Only one of our guys bucks the Broncos
FOR THE MOST part, the Daily News staff sees the Broncos riding off into the East Rutherford, N.J., sunset, even though it will be moonlit when the game is over.
Here are their reasons:
This has become one of those enchanted seasons elite athletes such as Peyton Manning sometimes have. Sort of like Steve Young in 1994, Nicklas Lidstrom in 2002 or LeBron James in 2012.
Manning has regained his individual passing records for yards and touchdowns, and now has his sights on a second championship. The last quarterback to join the select list with two Super Bowls was his brother Eli, which is just one little more nudge of motivation for Peyton.
Like a bullet through Moe Greene's eye, Manning will settle his remaining business on Sunday. He washed away the disappointment of last year's disastrous playoff loss to Baltimore with a solid victory over San Diego in this year's divisional round. Then he put up 400 yards against the Patriots, his biggest nemesis, in the AFC Championship Game.
It won't be easy, but Manning will get through the No. 1 defense in football and will put to rest the notion that he can't win away from home in 30-degree weather.
If that happens, then we can all debate the next issue. If Manning wins the championship again next year, who's the better quarterback of this generation, him or Tom Brady?
Broncos 23, Seahawks 19
I've been covering the Seahawks all week, and I like them a lot - they're young and brash and they have the kind of big, fast defense you know Chip Kelly and Bill Davis would love to build in Philadelphia.
But I'm thinking the Broncos win.
For the past several years, the NFL has been about quarterbacks and passing and offense. In that context, I will take Peyton Manning. If the Seahawks win, Russell Wilson will be the first quarterback since Brad Johnson for Tampa Bay 11 years ago to ride the shoulders of his defense to the title. (Yeah, you could argue Ben Roethlisberger did it for his first Super Bowl win a few years later, but since then, definitely, the best quarterback wins. The best passing quarterback wins. With the best offensive line, which I think in this case is Denver.)
I keep in mind that Colin Kaepernick was a handful of yards and one play from changing that QB narrative a year ago. I won't be shocked if the Seahawks emerge with the Lombardi Trophy - in fact, I'll be a bit thrilled, because it will mean things are changing in the NFL. But I haven't seen nearly enough to bet on that.
Broncos 27, Seahawks 23
My only hope for this Super Bowl is that weather doesn't play too much of a factor. I want to watch the two best teams display their talents on a field that will allow them to do so.
Anyway, when you have the best defense in the league going up against the best offense, my gut says to go with the defense.
I see this being a real struggle for Peyton Manning and company. I don't think those short slants will be there too much, and if he has to hold the ball longer than he wants, that could be even bigger trouble.
Of course, Seattle's offense hasn't been scaring many people lately, but it has been doing just enough to win.
I think Marshawn Lynch is the difference in this one. I see him getting close to 25 carries and leading the Seahawks to their first crown as MVP.
Seahawks 24, Broncos 20
A lot of Peyton Manning naysayers seem to think he will wilt Sunday against the Seahawks' feared Legion of Boom defense. They think Richard Sherman and the rest of Seattle's oversized secondary will manhandle Peyton's receivers and make them wet their pants.
While I have great respect for the Seahawks' defense, I think Manning and the Broncos' recordsetting offense will be able to move the ball and score points. Maybe not 40, but I think 24 certainly is doable.
The bigger question is the other matchup: the Broncos' defense against the Seahawks' offense. The Broncos have lost some key defensive players to injury, including linebacker Von Miller and cornerback Chris Harris. Nevertheless, Denver has not allowed more than 17 points in their last four games, including their playoff wins over two teams with pretty good offenses, the Chargers and Patriots.
Marshawn Lynch has rushed for 249 yards in the Seahawks' first two postseason wins. But I think the Broncos, who finished seventh against the run this season, can keep him under, say, 110.
Russell Wilson could be a problem if the Broncos allow him to get outside the pocket and extend plays. But the 2013 Wilson hasn't been nearly as prolific as the 2012 one. In his last six games, he has a pedestrian 82.0 passer rating, including a 57.9 completion percentage and just five touchdown passes and three interceptions.
Drum roll, please . . .
Broncos 24, Seahawks 21
In the interest of making it interesting, the temptation is to pick Seattle, with its charismatic cast and coach. Oh, yes, and that ravenous defense.
Considering Peyton Manning's troubles during his career with playing in sketchy weather, the temptation increases.
But Manning's bad-weather record can be excused, to a degree, by the fact that he seldom had to play in the worst of elements when he was in Indianapolis, and he seems to have figured it out.
Still, given 2 weeks to prepare for that defense, how can you bet against Peyton?
Russell Wilson and Co. will be back. They might even be good enough to win.
Broncos 28, Seahawks 18
On paper, this is one of the most balanced Super Bowls in recent memory.
The strength of the Denver Broncos offense is matched by the strength of the Seattle Seahawks defense. It's the old cliché of the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object.
So in a case like this, you look to which team has the player most likely to exploit the smallest crack and make something happen.
That's the Broncos with quarterback Peyton Manning. With 2 weeks to study and dissect the Seahawks' defense, Manning will come up with a plan of attack that will put up enough points to force the Seattle offense and second-year quarterback Russell Wilson into the uncomfortable position of having to keep up.
I predicted the Broncos as the Super Bowl winner before the season and have seen no reason to change. The Broncos will make just enough plays to win.
Broncos 23, Seahawks 17