“Defense will win the day, and the Giants’ defense overall is better than the Pats’ defense; even though the Patriots are slightly better on offense, I believe the Giants will win a thriller.”
James Frankland, February 4, 2012
“(W)hile this game could very well come down to the wire, it’s not particularly likely this year. Even though the NFC champs are favored slightly, expect the Ravens defense to contain the second-year (Colin) Kaepernick, while quarterback (Joe) Flacco will prove that experience (as well as a stout, punishing defense) wins games.”
James Frankland, February 2, 2013
So here we are again: Big Game No. 48, and it is once again time for your Fearless Forecaster to go on the record and keep his prediction streak, at two Big Games and counting, alive. This year, I expect your winner to be
The Denver Broncos.
This game on paper is a matchup of the NFL’s top ranked defensive team, the Seattle Seahawks, against its top rated offensive squad in the Broncos. While it has been the case that the last two games have been won by the better defensive squad, the X factor this season will be the presence of Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who had a career year two season removed from extensive neck surgery.
Manning also brings two games of Super Bowl experience to MetLife Stadium, which is two games more than his Seahawks counterpart, second-year starter Russell Wilson. As well, there is extensive big game experience at wide receiver in Wes Welker, who starred in several games for the New England Patriots.
Welker is not even the top target for Manning – that label goes to wideouts Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, who each amassed over 1,000 yards rreceiving; Thomas hauled in 92 passes and Decker 87. Knowshon Moreno, the Broncos’ leading rusher with just over 1,000 yards, also collected over 500 yards in receiving yardage.
The Seahawks’ primary strength is is in their “beast mode” running back, Marshawn Lynch, who rambled for 1,257 yards this season. Wilson’s receivers don’t have quite the gaudy statistics of their Denver counterparts, with none exceeding 1000 yards; Golden Tate was the top Seahawk pass-catcher with 64 catches for 898 yards.
It is on defense that the Seahawks have stood out, tops in pass defense and seventh leaguewide in run defense. The outspoken third year cornerback, Richard Sherman, is the face of this defense, collecting eight interceptions including one pick-six. Linebacker Robby Wagner amassed the most tackles for the Seahawks; expect to hear the names Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor called multiple times as well.
While the Broncos are not quite in the same class as Seattle on the defensive side of the ball, one name does stand out in this version of the Orange Crush: that of second year linebacker Danny Trevathan, who led the Broncos in tackles and interceptions. Another player to watch when the Broncos are on defense is Shaun Phillips, who collected 10.0 sacks.
Ultimately, the game will boil down to intangibles: Who adjusts better and more rapidly to the environment – this being the first outdoor cold-weather Super Bowl, the weather will be a key factor. Will this be Peyton Manning’s last game, if the Broncos win, and will that be a motivator? In the long run, it will be experienced leadership that wins out over youthful exuberance, and that points to a Broncos win. Plus, there is one other item: Chinese New Year having just started on January 31, and 2014 being the Year of the Horse in Chinese astrology. I expect the Mile High City to live up to its nickname in celebration.
As always, the kitchen awaits, and a pot of chili for the game.