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Friday, November 17 2017

NFL Predictions 2013: Super Bowl XLVIII

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I guess I can call the playoffs a success now. I got both winners (9-1 for the playoffs) and went 2-0 against the spread (8-2 for the playoffs) but I missed the AFC total so 1-1 on the over/under (7-3 for the playoffs) leaves me 15-5 against Vegas. Including my -8 regular season, somehow I have managed to guarantee a non-losing season overall. I’m still not sure how, but I’ll take it.

By the way I’m in eight place picking winners with a chance to move up a couple slots if I get the big one right.

 

Denver (15-3) vs. Seattle (15-3): After the title games, I was surprised to see the Seahawks only a small favorite to win. Then the spread swung 4 points the other direction and I really couldn’t believe it. The NFC is the superior conference. Prior to the title games people were saying either team would beat the Broncos or Patriots. What changed? I have given this game plenty of thought, two weeks worth. Most of that has been spent wondering if I should swap to the other side and if I’m missing something.

 

Obviously this whole “it’s Peyton’s year thing!” is going for Denver. It’s an awesome story with him chasing yet another chunk of history trying to become the first quarterback ever to lead two different franchises to a Super Bowl title. Those storylines don’t always work out though. Tom Brady was denied his record-breaking sixth appearance in a Super Bowl, and while I can’t verify if I’m pretty darn sure the 49ers were denied being the first team to win 9 road games in a season.

 

For Seattle, they have destiny on their side too. It’s a city that hasn’t tasted a title since the 70’s. They are the better team, people just don’t really understand all the reasons why so they insist on thinking Peyton’s side will win. Denver struggled some on offense in the playoffs against a couple teams with vastly inferior defenses to what they will face in Jersey. I’m not concerned about the weather, I’m concerned that an offense repeatedly forced to kick field goals against a depleted Patriots defense is somehow now expected to shine against an elite defense. I don’t see it.

 

There are questions about the Seahawks on offense for some reason. Why doesn’t Russell Wilson throw for 300 yards?! He doesn’t have to, and the team doesn’t ask him to. I’m not calling him a game manager, but he is for sure a risk manager. His jitters in the NFC title game coughing up the ball probably help him immensely in this one. He’s going to correct it. I’m sure the team also looked at why he kept running for his life, but even most of those subsequent situations he got rid of the ball and didn’t take sacks or turn it over. Here’s a newsflash for people out there. Denver’s defense is a shadow of San Francisco’s and they just scored 23 on them.

 

I’m left with a pretty simple formula here. Denver is scoring in the 20’s against average AFC defenses during the playoffs. Seattle put up 23 twice against a really good defense and another pretty good one from the NFC. I look for their total to go up and the Broncos to go down. Defensively, both teams held their foes down nicely, but New England was without Rob Gronkowski and had no stars on offense. San Diego isn’t a powerful offense either. Meanwhile, New Orleans has Drew Brees getting a second look at a team he had already been stifled against and San Francisco’s offense was back at full strength.

 

I know it feels like Denver has the best offense of all-time, but let’s break it down. Demaryius Thomas gets erased by Richard Sherman, so he’s gone. Wes Welker probably gets a concussion in the first half, and even if he doesn’t his impact will be similar to what Terrell Owens did in his Super Bowl. All of his catches are going to be underneath. Julius Thomas, without Seattle doing anything special, is invisible just like elite, superior tight ends this defense just faced in Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis. They’re left with smack talking Eric Decker and I don’t think he’s enough. The Seahawks can play straight up and do fine, but I see them blitzing and going out of character trying to knock Peyton down on what is going to be a cold night in Jersey.

 

When these teams met in the preseason it was obvious team speed and intensity gave Seattle an edge. The same things apply here. Maybe exhibitions don’t mean all that much and the 40-10 score is not going to happen here, but think about the following week when Denver played another NFC team (St. Louis). Peyton threw the ball 34 times so it’s not like he wasn’t in action, and they had to rally for a 27-26 win after trailing by 10 at the half. The Rams are another team with the ability to rush the passer.

 

Let’s play this out. I’ll call for Denver getting the ball first regardless of who wins the toss. They actually drive the field and kick a short field goal for the 3-0 lead. It won’t be a dominant march. Seattle’s first touch of the ball will be three-and-out, and they are happy to punt the ball believe me. Denver’s next crack results in another short field goal leaving only a little time left on the first quarter clock. At this point expect the announcers to be talking like Peyton has his second ring locked up, and in some ways it will appear that way. Seattle hasn’t started to work the body though, to use a boxing analogy.

 

The Seahawks will move the chains in their second possession, but I’m calling for them to end the first frame down 6-0. A key play to Percy Harvin for maybe 20 yards is the catalyst to their touchdown drive, but Marshawn Lynch is the one to punch it in for a 7-6 lead. The Broncos get it a third time and suddenly feel the grip of the elite defense tightening around their throat. After one first down, they put it away. Seattle’s third possession sees them work the ball past midfield and stall in no man’s land. Pete Carroll gambles on fourth down and comes up short. His defense picks him up though and a long field goal doesn’t work for Matt Prater. The game goes to half with everyone who took the “over” in a panic.

 

Seattle is going to get a nice kickoff return to start the second half, which is going to belong to the offenses. They will drive the rest of the way for a touchdown, this time a scramble by Russell Wilson on a march kept alive by a key completion to tight end Zach Miller. They take a 14-6 lead with about 10 minutes left in the third quarter, and force a quick punt from Denver to get the ball right back. After moving the chains once or twice, their offense stalls for a punt. Trailing and feeling the heat, Peyton commits the game’s first turnover with a pick that Byron Maxwell returns into field goal range. They aren’t settling for three though, as Percy Harvin goes deep for six and a 21-6 lead as the third quarter winds down.

 

Denver won’t be able to stay patient and run the ball with a big deficit, but they finally get their offense in gear to engineer a touchdown march. The breakthrough comes just as the game enters the final quarter. John Fox didn’t learn his lesson from his previous Super Bowl and chases the points on the conversion. A Knowshon Moreno run fails and Seattle’s lead is 21-12. Beast Mode starts to really come into play for Seattle’s offense. Time is on their side with the lead and they get down the field to chew up valuable minutes before cashing in with a field goal and extend their lead to 24-12. Peyton, to his credit, is not going to go down without a fight. He rallies his offense and again comes up with a touchdown drive, but time is ticking away. He finally cashes in with just over two minutes to play, trimming the lead to 24-19.

 

Kicking deep, Seattle offsets it with another big return. They get a long run by Lynch to get into Denver territory quickly inside of two minutes, with the clock stopped because he is driven out of bounds. Three plays later, it’s decision time for Pete Carroll who is within field goal range facing fourth-and-two having drained Denver of their remaining timeouts. This time he goes to his kicker and comes up big for the 27-19 lead. Peyton Manning has just over a minute without the ability to stop the clock, but his march for the tie ends short when one of his receivers fumbles away the ball. Game over: Seattle 27, Denver 19 (SEA +3/under 48)

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