By most accounts, the Super Bowl XLVIII battle between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos should go right down to the wire. The oddsmakers agree, setting the line in favor of the AFC champions, but by less than a field goal.
Of course, that doesn't come as a surprise. Since Seattle and Denver punched their tickets to the final game of the NFL season, almost the entire focus has been on the marquee faceoff between the Seahawks' top defense and the Broncos' top offense.
The winner of that matchup likely wins the game, and it should be close. With that in mind, let's check out all of the game's key odds and viewing information, which is followed by a preview of the big game and a prediction for which team will come out on top.
Super Bowl Odds Info (via Vegas Insider)
Opening Spread: Pick
Current Spread: Broncos -2.5
Opening Over/Under Line: 47
Current Over/Under Line: 48
Which team will win the Super Bowl?
Opening Money Line: Seahawks -115, Broncos -105
Current Money Line: Broncos -140, Seahawks +120
Super Bowl Game Info
Where: MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
When: Sunday, Feb. 2, at 6:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
Preview and Prediction
The playoff format is conducive to upsets because playing a single game severely limits the margin for error. It's not often you can definitively say the best team from each conference made the Super Bowl, but that's the case this season.
Not only did the Seahawks and Broncos post the best records in their respective conferences, earning the top seeds in the process, but they also did so in a convincing manner. NFL on ESPN notes the teams finished first and second in point differential this season, with Denver leading the way:
Much of the talk leading up to this battle surrounded Peyton Manning's legacy and whether he needs another ring to be considered the best quarterback ever. While that debate will rage on, there's no doubt he'll need one of his best performances ever for the Broncos offense to succeed.
The Seahawks defense, led by cornerback Richard Sherman, is basically a mirror image of the Denver offense on the opposite side of the ball. It's a group that can make an impact in a multitude of different ways. After having two weeks to prepare, the Seahawks will be ready for just about everything Manning and Co. do.
More specifically, Seattle knows the Broncos offense thrives on short routes and quick throws. In order to give the pass rush a chance to make any type of impact, the Seahawks have to play strong press coverage and force the opposing wideouts to battle just to get off the line.
It's certainly much easier said than done. The Broncos have more weapons than any other offense in the league—and it's not close. Jeff Legwold of ESPN passed along comments from wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who discussed how spreading the ball around impacts the offense:
I think it's probably hard to just focus on one guy. We want to be able to move things around if Peyton sees something he likes. So, we get to the right spot, get open and he gets you the ball. You never know when it will be your turn, so you're just ready for it always to be your turn.
On the flip side, the biggest factor on the lesser-discussed units is Marshawn Lynch against the Broncos run defense.
One thing the San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots weren't able to do against Denver is control possession by grinding out yards on the ground. In turn, Manning got too many opportunities, and the Broncos were able to pull away.
Which group will make the difference?
The Seahawks have a more rushing-oriented style, and Lynch is the type of bruising back that can wear down the Denver defense if he gets rolling. Not to mention it would take a lot of pressure off Russell Wilson, who hasn't been at his best yet in the postseason.
Knowing Seattle will try to establish the ground game, the most important defenders for the Broncos will once again be Danny Trevathan and Terrance Knighton. If they can't slow down Lynch, it opens up all kinds of possibilities for the Seahawks offense.
When you add it all up there's no reason to believe this shouldn't become an instant classic. But in the end, it's hard to pick against Manning after the record-breaking season he's enjoyed working with an astonishing group of targets, including Knowshon Moreno out of the backfield.
A late field goal by Matt Prater puts Denver over the top.
Prediction: Broncos 24, Seahawks 21