That’s the easy answer to the question: Why pick the Broncos to win the Super Bowl?
It’s also the right one.
There’s danger in relying too heavily on a single reason, a single player, for victory in such a big game because leaning toward a broad base is safer … like, say, the entire Seattle Seahawks defense. If one of those 11 defenders has a bad game, the other guys can partially cover for him. That defense ranks first in total defense, scoring defense, passing defense, and takeaways. Furthermore, what if Manning has an off game? What if some unforeseen variable comes into play? What if the cold really does bother him (he’s never won a playoff game in weather colder than 40 degrees)?
Answers: He won’t. One won’t. It won’t.
Some people believe the Seahawks defense is going to knock Manning off the record-setting rocket he’s riding, that the multiple looks executed by that formidable defense will disrupt him enough, as other defenses in other big games have done in the past, for Seattle to deny the veteran quarterback his second Super Bowl title, and for the Seahawks to claim their first.
But the opposite, I’m guessing, is going to happen.
I’ve seen breakdowns of Manning’s past performances against highly ranked defenses and highly ranked pass defenses, and those studies are pretty much a wash. Manning has won a bunch of those games and lost a bunch. In his only Super Bowl win, he beat a great Chicago Bears defense, although he didn’t put up great stats. This time, though, he seems better prepared to handle the flak the talented Seahawks will fire off against him. He may not be as physically strong as he was earlier in his career, but he’s smarter than he’s ever been.
If Pete Carroll’s defense brings extra pressure to take Manning out of his expansive comfort zone, the best read-and-recognition guy in the game will see it coming and make quick adjustments. If Carroll’s D drops extra assets into coverage, he’ll peruse the field and find the open receiver. If Carroll’s defense does neither, Manning will dissect that too-standard-to-make-a-difference scenario and Omaha, Omaha the thing to death.
So, if you’re Seattle, what do you do?
If you buy into that whole defense-wins-championships nonsense, then this game presents challenges for you, too. The Broncos have been playing improved defense, and they will face a simpler task in attempting to slow the Seahawks’ attack, led by a young quarterback — Russell Wilson is more than 12 years the junior of Manning — that may not be completely prepared for what he’s about to experience.
But the fun part of this matchup is that No. 1 offense versus that No. 1 defense. If you like points on the board and yards stacked deep, if Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw are your kind of football players, you’ll go with Denver. If you prefer stopped drives and punts, if Dick Butkus and Deion Sanders are your guys, you’ll take Seattle.
Here’s a shout-out for the offense.
• Manning has mostly bigger targets — Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are 6-foot-3 and Julius Thomas is 6-5, 250 pounds, along with the diminutive-but-tough Wes Welker — who will be covered by talented-but-smaller defensive backs.
• The Broncos offensive line has protected Manning well, and when it hasn’t, the quarterback has unloaded the ball deftly.
• Running back Knowshon Moreno, who has a dinged rib but should play, went for 1,000 rushing yards this season and 500 receiving yards. He’s just enough to prolong Denver drives and keep Seattle’s defense honest.
Conversely, when Seattle’s offense is on the field, the Broncos D must find a way to keep Marshawn Lynch from going proper Beast Mode.
But, really, this whole thing comes down to the brightest quarterback in the game facing the toughest defense. Truth is, the narrative ends a lot better if the legendary old guy lives up to his legend, if the guy scrapping back from a series of career-threatening neck surgeries for one more shot at one more championship actually reaches out and grabs it.
Anyone who says differently is a boob and a story-killer.
Yeah, there’s one best reason to pick the Broncos to win Super Bowl 48.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 and 960 AM.