hard to believe that Super Bowl XLVIII is only the second Big Game
since 1993-94 to feature the conference’s two top seeds, but the
NFL’s first cold-weather title match could not be more evenly
matched, at least on paper.
fact, some of the parallels between the record-setting Broncos and
defensive-minded Seahawks are downright stunning. It starts with the
surface numbers: these were the two teams with the league’s best
record (13-3), guaranteeing the NFL champion will own at least a
share of football’s best record since the 2003 Patriots, who were
offense was beyond outrageously good this year, eclipsing the 2007
Patriots’ mark of 589 points by scoring 606. Seattle scored “only”
417 points, but allowed a measly 231, the fewest in football, meaning
we will witness the first championship game since Super Bowl XIX
featuring two teams that outscored its opponents by at least 10 PPG.
(For the record, that game ended in a 38-16 49ers blowout of the
these teams got here also developed in quite comparable fashion. Both
got off to hot starts (Denver 5-0, Seattle 4-0) before suffering
their first loss by six points on the road at Indianapolis (the
Broncos lost 39-33, the Seahawks lost 34-28 just two weeks apart).
Then, both tore off long winning streaks before those were snapped…
by the teams they would ultimately beat in the conference
both suffered their third and final losses at home in the division in
games that could have cost them homefield advantage – but didn’t –
with Denver falling to San Diego and Seattle losing to Arizona.
that would lead to playoff runs that have also looked identical, at
least in the score department. The Broncos fended off the pesky
Chargers in the divisional round 24-17, while the Seahawks held off a
Saints rally in a 23-15 win. In the title games, Denver got revenge
for their earlier stunning loss to New England, 26-16, while Seattle
avenged their Week 14 loss to San Francisco, 23-17.
here we are. Number one offense. Number one defense. And did we
mention the experience factor? Or, should we say, lack thereof? The
Seahawks are the first team since the 1990 Bills to enter the Super
Bowl with nary a single player who has played in this game before.
Yet the Broncos aren’t much savvier in this spot, with only four
players who have been here before, and only Peyton Manning owning a
championship ring from his Super Bowl XLI triumph.
Fox took the upstart Carolina Panthers to Super Bowl XXXVIII after
the 2003 season, coming up three points short against the
aforementioned Patriots… a team once coached by his XLVIII
counterpart, Pete Carroll, who was once revered for becoming the
first head coach to win a playoff game with a losing team with the
7-9 Seahawks in 2010. (Oh by the way, that same year, Fox was run out
of Charlotte after a lame-duck, 2-14 season with the Panthers that
netted the team the top overall pick which of course was used on Cam
let’s put that little aside from 2003 behind us and focus on the
present. These are two teams that appear as evenly matched as any
Super Bowl combatants we’ve seen in a while, and let’s not lose sight
of the fact that despite a deceiving 14-point final score (31-17) in
Manning’s last Super Bowl in 2009, we have not witnessed a Super Bowl
a nail-biter since his first Super Bowl in 2006. And really, there
has not been a true Super Bowl blowout since the Bucs routed the
Raiders in Gruden Bowl I in 2002, 48-21.
will this game play out? Yes, history in this matchup favors the No.
1 defense against the No. 1 offense, with the former emerging
victorious in three of the four title games since the merger (the
1989 49ers were the lone exception in their 55-10 annihilation of the
Broncos). If Seattle is to turn Denver into the first NFL franchise
to lose five Super Bowls, it will need Russell Wilson to create some
offense of his own, and 417 points scored is no slouch number.
this: Seattle’s points-scored output would rank them fourth among all
Super Bowl champions this century, trailing only the 209 Saints
(510), 2004 Patriots (437) and 2006 Colts (427), and their 231 points
allowed would be the second-fewest allowed since vaunted 2002 Bucs’
defense surrendered just 196 (the 2008 Steelers permitted 223 points,
and like this year’s Broncos were also the last team to reach the
Super Bowl by beating two teams it lost to during the regular
may still win championships, and the Broncos are hoping to buck what
has been a very ugly trend for the game’s all-time best offenses. The
teams they surpassed in total points scored this year – the 2007
Patriots (589), 2011 Packers (560), 2012 Patriots (557) and 1998
Vikings (556) all failed to bring home the Lombardi trophy, and only
the 2007 Patriots even reached the Super Bowl before seeing their
quest for perfection denied by the Giants and another quarterback
gut feeling is, short of offering a prediction this early in Super
Bowl week, that there is almost no way this game will be a true
blowout, because today’s NFL simply doesn’t offer those anymore, and
neither team’s style of play will allow it. Just think about last
year (minus the lights going out and any potential conspiracy
theories you might have): the Ravens could not have been playing more
flawlessly through two-plus quarters, but the 49ers took a swing of
momentum and ran with it all the way to the very end before Baltimore
the Seahawks jump out to a big lead, even if they get a defensive or
special teams score, they will likely go into some form of prevent
defense and Manning will start gaining big chunks of yardage which,
at first, will look like he is simply padding his stats. But before
you know it, a 20-point game will turn into a one-possession game,
and we will have another “classic” on our hands. Really, you can
count on one hand the amount of times Peyton Manning-led teams have
been routed in games in his career.
606-point-scoring Broncos could always garner a big lead because,
let’s face it, they scored 606 points, but how plausible is that?
Seattle’s largest deficit this year was 21 points – against the
then-0-7 Buccaneers, no less – but naturally the Seahawks stormed
back and found a way to win that game in overtime, 27-24. And really,
who can argue that human nature played a big part in that game with
Seattle simply playing down to competition? With a defense that
stout, what are the odds the Hawks running game never gets into gear
and Manning and the Broncos go up and down the field and build an
the end, we should have a close game between two teams that appear as
evenly matched as any two we’ve seen in a Super Bowl in a long time.