Peyton Manning headlines the list of notable offensive stars playing in Super Bowl XLVIII, but there are some extraordinary defenders suiting up for the big game, too.
And they don't all play for the Seattle Seahawks.
The Denver Broncos feature some talent on the defensive side of the ball, as well, despite being known by most fans as an offensive juggernaut.
With oddsmakers setting the point spread at 47 (via Bovada), it's clear a high-scoring shootout isn't expected. Both teams have played well defensively during the postseason, and the two sides appear to match up well against one another on paper.
Here's a look at the defenders who'll have the biggest impact on the game, ranked by importance as well as by pure skill. But first, here's what you need to know about when and where to catch Super Bowl XLVIII.
When: Sunday, Feb. 2, at 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
Live Stream: FoxSports.com
Updated Betting Info (via Bovada)
Spread: Broncos (-3)
Moneyline: Seattle (6-5), Denver (5-7)
Ranking Top Defenders
1. Richard Sherman, CB, Seattle Seahawks
You know you're good when you can legitimately challenge Darrelle Revis as the top shutdown cornerback in the NFL.
While I'm not ready to crown Sherman yet, he's clearly the top defender in the upcoming Super Bowl.
Sherman, at 6'3" and 195 pounds, is bigger than many of the receivers he defends. He's tallied 16 interceptions the past two years, despite the fact that quarterbacks rarely give him a chance to make plays.
Pro Football Focus recently pointed out that the cornerback has allowed more than three catches in a single game only once in the past two years:
In the last 2 seasons Richard Sherman has allowed a single receiver more than 3 catches in a game just once...Titus Young! (5)— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 24, 2014
If he holds true to form, then Demaryius Thomas, who led the Broncos in receptions (92), yards (1,430) and touchdowns (14), will be rendered invisible.
2. Earl Thomas, S, Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks utilize a defensive look most of the time that puts safety Earl Thomas alone at the top to cover a third of the back end, while Kam Chancellor assists underneath.
The job Thomas takes on each and every week is remarkable, because there's just no room for error. This point will be even more salient against Manning, who isn't afraid to take a shot downfield when he sees the slightest opening.
Thomas has been mentioned by many analysts as a potential Defensive Player of the Year candidate. With 105 tackles, five interceptions and two forced fumbles to his credit, he certainly put up worthy numbers for consideration.
"I want to be the best -- not just safety or corner -- but defensive player," Thomas said at Super Bowl Media Day, as noted by Chris Wesseling of NFL.com.
He'll need to be at his best on game day, because Manning isn't going to hesitate to sneak a few past him if he's an inch out of position.
3. Terrance Knighton, DT, Denver Broncos
The man known as "Pot Roast" must dominate the trenches in Super Bowl XLVIII in order for the Broncos to emerge victorious.
Seattle's offense revolves around the power-running game, which is led by Marshawn Lynch. The Seahawks would like nothing better than to run the ball down Denver's throat as a way to keep Manning off the field.
Lynch enters the contest on quite the roll, having totaled 249 yards and three touchdowns rushing the ball against the San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints. He has a way of getting under the skin of his opponents, and he never gives up.
Peter King of SI.com's MMQB believes Knighton will be a big part of shutting down "Beast Mode":
If you don't know him yet, you may be very familiar with him a week from Monday. Knighton is going to be a big part—both literally and figuratively—in stopping Marshawn Lynch and making things difficult on the Seahawks offense.
Stopping Lynch is the biggest key for Denver defensively, and Knighton is the guy who can make it happen.
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