Super Bowl Duke Debates: Denver Broncos

AP Photo
AP Photo

Pat Higgins | Asst. Sports Editor

If you were hoping for another installment in the recent string of uber-exciting Super Bowl Sundays, then the NFL’s 47th world championship surely won’t disappoint.

Consider: eight of the last 12 Super Bowls have been decided by six points or less. The league’s annual curtain call in years past have produced some of the most dramatic spectacles the sport has seen, whether it be Tom Brady’s emergence in the early 2000s, David Tyree’s helmet catch to thwart the Patriots’ undefeated campaign in 2008, Santonio Holmes’ insanely acrobatic toe drag in the corner of the end zone to seal the Steelers’ sixth title and pretty much everything in between.

The last time the Super Bowl was decided by more than a touchdown was in 2007, when Peyton Manning beat Rex Grossman and the Chicago Bears under rainy conditions in Miami.

So enter Manning again and you may expect a lopsided tilt when you consider the 37-year-old is weeks removed from the finest statistical season a quarterback has ever strung together.

But the first cold-weather Super Bowl ever matches up the league’s most prolific offense against the highest-scoring defense of the 2013-14 season, so it’s almost a guarantee that there’ll be fireworks before the clock hits 0:00 in the Meadowlands this year.

Better yet, the matchup features Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, “the best corner in the league,” according to Richard Sherman, and arguably the best signal caller of this generation in the swamps of North Jersey (sorry TB, you can blame the youngest Manning brother for the ranking).

Yes, Richard Sherman made it clear in the moments following the NFC Championship Game that it’s his world and we’re all just living in it. But you have to give it to the 6-foot-3 Compton native who graduated from Stanford boasting a 3.9 GPA. He’s pulled down 20 interceptions since he was drafted in the 5th round of the 2011 NFL Draft – the most in the NFL by a longshot since that time. He told Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins in July that he studies each quarterback’s tendencies with his “near photographic memory.”

“Take Matt Ryan from Atlanta,” he told Jenkins. “He’s a great quarterback with two great receivers. But he puts the ball in certain places. I won’t tell you where—but I go to those places.”

The strategy has worked seemingly well for Seattle’s outspoken corner. But there’s one exception to that rule: No. 18 for the Denver Broncos.

He told SI’s Peter King last week, “You can’t get in Peyton’s head. If you get in his head, you’ll get lost.”

The “Legion of Boom,” the nickname bestowed upon the Seahawks coach Pete Carroll’s fast and physical secondary, certainly led the Seahawks to the NFC’s top seed, but the man calling the shots on the other side of the line of scrimmage is precisely the reason why Denver will hoist the Lombardi Trophy come Sunday night.

Just ask Vegas—the Broncos are 2.5-point favorites.

Forget the cold-weather, big-game jinx the media has attached to Manning’s hip since he struggled to get past Tom Brady in the early stages of their storied rivalry. Because in a plot twist everyone should see coming, both teams will have to endure the temperatures forecasted in the mid-30s Sunday night.

There’s a lot of other storylines surrounding this game, namely whether the Broncos’ depleted defense can stop running back Marshawn Lynch or slow down receiver/return man Percy Harvin. But they held the Patriots to just 64 yards on the ground last week, while the offense jumped to a 26-10 lead with seven minutes to go in the AFC Championship Game.

The guy just threw for 5,477 yards and 55 TDs in the regular season. His touchdown record likely will not be touched for at least another decade. He’s suited up for 240 regular season games and 22 postseason battles since he was drafted in 1998.

He’s got Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker lined up outside him, with Knowshon Moreno handling the carries. He’s perhaps the smartest man to ever play the position – how many different meanings can you attach to the word “Omaha?”

Weather is going to play a miniscule factor in this game. There’s no doubt the Seahawks will compete, but there’s no logical reason to pick against Peyton. There’s a chance, pending an extensive examination of his injured neck this offseason that this could be Manning’s last NFL start. There’s no chance he squanders it.

Broncos win 27-24. Seattle takes a lead late, but leaves entirely too much time on the clock for 18.