Super Bowl XLVIII will pit the NFL's two most dominant teams against one another when the Seattle Seahawks face off against the Denver Broncos inside MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. on Sunday, Feb. 2.
But with any do-or-die showdown, something's got to give when these two top seeds clash for the title.
Below I'll highlight the three most entertaining matchups likely to decide the outcome of Super Bowl XLVIII.
Date: Sunday, February 2, 2014
Start Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
Spread: Denver (-3), according to Bovada.lv.
Demaryius Thomas vs. Richard Sherman
If you're searching for entertainment, look no further than Seahawks shutdown corner Richard Sherman, who is coming off an electrifying performance in the NFC Championship Game that saw him save the game with a last-minute pass deflection.
However, Sherman will be tested like never before when he lines up opposite of Broncos No. 1 receiver Demaryius Thomas, the leading performer in Denver's top-ranked, record-breaking aerial attack.
In addition to having posted impressive numbers through two games this postseason (15 receptions, 188 yards and two touchdowns), Thomas has the frame at 6'3", 230 pounds to challenge Sherman physically.
Although Sherman is arguably the top cover guy in the game and can move better than anyone, Thomas has the strength and size to get open and beat Sherman in a jump-ball situation.
Demaryius Thomas on physical Seahawks: "I like getting hit. That's why I play." http://t.co/8oYNMjhcFW— NFL: AroundTheLeague (@NFL_ATL) January 28, 2014
While Peyton Manning will be wary of throwing in Sherman's direction, Thomas has been too much of a factor in Denver's success to be completely abandoned.
Seahawks Pass Rush vs. Broncos Offensive Line
Given just how lethal Manning has been from the pocket all season long, throwing for a record 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns, the most pivotal matchup on Super Sunday will be the constant battle between the Seattle pass rush and Denver's dominant offensive line.
Although Seattle boasts the NFL's top secondary, the front seven has been paramount to their overall defensive success, winning the battle at the line of scrimmage and pressuring the passer on a consistent basis.
However, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and others will have their hands full against one of the top pass-protecting units in all of football.
Highest graded pass rush: 1. Seahawks 2. Titans 3. Rams 4. Lions 5. Dolphins 6. Texans 7. Bills 8. 49ers per @PFF— Ben Volk (@NFLBen) January 26, 2014
Keep in mind that while Manning has dropped back to pass 79 times through two playoff games, he's yet to be sacked even once.
Denver's line is coming off of a remarkable effort in the AFC Championship Game and will give the Broncos an undeniable advantage if it can hold up in pass protection and buy No. 18 enough time to find the soft spot downfield.
Terrance Knighton vs. Max Unger, J.R. Sweezy and James Carpenter
Another fun matchup to keep an eye on will be Denver defensive tackle Terrance Knighton vs. the interior offensive line of Seattle.
Knighton has been an absolute beast in his first season with the Broncos, plugging gaps and leading the way for the club's top-10 rush defense.
Knighton, otherwise known as Pot Roast thanks to his massive 6'3", 330-pound frame, played out of his mind in the AFC Championship Game, recording a timely sack of Tom Brady on fourth down and disrupting the New England Patriots' offensive rhythm and timing play after play, per Sports Illustrated's Peter King:
Danny Trevathan and Terrance Knighton big stars for Denver on D. Tony Carter's been a plus, overall, too.— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) January 19, 2014
Knighton's incredible form and immense confidence means that Seattle's big boys up front, led by center Max Unger, will need to find a way to neutralize him in order to generate offense on the ground.
Unger and guards J.R. Sweezy and James Carpenter were able to impose their will down the stretch against New Orleans and San Francisco, but will need to contain one of the hotter players in football in Knighton on Super Sunday in order to have a shot at winning it all.
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