Complete Seattle team should triumph Super Bowl Sunday

Published 11:45 pm Friday, January 31, 2014

Russell Wilson is set for a big day. Sure, Wilson’s looked somewhat ordinary for awhile now, but I maintain that’s due to the competition he’s faced and not any kind of sophomore slump. Seattle’s faced San Francisco, New Orleans, St. Louis, Arizona, New York (Giants), San Francisco and New Orleans again since Seattle’s bye. Five of Wilson’s past seven games have come against top tier defensive squads. The Giants were solid defensively as well, and the Rams certainly had their mom-ents, as the Saints can attest.

Over that span? Wilson tossed eight touchdowns and three interceptions. He completed less than 64 percent of his passes just twice in that span. Most importantly, Seattle went 5-2 over that span, including three wins and one two point loss over New Orleans/San Francisco, in my opinion two slam dunk top five teams from the past season.

Wilson’s numbers haven’t been spectacular because being such isn’t  what his team’s asked or needed him to do. That’s about to change, because Seattle can��t expect to shut Peyton Manning down. More importantly …

Von Miller won’t play. At Wilson’s best, he’s buys — actually, outright steals — time in the pocket, scrambling around like the souped up new school version of Doug Flutie and making big plays down the field. Wilson often gets classified as a “running” quarterback, and he did rush for more than 500 yards this season. But he wants to run to create passing opportunities for himself.

Without Miller, Denver’s best pass rusher, I don’t think the Broncos are going to have much to chase down Wilson. Seattle isn’t a team with great receivers, but they’ve got depth at the position to attack Denver’s secondary corners, and I’d expect more than a few big plays in the passing game.

Seattle’s the more complete team. Sometimes, this isn’t the end all, be all. Saying Denver’s a one-trick pony is kinda like saying the same of Devery Henderson in his hey day. Henderson’s only trick was his speed; but it was a heck of a trick. Denver’s all about its passing game, and it was simply the best in NFL history.

That said, Seattle boasts one of the best pass defenses in league history. This is a primetime matchup.

Unlike the Saints, I believe Denver has the receiving weapons to perhaps get to the Seahawks. New Orleans had Jimmy Graham on a bad wheel and the guys behind him either weren’t as big or as fast (or both) as the Seahawks defending them. The Thomas boys and Eric Decker won’t have that problem, and Wes Welker is certainly likely to create nightmares for anyone checking him in the slot.

But here’s the problem; if Seattle’s defense is up to the task and can at least slow the Broncos, I’m not sure what Denver has left to take down the Seahawks. Seattle can beat you through the air. Seattle can pound you to death with Marshawn Lynch. Seattle’s pass defense is one of the best ever, and its run defense, while at times comparatively vulnerable against a power running attack, isn’t exactly a sieve. And Seattle may boast the best special teams in football.

Denver can beat you on the arm of Manning, but the defense without Miller is probably more of a top 20 defense than top 5-10. The running game is solid enough, and Manning will certainly put his backs in the best spot to succeed, but it’s not a dominating attack on its own merit by any means.

The cold. A lot’s been said on it, but we’ll hit it quickly once here: a team relying on a precise, timing-based passing attack can’t feel great about extreme cold, rain, snow or wind. Reports as of Friday morning made it seem that the teams might get relatively off the hook in terms of truly horrible weather, but it probably won’t be absolutely peachy either.

Turnovers. Finally, when you have a matchup between evenly matched teams, the turnover battle always looms large. There’s an element of randomness to any single game, and certainly Seattle could come out and put the ball on the turf twice in the first quarter and lose the turnover battle.

They’re not likely to, though. Seattle was first by a mile in turnover differential, and to see them play in either of the past two weeks, you begin to understand that it’s no accident. Mark Ingram had fumbled just once over his NFL career before a perfect hit dislodged the ball three weeks ago. Colin Kaepernick’s three-turnover meltdown in the fourth quarter has to be absolutely frightening to John Fox right about now. Seattle forced 39 turnovers in the regular season and that number is now up to 43 in 18 games.

Seattle forced turnovers on 20 percent of opposing possessions during the regular season. That’s staggering. 

Seattle can play on the road. The Seahawks went 6-2 away from Seattle this season. Their point differential at home versus on the road was just slightly off of Denver’s (who also went 6-2 on the road).

To me, Denver has one clear avenue for victory: that the greatest truly is the Greatest, and Manning and his war chest of weapons are too big, too fast, too smart and too good for Seattle — or anyone else — to stop when it matters.

I don’t see it breaking down that way. The NFL has seen offenses explode more than ever, yet defense-first teams always seem to be hanging around in the Conference Championships and Super Bowl. Defense isn’t dead; the better ones just seem to stand out more.

If Denver sputters at all, I don’t think Seattle lets it off the mat. This Seahawks team played an exceptionally difficult schedule and stands at 15-3. It beat the 49ers twice; the Saints twice; the Panthers, Cardinals and Colts. Denver is a great team as well — neither team lost any game this season by more than a touchdown.

But at the end of the day, the Seahawks just have too many tools in the box.

The Pick: Seattle 30, Denver 22.