There are plenty of storylines surrounding Super Bowl XLVIII. Peyton Manning looks to cap off his record-breaking season with his second Super Bowl title. Richard Sherman and the Seattle Seahawks defense look to back up their profound talk by shutting down Manning and Co.
Regardless of these subplots for the big game, it will all come down to which team is able to perform at the highest level when the Denver Broncos' top-ranked offense faces Seattle's top-ranked defense.
With so many fantastic athletes making their way onto the field on Sunday, the Super Bowl MVP is completely up for grabs. Both teams have playmakers on each side of the ball who are capable of attaining the game's highest honor.
To appropriately assess who may be the best candidate to obtain Super Bowl MVP, we must look at all aspects of both teams. Even though it takes a strong individual performance, it comes down to how effectively each team can exploit the other's weaknesses while highlighting its own strengths.
Let's take a look at who is most likely to grab MVP honors for each team along with a dark horse who may emerge as well.
MVP: Peyton Manning
Yes, this isn't much of a surprise. After such a stellar regular season and solid play through the playoffs, Manning is absolutely the top candidate for Super Bowl MVP for the Broncos.
Though Seattle was fantastic against the pass during the regular season—and led the league with 28 interceptions—it has allowed more passing yards on average over the postseason. The Seahawks are allowing an average of 224.0 passing yards per game in the playoffs—52 yards more than they allowed in the regular season.
Meanwhile, Manning has continued his fine play through two postseason appearances:
Expect Manning to continue to lead the Broncos offense through the air on Super Bowl Sunday.
Dark Horse: Wes Welker
Manning will certainly be airing the ball out against the Seahawks. This means that someone must be on the receiving end. With talented cornerbacks draped all over wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, slot receiver Wes Welker should benefit.
Welker has had a relatively quiet postseason so far, with 38 yards in each game. However, he should be a big part of the Broncos' game plan when they face Seattle on Sunday.
MVP: Marshawn Lynch
Again, the player that is most likely to lead the team's offensive production gets the nod for MVP. Marshawn Lynch has been fantastic for the Seahawks throughout the regular season, and his production has not dropped off in the postseason.
Lynch has faced two very tough run defenses in the playoffs; however, he was still able to flourish against both the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers. He has continued to be Seattle's offensive catalyst in recent weeks:
Even though Denver has been very good against the run during the 2014 playoffs, it has yet to face a physical and talented running back like Lynch.
Dark Horse: Kam Chancellor
The Seahawks had the league's best defense against the pass throughout the regular season, and Chancellor was a big reason for that. He has continued his stellar play into the postseason, raking up 25 total tackles and one interception.
Kam Chancellor: "I keep thinking about the people who told me I wouldn't be here... that I couldn't do this." pic.twitter.com/O4w1H2jMQx— SI_DougFarrar (@SI_DougFarrar) January 28, 2014
He will have the task of covering tight end Julius Thomas during the Super Bowl, and with Manning expected to throw early and often, Chancellor will have plenty of opportunities to make plays.