Super Bowl 2014: Stat Predictions for Game's Key Players
Super Bowl XLVIII is oozing with tremendous one-on-one matchups and legitimate star power.
Peyton Manning could put a cherry on top of the greatest quarterback season in league history with a win and MVP award, while Richard Sherman could finalize the finest cornerback season ever with an interception and a Seahawks victory.
While fantasy football is long gone, there'll be thousands of stat-based prop bets made before the NFL title game.
Using seasonal tendencies, averages and factoring in all the compelling matchups, let's project stat lines for each team's key players.
Projected stats: 28 for 43, 263 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception
In 18 games this season, Peyton Manning has averaged 339.2 passing yards per game. In 18 games this season, the Seattle Seahawks defense has allowed an average of 177.8 passing yards per game.
If those two averages meet in the middle during Super Bowl XLVIII, Manning will throw for 258 yards.
This quarterback vs. secondary battle is about as juicy of a matchup as we've been fortunate enough to witness with the Vince Lombardi Trophy on the line in quite some time, there's no doubting that.
To put their stark contrasts into perspective—Manning threw for fewer than 250 yards in only two of 18 outings this year, and the Seahawks allowed more than 250 passing yards in just two contests as well.
Manning's completion percent is just shy of 69 percent heading into this game, and Pete Carroll's defense has given up a completion percent just under 59 percent.
Seattle surrendered an average of one aerial touchdown per game, while Manning averages a robust 3.27. Peyton's projected Super Bowl stat line was made by factoring his averages, the averages of Seattle's prolific secondary and the effect the weather may have on the game.
Projected stats: 16 for 26, 215 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception
Russell Wilson's been a marvelous improviser during his second NFL season.
Shoddy offensive line play has likely been part of the reason his completion percentage and Pro Football Focus Accuracy Percentage (subscription required) dipped in his sophomore campaign.
In 2012, Wilson's Accuracy Percentage was 77.1—the fourth-highest in the NFL. In the 2013 regular season, it was 71.9 and 68.4 during the playoffs.
("Accuracy Percentage accounts for dropped passes, throw aways, spiked balls, batted passes, and passes where the quarterback was hit while they threw the ball—factors that hurt the quarterback's completion percentage but don't help show how accurate they are.")
However, last year, Wilson was "under pressure" on 39.8 of his dropbacks during the regular season. This season, that number increased to 43.8 during the regular season and a ridiculous 53.7 in two playoff games.
The Denver Broncos pass rush isn't special, but if Shaun Phillips and Terrance Knighton get going, they can cause problems in the backfield.
With a steady run game and what should be a relatively "easy" matchup for Seattle's offensive line after playing the San Francisco 49ers, Wilson should have a typical rather efficient, low volume performance.
Projected stats: 16 carries, 68 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 receptions, 24 yards
Knowshon Moreno was a godsend for the Denver Broncos this season—although it's not as if Peyton Manning and Co. necessarily needed a threatening ground game.
Then again, Moreno kept the offense balanced, and he doubled as a reliable pass-catching option—his 60 receptions were, by far, the most of his NFL career in one campaign.
It'll be interesting to monitor how he's used in Super Bowl XLVIII as the Broncos' legendary passing attack will be up against the NFL's most suffocating secondary.
While it's hard to envision the Broncos taking the ball out of Manning's right hand very often, Moreno may be utilized to keep Seattle's defense honest.
However, the Seahawks front seven isn't exactly the most porous run-stopping unit in the league, it allowed 3.9 yards per carry during the regular season and has surrendered the same number in two playoff games.
Projected stats: 24 carries, 102 yards, 2 touchdowns
Forget the media hoopla—Marshawn Lynch is just 'bout that action, boss.
During the regular season, in full on "Beast Mode," the former first-round pick forced 75 missed tackles on 301 carries, according to PFF, the most in the NFL.
Not shockingly, he leads these playoffs with 20 missed tackles forced.
Denver's actually held up against the run this year despite not being able to boast a myriad of superstars along their defensive line—like the Seahawks, the Broncos allowed 3.9 yards per carry.
The San Diego Chargers running backs managed only 55 yards on 15 carries in the divisional round loss, and although Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley of the New England Patriots rattled off 51 yards on nine attempts in the AFC Championship Game, scorching hot wrecking ball LeGarrette Blount rushed five times for only six yards.
One has to believe that Lynch has the advantage over Denver's run defense, though, mainly due to his tackle-breaking proficiency.
Projected stats: 7 catches, 50 yards, 1 touchdown
At 6'5'', 250 pounds with Division I basketball player athleticism, Julius Thomas hasn't appeared to be easy to cover in 2013.
He reeled in 65 passes for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns during the regular season and has made 14 grabs for 161 yards in two playoff games.
The former Portland State star had at least three receptions in every contest he appeared in this season. With super-physical, ball-hawking cornerbacks split out wide, don't be stunned when you notice Thomas frequently being featured over the middle in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor and the Seahawks linebackers won't be absolutely overmatched by the massive tight end, but for a guy who's averaged nearly seven targets, five catches and 60 yards per game in 2013 will, we can expect a solid showing on the NFL's biggest stage.
Projected stats: 3 catches, 50 yards
Golden Tate set career highs in catches (64) and yards (898) in 2013, but his production has tapered off in the playoffs, as the former Notre Dame standout has made only five catches for 44 yards in two games.
Much of that has to do with the fact that quarterback Russell Wilson has been under pressure on more than 50 percent of his dropbacks according to PFF.
The result has been an abundance of improvised plays from the nimble, strong-armed signal-caller, and the schoolyard passes have simply gone to other Seahawks receivers in the postseason.
Tate should draw Denver's youngest and most stingy cornerback for most of Super Bowl XLVIII—Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie—which doesn't bode well for the struggling wideout.
He won't be a complete non-factor, and very well may be the recipient of an ad-libbed Wilson throw, but don't expect Tate to explode against the Broncos.
Projected stats: 4 catches, 65 yards
Likely grappling with Richard Sherman at the line of scrimmage for most of Super Bowl XLVIII, quite obviously, Demaryius Thomas has the most difficult cornerback matchup of any Denver Broncos receiver.
The advanced metrics are almost off the charts for both of these long and athletic outside players.
Per PFF, 15.2% of Thomas' receptions went for touchdown, and his 697 yards after the catch were the most in the NFL during the regular season.
On the flipside, Sherman allowed the lowest quarterback rating on passes thrown in his direction (47.3) and finished with eight interceptions—the most in football.
Thomas is a hefty 6'3'' and 230 pounds, while Sherman is 6'3'' and about 200 pounds.
One has to expect that each player will get the better of his opposition on a few occasions, but it's hard to visualize either dominating this marquee matchup.
Projected stats: 5 catches, 78 yards, 1 touchdown
Doug Baldwin was a bit more inconsistent from a per-game catch standpoint than Golden Tate during Seattle's marvelous regular season, but he's fresh off a six-grab, 106-yard effort in the NFC Championship Game.
The San Francisco 49ers probably have a better secondary than the Denver Broncos without Chris Harris, but that doesn't automatically mean Baldwin will have an MVP-esque performance in him.
He has proven to be a big-play threat all year, though.
His 15.75 yards-per-reception average in all of Seattle's 18 games leads the team, and according to PFF, the former Stanford wideout dropped only two passes during the regular season.
Baldwin will play in the slot and on the outside, and shouldn't see Rodgers-Cromartie for most of Super Bowl XLVIII.
Expect Baldwin to see nearly as many targets as Tate, but he make one or two more plays downfield.
Projected stats: 7 catches, 69 yards, 1 touchdown
Wes Welker missed a few games with a concussion at the end of the Denver Broncos regular season, but when he returned for the playoffs, he was the same, pesky, chain-moving, high-volume receiver he's been for the past five-plus years.
His exceptional quickness and deceptive strength that helps him frequently beat press coverage at the line of scrimmage could be a boon for the Broncos passing game against the Seahawks aggressive defensive backfield.
Welker's averaged 5.5 grabs on a shade more than eight targets per game in 2013, and it's conceivable that he'll eclipse the double-digit target mark in Super Bowl XLVIII, especially if the Broncos get into a rhythm and really push the tempo.
He's one of Manning's favorite targets in the red zone on a variety of drag routes that feature the most subtle "rubs" or "picks."
Projected stats: 2 catches, 35 yards
At 6'1'' and 210 pounds, Jermaine Kearse is the most physically imposing wideout in the Seattle Seahawks relatively small-statured receiving corps.
Although he caught only 22 passes during the regular season, he averaged 15.7 yards per reception and scored four touchdowns.
Kearse is a threat to make one huge play on a jump ball down the field, but the Broncos have two heady safeties in Mike Adams and Duke Ihenacho.
It should be a relatively quiet game for the young and promising pass-catcher.
Projected stats: 5 catches, 45 yards
We aren't quite sure what to make of Eric Decker.
Though dubbed by many as a disappointment in 2013, the veteran reeled in 87 passes for 1,288 yards with 11 touchdowns.
Not bad. Not bad at all.
However, according to PFF, he finished the regular season with a drop rate of 8.42, which placed him 47th out of 94 receivers who took at this 25 percent of their respective team's snaps.
Decker is 6'3'' and 215 pounds, so he shouldn't be able to be tossed around by Seattle cornerback Byron Maxwell with ease.
Peyton Manning has targeted the former Minnesota star 8.3 times per game, according to ESPN, and with the decent chance that Richard Sherman will give Demaryius Thomas fits across the field, Decker could see upwards of 10 targets in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Projected stats: 2 receptions, 33 yards, 2 rushes, 17 yards
Oh yeah, Percy Harvin's on the Seattle Seahawks. After a mere 39 snaps in 2013 and a concussion that forced him to sit out of the NFC Championship Game, it's actually easy to forget about the speedy, yards-after-the-catch demon general manager John Schneider signed to a massive deal this past offseason.
In the divisional round win against the New Orleans Saints, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell featured Harvin right out of the gates, as Russell Wilson's first two throws went in his direction.
Being that it's the Super Bowl, the Seahawks may look to get their talented weapon involved early once again, but it's safe to assume they haven't tailored the entire game plan around him.
If he gets the football, it'll likely be on jet sweeps, reverses and quick screens to maximize his value and limit his injury risk.
Projected stats: 1 sack, 2 hurries, 1 hit
Shaun Phillips has been a savior for the Denver Broncos pass rush, a unit that lost Von Miller on Dec. 23, to some, at the worst conceivable time.
He had two big sacks in the divisional round against the San Diego Chargers, and he finished with a hurry plus four tackles in the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots.
Phillips will likely face Seattle Seahawks right tackle Breno Giacomini, who's not necessarily a stalwart on the edge.
Neither will have fantastic performances, but Phillips will make a much-needed contribution for Denver.
Projected stats: 1 sack, 3 hurries, 2 hits, 1 forced fumble
Cliff Avril is an edge-rushing specialist, a guy who combines speed, athleticism and an always-firing motor to efficient, backfield-disrupting production.
In 2013, the former Detroit Lion, accumulated nine sacks, 10 quarterback hits and 27 hurries on 339 pass-rushing snaps, which made him the fifth-most effective 4-3 defensive end in football, according to PFF. He also forced five fumbles during the regular season and two—one in each game—in the playoffs.
He'll face the monstrous Orlando Franklin on the right side of the Broncos offensive line for most of the game—their difference in skill set should make for an intriguing one-on-one matchup.
PFF has actually graded Franklin as the best tackle in the postseason, but Avril should bend past him on a few occasions.
With Peyton Manning likely throwing upwards of 40 or 45 times, Avril will make an impact.
Projected stats: 3 tackles, 1 tackle for loss
Terrance Knighton has been an underrated stud for the Denver Broncos this season, and he's been wreaking havoc on the inside during the playoffs.
After finishing as PFF's No. 9 defensive tackle during the regular season, the former Jacksonville Jaguar has posted a combined grade of plus-7.8 grade in the postseason.
J.R. Sweezy hasn't been steady at right guard for the Seattle Seahawks during the 2013 campaign, but as Denver's main disruptor on the inside, one has to expect that Knighton will take on his fair share of double teams in Super Bowl XLVIII.
His sack of Tom Brady in the AFC Championship Game was only his fifth of the season, but he did register five hits and 25 hurries before the playoffs.
Projected stats: 8 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 interception
Therefore, the middle linebacker averaged somewhere between 7.06 and 7.5 takedowns per game in his sophomore NFL campaign.
Remarkably, Wagner was credited with only one missed tackle in the first 16 outings of the year by PFF, the only inside linebacker who played at least 50 percent of his respective team's snaps to finish with fewer than two.
Because the Broncos likely will pass more than they'll run—they threw 675 passes compared to 461 carries during the regular season—Wagner won't be tested in the weakest area of his game.
PFF gave him a minus-3.3 grade against the run in 2013 compared to a plus-0.2 grade in coverage and a plus-4.2 grade as a pass-rusher.
Projected stats: 9 tackles, 1 pass defended
As the elder Wesley Woodyard has slowed considerably throughout the 2013 season, the Denver Broncos in their linebacking corps has received admirable production from youngster Danny Trevathan.
PFF listed Trevathan with only 11 missed tackles on 901 total snaps this year, a relatively good number for a 4-3 outside linebacker who dropped into coverage more than he played the run.
He was given 11 tackles in the AFC Championship Game victory, and he should be fairly active against the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII, although they will be noticeably "run-heavy."
Projected stats: 2 tackles, 2 hurries
As if the addition of Cliff Avril wasn't enough, the Seattle Seahawks were spoiled by free-agent acquisition Michael Bennett in 2013.
Only Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn were more "efficient" from a pass-rushing perspective at the 4-3 defensive end position.
On 379 pass-rushing snaps this season, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers stud was credited with nine sacks, 17 quarterback hits and 39 pressures according to PFF.
He and Cliff Avril typically rotate at the left defensive end spot in Seattle's four-man front, so he'll likely duel with Orlando Franklin when he's on the field.
However, Bennett does take snaps on the interior and moves exceptionally well for a 6'4'', 275-pound defensive lineman.
The Broncos will likely attempt to negate Seattle's pass-rush with a variety of quick passes and draw plays, but Bennett shouldn't be "shut out" of Super Bowl XLVIII.
Projected stats: 3 tackles, 2 pass defended, 1 interception
Playing on a one-year "prove it" deal after flaming out with the Philadelphia Eagles, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has become a gem of a free-agent signing for the Denver Broncos.
During the regular season, PFF listed him as the No. 5 cornerback, and among corners who played at least 25 percent of their respective team's defensive snaps, the 44.1 catch percentage he surrendered was the second-lowest in the NFL.
As the Broncos right cornerback, he'll draw the smaller Golden Tate for most of the evening and should have a strong performance.
Projected stats: 4 tackles, 1 pass defended
Byron Maxwell has been an incredible stand-in in the Seahawks secondary with cornerback Brandon Browner serving a suspension.
Per PFF, the 2011 sixth-round pick has allowed a QB rating of 47.8 on 45 passes thrown in his direction this season, the second-lowest figure in the NFL, which only trails teammate Richard Sherman.
Maxwell covering Eric Decker will make for an interesting matchup between talented second fiddles.
Decker has had the tendency to be rather boom or bust, and this has all the looks more of a bust effort than anything else.
Projected stats: 4 tackles, 1 tackle for loss
Champ Bailey very well may end up in the Hall of Fame, but he's become a shell of his former self in 2013, thanks in large part to a variety of injuries.
In true icon form, as Denver's left cornerback in the AFC Championship Game, Bailey was given a plus-2.6 grade by PFF.
Youthful wideouts Jermaine Kearse and potentially Doug Baldwin won't be easy matchups for the 35-year-old defensive back.
Then again, Bailey plays the game with high intelligence, and as long as his body doesn't totally betray him, he's usually in perfect position in coverage.
Projected stats: 4 tackles, 2 passes defended
Richard Sherman's backed up his sometimes boastful ways with tremendous cornerback play in his young NFL career.
Among cornerbacks who played at least 60 percent of their respective team's snaps in 2013, Sherman was thrown at the fewest times (58) but finished with the mosts interceptions in the NFL (8), per PFF. That ridiculous stat speaks to the idea that he baits quarterbacks into making the throws he can attack down the field.
Demaryius Thomas will be among the most difficult matchups for Sherman, mainly due to the wideout's size (6'3'', 230) and speed combination.
Just because Seattle's secondary is exceptionally stingy, that doesn't mean Denver will shy away from throwing the football.
Expect the Broncos to utilize Thomas on bubble screens instead of challenging Sherman down the sideline, however.
Projected stats: 3 tackles
Mike Adams has played 814 snaps this season for the Denver Broncos, and he graded in the middle of the pack in PFF's safety rankings.
At nearly 33 years old, Adams veteran presence is probably more valuable to John Fox's club than his actual production at this point in his career.
With the Seahawks below-average offensive line and without a large, menacing group of receivers, Adams shouldn't be tested often.
But when Russell Wilson escapes the pocket, the safety will have to focus on finding receivers breaking off their routes to get open.
Projected stats: 6 tackles, 1 pass defended
Earl Thomas is the do-it-all safety for the Seattle Seahawks, although he's best known for his incredible range from center field.
The former first-round pick snagged five interceptions during an All-Pro campaign in 2013.
PFF credited him with 93 total tackles and ESPN officially gave him 105 takedowns this year. Essentially, he's averaged about 5.5 tackles per contest.
However, PFF listed 14 missed tackles for Thomas this year, which wasn't particularly good, even for a guy who played more than 1,000 snaps.
Thomas will play the deep middle of Seattle's cover three, looking to disrupt seam route throws to Julius Thomas and deep shots to Demaryius Thomas.
He will sneak down into the box on occasion, too.
Earl Thomas is, arguably, the quarterback of the Legion of Boom defense.