The 2014 Super Bowl will be the biggest sporting event of the year, but the focus has shifted to which stars will be the biggest X-factors in the game between the Seattle Seahawks (13-3) and the Denver Broncos (13-3).
With stars on both sides of the ball for each franchise, every playmaker will be looking to make a difference, and the best talent on each team will be attempting to cement their name in NFL history.
The fact that this matchup pits the top offense against the top defense is the perfect end to the season. Adam Schefter took to Twitter to talk about how rare this meeting will be:
Seattle and its No. 1-ranked D go to Super Bowl. First time No. 1 D has played No. 1 O in SB since 1990, when Giants beat Bills.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 20, 2014
Here is all the vital viewing information for Super Bowl XLVIII and the biggest X-factors to watch in the battle between the Seahawks and the Broncos.
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
When: Sunday, Feb. 2
Kickoff Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
Spread (via Covers.com): Denver -3 (as of Jan. 30)
Denver Broncos' Ultimate X-Factor: Peyton Manning, QB
Peyton Manning’s performance on Super Bowl Sunday will be the most pivotal deciding factor in the outcome of the championship game. How’s that for being the biggest X-factor?
The Broncos have boasted the most talented passing attack in the league all season, but the unit has not faced a defense as stout as the one they’ll square off against on Sunday.
Despite the brutal matchup, Denver has the talent to shine.
This game is very important to Manning, as he told Frank Schwab of Yahoo! Sports:
In my 16th season, this is the third one I’ve been a part of. I know how hard it is to get here. To win it would be an extremely gratifying feeling to represent the organization. There is a ton of hard work and sacrifice that goes in just to get into this game. To win it would be very special.
Not only does the franchise have a future Hall of Fame quarterback leading the offense, but the Broncos also have a wide receiver group that includes Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker, as well as pass-catching tight end Julius Thomas.
With that many weapons, it will even be hard for the Seahawks' touted secondary to keep Manning grounded. This is a player who helped Denver average 457.3 yards per game and registered a new record of 606 points during the regular season.
If Manning can keep his composure and take advantage of the openings his array of weapons will create, the Broncos will pull out the close victory and help the veteran QB cement his legacy.
Manning’s Predicted Stat Line: 30-of-40 for 400 yards and three touchdowns.
Seattle Seahawks' Ultimate X-Factor: Marshawn Lynch, RB
The Seahawks don’t have a very impressive passing game led by sophomore QB Russell Wilson, but the team has had one of the most consistent rushing attacks throughout the season due to the stellar play of veteran Marshawn Lynch
The powerful runner is not afraid of contact and does whatever is needed for his team, including keeping drives alive, converting third downs and wearing down defenses using a unique mix of brutality and finesse.
"I'm just 'bout that action, boss." -- Marshawn Lynch— Jerry Brewer (@JerryBrewer) January 29, 2014
Lynch will have to work his magic against one of the hottest defensive units in the NFL, though.
In the two postseason games against the San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots, Denver has allowed only 129 total yards on the ground. With opposing defensive tackle Terrance Knighton causing havoc in the running game, the Seahawks must continue to feed the ball to Lynch even if he gets stifled early.
Who ya got?
Once the Broncos defense begins to tire, that’s when Beast Mode begins.
Seattle has followed the recipe of feeding the ball to Lynch early and often, and the back has responded to the 50 carries in two games by racking up 249 yards and three touchdowns over that span.
The Seahawks may ultimately end up losing this game, but the team will go down fighting. Lynch will get his 20 carries and make the most of them, but the questions surrounding the air assault will cost Seattle the Super Bowl.
Lynch’s Predicted Stat Line: 20 carries for 85 yards and one touchdown.
*All stats via NFL.com