After two weeks of hype, Super Bowl XLVIII is nearly here.
Having had plenty of time to break down the tape, crunch the numbers and analyze this year's matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos, it's finally prediction time.
Without further ado, below are my last-minute predictions for the big game on Feb. 2.
Date: Sunday, Feb. 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.
Super Bowl XLVIII Champion: Seattle Seahawks
There are strong cases to be made for both the Seahawks and the Broncos, but it's difficult to pick against Seattle given its unrivaled defensive prowess. Although both teams have played lights-out on that side of the ball through the playoffs, the Seahawks' ability to force turnovers at a high rate clearly sets them apart.
Which team will win it all?
While both units are allowing under 17 points per game in the postseason, the Seahawks have also forced four total turnovers, compared to zero for the Broncos. It's no secret that turnovers are game-changers this time of year and can befall even the most prolific offenses.
Plus, Seattle's elite secondary and pass rush has neutralized opposing passing attacks all year long. With Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor leading the way, watch for the team's defensive backs to disrupt the timing of the Broncos receivers, thus giving its dominant front seven more time to get to Peyton Manning, as Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll points out via ESPN Seattle's Brady Henderson:
Carroll on the Seahawks' pass rush against Manning: "We've got to move him." Not just about sacks but about getting him off his spot, too.— Brady Henderson (@BradyHenderson) January 30, 2014
The Broncos offensive line has been incredibly stout all season long—allowing zero sacks in the playoffs—and Manning will have a plethora of weapons to choose from. But keep in mind that Denver has yet to face a secondary as physical or communicative as Seattle's.
Offensively, the Seahawks have a powerful running game to lean on and a dual-threat quarterback in Russell Wilson to bail them out.
Prediction: Seahawks 23, Broncos 21
Super Bowl XLVIII MVP: Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks
Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch prefers to let his game speak for itself, per ESPN's Kenny Mayne, and on Super Sunday, Beast Mode is sure to steal the show.
Lynch is paid to run..whether he wants to yield to interview requests is his call.. Here "We need to establish the run.." -Marshawn Lynch— Kenny Mayne (@Kenny_Mayne) January 29, 2014
The NFL's leading rusher this postseason, Lynch has accounted for 249 rushing yards and three touchdowns in two Seattle wins, powering the Seahawks offense and, at times, putting the team on his back.
Which Super Bowl MVP favorite will take home the honors?
Although Denver's ability to stop the run has been its biggest strength defensively, Lynch and his offensive lineman proved in their NFC Championship Game victory over the San Francisco 49ers that they are capable of overcoming the league's top run-stopping units.
Assuming Seahawks center Max Unger and starting guards J.R. Sweezy and James Carpenter can get to Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton and move him on a consistent basis, Lynch's bruising style of running is sure to pay off for Seattle.
He's averaging five yards per carry this postseason and has surpassed the 100-yard mark in each of the past two games. If he can continue that trend vs. Denver and the Seahawks win, he'll have a great shot to become the first running back to win Super Bowl MVP honors since Denver's Terrell Davis back in 1998.
Prediction: 25 carries, 115 yards, one touchdown
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