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Fearless Rick's NFL Super Bowl XLVIII Pick

Welcome to the very best in winning NFL and College Football picks.
Rick Gagliano | February 2, 2014

All times Eastern - Click here for more.

Sunday, February 2, 6:30 pm, MetLife Stadium

Denver Broncos (-2 1/2, 47 1/2) vs Seattle Seahawks

If one could write a script for the perfect Super Bowl, perhaps this year's version would fit the bill nicely.

The aging quarterback - Peyton Manning - seeking a second Super Bowl ring after a season off and two seasons with his new team, breaking NFL scoring records and passing marks, against the youthful upstart with the quietly efficient quarterback - Russell Wilson - and the best defense in the league.

What better match-up could one have imagined? The best offense, Denver, scoring at a pace of 37.9 points per game during the regular season, meets the league's top defense, which allowed just 263.8 yards and 14.4 points per game, both best in the NFL.

While it's been said by none other than Vince Lombardi himself that "defense wins championships," it would be easy to pick the Seahawks for their dominance when the other guys have the ball, but, before just going the way of the cliche, it must be recognized that the Seahawks will be facing possibly the greatest quarterback in the history of the game, and that's largely more fact than brag.

Peyton Manning has pretty much dispelled all of the demons over the past two years, having been unceremoniously (and maybe, mistakenly) disposed of by the Colts, Manning has had two outstanding seasons with the Broncos, this one being the better of the two, setting a league scoring record and hitting the 35-point-plus mark in ten of their 13 wins.

Denver's offense has been slowed a bit in the playoffs, though that was expected, winning, 24-17, against San Diego, a team they'd already played twice during the regular season (and went 1-1 against) and, 26-16, in the AFC championship over the visiting New England Patriots, a team that not only beat the Broncos during the regular season, but turned a 24-0 deficit at half time into a 34-31 overtime victory.

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Add to that reversal that Manning got the better of longtime rival Tom Brady, and the importance and significance of the Denver win comes into better focus. It may not have been pretty, but, as with the win over the Chargers, the defense came to play and made the stops needed throughout both games.

Noting that, Denver's defense probably doesn't get anywhere near the credit it deserves. They're on the field longer than many defenses, owing to the fact that Manning and the offense often score in a hurry and in bunches. Thus, they give up more than their fair share of points, but, on the other hand, they're not the biggest bunch up front, nor are they an iron fist against the pass. They do give up yards, big plays and points, no matter how many the Denver offense scores.

Denver's defense was 22nd in points and yards allowed, yielding 24.9 points and 340.1 yards per game, respectively. Anyone looking for the Denver defense to win the game for the Broncos is looking in precisely the wrong place. If anything, the hope is that Denver's defense doesn't lose the game. Manning can only be expected to do so much against the league's best defense. He is still, after all, just one guy, albeit blessed with the greatest skill-set any quarterback ever may have possessed.

Manning has size, a quick release, an uncanny knack to read defenses and some running ability, probably his greatest deficiency. If he's pressured, he's capable of moving around, but scrambling and running for first downs is definitely not his strong suit. In fact, he's probably picked up maybe three first downs running in the past two years. Nobody is going to mistake Manning for RG3, that's for sure.

Denver's offense will be facing a Seattle defense that led the league with 28 interceptions and had three against Colin Kaepernick in their 23-17 NFC Championship win over the 49ers.

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Seattle's defense depends more on containment than sacking the quarterback, which may be a strategy that doesn't exactly fit into this game plan because Manning does most of his damage from within the pocket. The Seahawks registered 44 sacks during the regular season (Denver had 41), but held opposing QBs to just 162.9 yards passing per game, again, the lowest total in the league. By comparison, the Broncos were 28th against the pass, giving up a horrifying 242.4 yards per contest. Both teams were comparable against the run, with Seattle allowing 100.8 yards and Denver, 97.6, on the ground.

When Seattle has the ball, the offense will be led by second year QB Russell Wilson, who made his name in college with both the North Carolina Wolfpack and the Wisconsin Badgers. As a starter for Seattle - and he hasn't missed a start yet - Wilson has turned NFL offenses more toward a collegiate style, along with other running QBs like Cam Newton, Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III. Combining the traditional pocket passer with the intricacies of the read option is becoming the preferred style for NFL offenses, and Wilson is a leading proponent.

While not as accurate a thrower as Manning, it has to be conceded that Wilson is often on the move when throwing, and is often trying to make plays downfield that are into tight spaces n the sidelines, or he is throwing the ball away to avoid a loss. This style sometimes leads to big losses on key downs against fast-pursuing defenses or penalties for intentional grounding, though Wilson is pretty good at avoiding both.

What really separates the opposing QBs in this game is Wilson's running. He's very elusive outside the pocket and can be counted upon to pick up key yardage either scrambling or running the read option with running back Marshawn Lynch.

During Seattle's two playoff wins this season, Wilson hasn't been running much. Against New Orleans, he carried the ball officially three times for just sixteen yards. In the win over the 49ers, he had five carries, but was held to no yardage. Seattle scored 23 points in both wins; Wilson did not throw any interceptions, but, generally speaking, the opposing defenses held him in check on the ground.

If Denver's offense is elite, Seattle's is ordinary, though they are an efficient bunch. Once Lynch has a dozen or so carries, the defense starts breaking down and he gathers steam. This was in clear evidence against the 49ers, when Lynch broke free for a 40-yard romp that tied the game in the third quarter. Overall, he carried 22 times for 109 yards, which helped the Seahawks dictate tempo, which will be important gainst Denver. Keeping Manning off the field will be a priority for Seattle, and, if Lynch can get the ground yardage to keep the sticks moving, it's going to be a long day for Denver's defense.

It's unlikely that either team will have unbridled success offensively. Seattle's defense is too good for that and Denver's defense will probably keep Lynch and Wilson somewhat bottled up, especially in the first half. It's in the second half, when the defenses begin to tire and the adrenaline rush wears off that the bulk of the scoring is going to occur. That's troublesome for the Seahawks, because Manning is relentless and the offense very disciplined in running the hurry-up.

All times Eastern - Click here for more

Copyright 2013, 2014, Rick Gagliano, Downtown Magazine. All rights reserved. Downtown Magazine is located in the Uinted States of America and is not affiliated with the National Football League or the NCAA. For more information, contact us here. Use of this site is for entertainment purposes only.


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