Friday, January 31, 2014

The Super Bowl Pick

I Would Buy This Merch
Denver vs. SEATTLE (+2.5)

The case for Denver: Historically high performing offense, with the best and deepest group of skill players in many years. Offensive numbers may actually be under-reported, given methodical pace of play. QB Peyton Manning is a clear Hall of Famer with a legacy opportunity. Team has shown the ability to just go into overdrive and become unstoppable on offense, and is much better at overcoming a deficit than Seattle's more run-driven attack. Special teams have been explosive, and the defense is playing its best ball of the year. Has more or less dominated their two earlier playoff games against teams that have relied on a power running game. Have a probable coaching advantage, since HC Jon Fox has been here before; have a definite advantage in personnel experience, since Manning has won a Super Bowl before. Without getting too far down the rabbit hole of conspiracy, will get the better of officiating; they have all year and have been more disciplined than Seattle.

The case against Denver: Champion of the weaker conference, with a much easier schedule to get here. Defense has shown clear problems with opposing passing games, especially if they don't get heat on the QB. Haven't had to deal much with mobile QBs, and they are about to face one of the best in the league at that. Manning can be turnover-prone. While distraction is a clear nonsense factor for the most part, many Broncos seem to be moving on after this game, with multiple retirements and releases hinted at. Fox has crapped the bed before with too-conservative play-calling. Offense hasn't faced anything like this secondary, and could get dominated to the point where the speed pass rushers get to Manning. While the weather isn't expected to be a particularly strong factor, cold and wind isn't terribly conducive to an aging QB with occasional arm strength issues. RB Knowshon Moreno has moved into more of a timeshare as the season has moved forward, and while backup Montee Ball has more talent, size and explosiveness, he's also been more fumble-prone.

The case for Seattle: In SBs where the best offense faces the best defense, the best defense has won three of four prior matchups. Offense is significantly less turnover prone and can make this a time of possession frustration experience for Manning. If they can get production out of WR Percy Harvin to go with surprisingly competent secondary threats Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate, this offense has another dimension just when it needed it. Secondary is just incredible, with big hitters that are also fundamentally sound at tackling, and they even pick balls off. Special teams don't beat them, and the entire team plays with fire and emotion that can make one good play turn into ten with a quickness.

The case against Seattle: Just a different team away from home, and while this is basically a neutral site game that might swing their way, they just might not bring their A game to NJ. Wilson played a great game against a terrific defense with San Francisco, but was shaky at best against New Orleans, and will need to be as good here; that's a lot to ask from a second-year guy who doesn't get many early down chances at easier yards. Offensive line has been injured much of the year, and not as cohesive as you would hope. Could have easily lost at home against the Niners; defense in particular struggles late in games and can get gassed when the speed pass rush stops getting to the QB. Offense is prone to slow starts.

The pick: Well, Seattle was my preseason choice to win it all, and while I wavered a little in the face of what appeared to be a peaking Niners team, it's not like I was completely off the bandwagon. The NFC was a *lot* better than the AFC this year, so much so that I'm wondering if we could just have an old-time awful game from the last century. You kids don't remember this, but it used to be the SB was usually a terrible game, with multiple Buffalo homicides, or the Chargers or Patriots getting curb stomped by teams that seemed to be drawing from an entirely different talent pool, especially on defense. Free agency and more uniform scouting has made these games mostly go away, and you can also pull in your favorite conspiracy theory here, but the plain and simple of it is that every game doesn't have to be a classic, and every game that's expected to be close, well, isn't. That would seem to favor Denver, who seem much more likely to get a quick score and then run off and hide, but this Seahawk defense did nasty things to Drew Brees and the Saints... and, well, the Bronco offense is pretty Saint-like at its core. I can see a late score that makes the game seem closer and more interesting than it really was, but in the final analysis, give me young and mobile over old and crafty, and in something of a shock to the nation's advertisers, Russell Wilson over Peyton Manning.

The prediction: Seahawks 31, Broncos 24

Last week: 1-1

Playoffs:
5-4-1

Year to date: 119-129-10

Past Super Bowls: 3-4

Career: 487-501-39

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