the Bears a week later and the Falcons two years later, Seattle lost.
Needless to say, if the Hawks plan on pulling out the biggest game of their careers—not one player on their roster has Super Bowl experience—Lynch will need to be the catalyst for them against a stout rushing defense.
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos
Who will be the Super Bowl MVP?
Manning always has to make things so difficult. His ability to spread the ball around to each of his great receivers has not only led to five different players collecting 10 or more touchdowns this year, but it's also made predicting who will be the standout player arduous.
Luckily, there's Demaryius Thomas, who's emerging as one of the best wide receivers in the postseason with his recent play. In five career playoff games, Thomas has caught 28 passes for an average of 104.4 yards per game and a total of four touchdowns.
But there's another big name that will be given the tough task of covering Thomas in Richard Sherman—you might have heard of him. As for his thoughts on the Broncos' leading receiver, Sherman was pretty high on his counterpart, according to Mike Coppinger of NFL.com:
I definitely think he's top five. He put together the type of year and done everything in his power to put himself in that conversation. He's made big catches, he's got a lot of run after the catches, he turns some small plays into huge plays, and I think that he's a great receiver. He's a great competitor, and I'm sure it's going to be a fun night for both of us because we're both intense competitors and good players.
Michael Crabtree certainly isn't close to Thomas in Sherman's book. So what does Thomas think of the matchup with Sherman? Mike Klis of The Denver Post provides commentary from the fourth-year receiver.
"He’s a great player," Thomas said of Sherman. "I’d love to have that matchup to show what kind of player I am. I don’t know if he’ll match up, but like I said, he’s a great player."
Much like Lynch for the Seahawks, Thomas' success means a lot to the Broncos. In games where he's caught a touchdown pass in the playoffs, Denver is 3-1, with the only loss coming last year in stunning fashion to the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
With the stage set for Thomas to have another great game, expect Manning to still be looking for his best wideout whether he's covered by Sherman or not.
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