Sure, this pick could be viewed simply as a case of aping the renowned work of Eli, the Hogle Zoo orangutan.
It also may have something to do with my choice of Seattle to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLVIII, published in August.
Or maybe I’m hearing the voices of some Utahns who get tired of having Denver’s games televised regularly in this market.
But there’s just something about the Seahawks that makes them earn my vote in this game. It’s not as if they’re totally lovable — even with three good guys from Utah State and Weber State, schools that have sent very few players to recent Super Bowls. The Seahawks talk too much (or not enough) and have had too many NFL suspensions for them to be universally embraced.
They’re also going against Peyton Manning, who can complete the best quarterbacking season in NFL history with a strong showing Sunday at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
What the underdog Seahawks have working for them is the NFL’s best defense, and the return of a receiver who was the biggest reason I liked them since last spring. Seattle’s acquisition of Percy Harvin figured to spark the offense this season, only to have him make rare appearances because of injuries.
So now it’s almost like the Seahawks have signed an All-Pro player just for the Super Bowl. Harvin is a difference-maker, drawing attention from defenses and making big plays. His availability should enable quarterback Russell Wilson to convert more third-down plays and sustain drives.
On the other side, the Seahawks have the kind of defense that can make it tough for Manning to do what he usually does. The Broncos feature "the best offense ever assembled," according to San Diego safety Eric Weddle, who said that sincerely after the Chargers’ 24-17 loss to Denver in an AFC divisional playoff game. Denver then defeated New England 26-16 in the conference championship game.
But look at those numbers again. That’s an average of 25 points, which Seattle’s offense certainly is capable of matching. And the Seahawks’ defense should hold Denver in that range.
With cornerbacks Richard Sherman (maybe you’ve heard of him) and Byron Maxwell (maybe not) and safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, Seattle has the personnel to cover Denver’s receivers. The Seahawks’ approach seems conservative, keeping Bobby Wagner of Utah State and the other linebackers in pass coverage most of the time. They’re counting on the coverage being so good for so long that the opposing offense’s timing is disrupted and the defensive linemen eventually can reach the quarterback.
It’s almost impossible to sack Manning, because he trusts his receivers so much that he’ll deliver the ball early. The Broncos also thrive on crossing routes designed to exploit man-to-man coverage. But that’s where the Seahawks will succeed, with the linebackers occupying the middle of the field.
Manning and the Broncos will rack up some yards, as they always do. San Diego is the only team to hold Denver under 400 total yards, which the Chargers did twice in three meetings. Ultimately, the Seahawks will have to make Denver kick field goals, rather than score touchdowns.
New England actually did that, but could not generate enough offense to stay with the Broncos. That’s where Marshawn Lynch comes into play. Seattle’s running back may not have been especially engaged in his media obligations this week, but he’ll be ready to go Sunday. Denver’s defense has been very good against the run in the playoffs, but the Broncos have not faced the likes of Lynch.
And that’s why Eli the orangutan went into Beast Mode the other day, destroying the Seahawks helmet to represent his Super Bowl pick. He made national news, and so will the Seahawks: Seattle 24, Denver 22.
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