Editorial Notebook

Editor considers Super Bowl prospects

Is the Super Bowl the greatest spectacle in all of American sports? I’d say no, in favor of March Madness, the Division One college basketball postseason tournament. As great an event as the Super Bowl is, the three week adventure of exhilarating basketball action is in a class of its own. But most of the nearly 110 million American viewers who watched the game last year between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers would say differently. And they make a fair argument. Super Bowl Sunday has become like a holiday in America. Millions of Americans turn on their television sets in hopes of seeing the next great group of stars emerge into the spotlight and obtain greatness. And over the years, they haven’t been disappointed. From the 49ers’ fourth quarter drive to beat the Bengals to Joe Namath’s upstart Jets defeating the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, a host of exciting moments has captivated fans for nearly five decades.

This year’s contest will pit the flashy Denver Broncos against the rough-and-tumble Seattle Seahawks. It marks just the second time that two number one seeds will faceoff in the big game, the other time being when Peyton Manning’s Colts lost to the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV. In addition, it becomes only the third time in the Super Bowl era that two teams from the NFC West and AFC West, respectively, will play in the Super Bowl. In each of the previous two games, the 49ers defeated their AFC West foe handily. But this time, the 49ers were stopped in the waning seconds of the NFC Championship game by perhaps the best secondary the NFL has seen in the past 10 years: Seattle’s Legion of Boom.

Headed by the bombastic Richard Sherman (let’s not forget about his postgame interview this past weekend), the Seahawks have put together the league’s best defense. Not only did they allow the fewest points per game of any team (14.4), they also forced the most turnovers (39) and allowed the fewest yards per game (273.6). In their vaunted secondary, the Seahawks had three defenders make it to the Pro Bowl: the aforementioned Sherman, Kam Chancellor, and Earl Thomas. And the list of top defenders doesn’t stop there. Big men Brandon Mebane, Bruce Irvin, and Bobby Wagner all had stellar years defending the run and applying pressure on opposing quarterbacks. But the Seahawks haven’t faced a quarterback as good as Peyton Manning, and in general, an offense as proficient as that of the Denver Broncos.

In a season of many accomplishments, perhaps the most notable for the Broncos was that they set the record for most points scored in a season, with 606. After last year’s heartbreaking defeat in the divisional playoffs to the eventual champion Baltimore Ravens, Peyton Manning showed his drive to win in the NFL’s opening night game, once again against the Ravens, by throwing for a record-tying seven touchdowns. The beneficiaries of Manning’s incredible passing season, Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, and Julius Thomas, among others, all gave opposing secondaries headaches throughout the season. And, just to give Peyton’s arm a rest, Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno rushed for a career best 1,038 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns (he also added 60 catches for 548 yards, fifth among the NFL’s rushers in receiving). But, not only did the Broncos have a great offense, their run defense ranked among the NFL’s ten best. In addition, in their two playoff games, the Broncos have held opponents to 16.5 points per game, a figure that, if continued against the Seahawks, would give the nation’s best offense a great chance of winning.

Now to the game itself. Despite the fact that Super Bowl XLVIII is being played at Metlife Stadium in New Jersey where average high temperatures are mid-30’s for early February, the Broncos pass-first offense will be able to use a dink and dunk strategy of short passes to outmaneuver the Seahawk’s secondary enough to pull out the win in a tight one. Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch will have their moments against a susceptible Denver defense, including a myriad of Russell Wilson first down run plays. But, even with its ability to not turn the ball over, the Seahawks are simply too inexperienced (no players on Seattle’s active roster have played in a Super Bowl) to get it done this time. Unless it snows heavily, the Broncos will get it done in the first Super freeze Bowl. Final prediction: Peyton Manning cashes in and makes it two Super Bowl titles for a most distinguished career. Final Score: Broncos 23, Seattle 20 … and 35 “Omaha”s said by Peyton Manning.