PFF Pick'em: Super Bowl XLVIII
After a week chock-full of Super Bowl XLVIII preview content where we took the game apart from every angle, we’re wrapping up with our last PFF Pick’em for the season and this time you get to take part along with us.
We’re offering up a free year of PFF Premium access to the first five readers to nail the correct score of the game, so jump in early and stake your claim.
Enter a comment below with your prediction for the outcome and, if you’re one of the first five to get it get it exactly right, we’ll send along a 365-day subscription. (UPDATE: thanks all for playing along — that was a tough score to come up with, so no big surprise seeing it go uncalled.)
As you ponder your pick, here are ours:
Super Bowl XLVIII: Seattle Seahawks vs. Denver Broncos
Ben Stockwell – Pick: Denver Broncos
Why Denver Wins: Having agonized over this pick for days whilst working on some of our Super Bowl preview content I had a moment of clarity (in terms of making my pick, not necessarily in terms of it being right). As much as this Seattle defense might be a tough matchup for the Denver offense and they have the pieces in theory to stump Denver, this is just one potential outcome and I was over thinking just one scenario. So I’m playing the numbers game and looking at the different ways that this one could play out and I think Denver can win in more ways. If it’s a close game or if Seattle establishes a lead, I think Denver can either launch a pivotal drive to swing it or has the ability to close a gap quickly. If Denver gets ahead (and Seattle has got a nasty habit of getting off to slow starts in playoff games) then I think they have the ability on both sides of the ball to maintain that lead and not cede a big comeback. The Seahawks have a terrific defense, but with the terrific form that Peyton Manning is in I’m not if even they can take away all of the options at his disposal and I think they’ll score enough points to get out front and stay away from the Seahawks on the scoreboard.
Why Seattle doesn’t: This is one of the toughest Super Bowls I can remember in terms of having to pick a winner so I’m not carrying my pick with a massive amount of confidence. One cause for me to doubt the Seahawks more than the Broncos, however, is that their offense rests heavily on the shoulders of one player and that one player isn’t the quarterback. Marshawn Lynch has been phenomenal, but I do wonder just how long he can continue to outperform the blocking provided for him and keep on coming up with these signature plays that turn and clinch big playoff games. I am by no means betting against Lynch doing it again, but I just think that a very good Denver defense has less key areas to shut down in this game than an excellent Seattle defense does on the other side so I am favoring Denver. Just.
Gordon McGuinness – Pick: Denver Broncos
Why Denver Wins: Genuinely the toughest game to call of the year for me and, after lucking into the right Super Bowl prediction before the season began, I’m sticking with Denver for a couple of reasons. The first is Peyton Manning who, in a year where quarterback play has been down across the league, has been the clear MVP. In order to bring Manning down a level, I think the Seahawks need to get pressure early and often and, as good as their pass rush has been, I’m not sure that’s going to happen. The combination of the stellar play of their offensive line, and Manning ability to get rid of the ball quickly, has led to him being under pressure on just 22.7% of his passing attempts, the best mark of any quarterback this year. Obviously he faces a tough task against the Seattle secondary, but if the Seahawks can’t get to Manning, I think he’ll find a way to put up enough points.
Why Seattle Doesn’t: If I you told me three quarters of the way through the regular season that I’d be saying this I’d have told you that you were crazy, but a big reason why I don’t think Seattle wins on Sunday is quarterback Russell Wilson. Don’t get me wrong, I think Wilson is fantastic, and I fully expect him to become the best quarterback in the league in the next year or so, but he couldn’t have picked a worse time to go through the worst stretch of play in his first two seasons in the league. We’ve now graded 36 games from the Seahawks’ signal-caller and of his worst four, three have come in his last six (the other was the very first game of his career). He doesn’t look comfortable in the pocket and I’m not sure you can blame him, with the offensive line looking suspect and inconsistent throughout the year. I don’t think that changes against a defensive interior that doesn’t get enough credit and I don’t see them putting up enough points to match Manning and the Broncos.
Khaled Elsayed – Pick: Denver Broncos
Why Denver Wins: Plenty of teams have tried to disrupt the Broncos’ timing-based passing attack and plenty of teams have failed. You can’t press exclusively because they’ll run the kind of pick plays that will lead to lots of yards after the catch and running exclusively from their three receiver set, they’ll have the Seahawks more lightweight nickel package on the field. For Ramirez, Vasquez and Beadles that’s a god send because it will be a lot easier to create running lanes against Michael Bennett and Clinton McDonald than Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel. They’ll put up points and their defense might force the Seahawks to become more one-dimensional than their accustomed to being.
Why Seattle Doesn’t: Chiefly I don’t know if they have the kind of variety on offense to score enough points against a Peyton Manning led offense. The weakness of the Broncos’ defense can be their pass rush without Von Miller, but the Seahawks’ interior should assist them there and with Russell Wilson feeling phantom pressure, if the Broncos edge rushes can keep contain it puts the Seahawks in a position that doesn’t always bring out the best in them.
Nathan Jahnke – Pick: Denver Broncos
Why Denver Wins: I think Denver’s defense is good enough to hold Seattle’s offense to roughly 20 points after having four straight games where they have held opponents to 17 or less. While there are various mismatches in the game, I believe the biggest comes from Seattle’s below average offensive line against the Broncos’ defensive line. While they aren’t household names, Terrance Knighton and Robert Ayers have done an excellent job in recent weeks and can make drive-halting plays. While Denver’s offense will be slowed down some, I don’t think they will be slowed enough. Manning’s low time to throw mixed with the elite play of the offensive line should be enough to shut down Seattle’s pass rush. In a lot of cases the team with the quarterback who plays the best ends up winning, and there is a better chance Manning can outplay Wilson.
Why Seattle doesn’t: While Seattle’s defense is great, there are weaknesses. Denver’s three-receiver sets will lead to players like Clinton McDonald and Cliff Avril to be on the field more than usual. Denver can take advantage of in these players in the run game. Earl Thomas played much better in the first half of the season than the second, and both Walter Thurmond and Byron Maxwell have had poor games in the playoffs. These are players that Manning should be able to have success against at times. Russell Wilson played very well in the middle of the season, but over the last six weeks has just been average. Seattle has the biggest home field advantage in the league which helped them secure home field advantage and win in the playoffs, but they won’t have the 12th man to help them in this game. I think the Broncos can avoid the Seahawks’ biggest strengths on defense, and take advantage of the few weaknesses the defense has to outscore Seattle.
Neil Hornsby – Pick: Denver Broncos
Why Denver Wins: Peyton Manning will be ready for whatever the Seahawks bring and I believe they will have to blitz to get early pressure. Manning with his experience will know, in advance, what’s coming and take advantage. I also think while Byron Maxwell is a good player, they’ll put Demaryius Thomas on him and make him work – he didn’t do so well against the Saints when targeted. It’s the flaw with Richard Sherman not moving about because I think Maxwell will hold up just fine on Eric Decker. As for Wes Welker, he’s got a point to prove and I’m sure dropped passes in crucial situations are not what he wants as his legacy.
Why Seattle doesn’t: Make no mistake, I think Russell Wilson will be the next great quarterback in this league but he’s not played well since Week 13 and as we know, in the postseason, momentum is crucial. Why will he suddenly start playing well and hitting all those easy slants he’s been missing? Obviously it’s possible, I doubt the pressure will get to him but his mechanics just seem off at the moment and I don’t think the Super Bowl is the best time to get them back (unless of course you’re a Seahawks fan). Denver should limit but not stop Marshawn Lynch and I really don’t think a running game alone will win this game.
Rick Drummond – Pick: Denver Broncos
Why Denver Wins: Two weeks of exploring every angle, studying every number, and sorting advantages into piles that can build a case either way have brought me back to where I started. I simply believe this Denver team is ready to win it now. Having the understanding built from a career of playoff runs that weren’t, Manning leads Denver into this one with the full soul-deep knowledge that there may not be another and with that QB carrying that urgent ‘right now’ drive to win, I don’t see the Broncos being upstaged.
Why Seattle doesn’t: As much as Seattle has earned their spot here with stellar play from a talented roster, I think they’re still looking up at the game while Manning & Co. are seeing it even-on. It won’t be that it’s too big for them, but I can’t help but feel this is one the Seahawks think they have to rise up to snare and I don’t see the Broncos in the same boat. Tough to be confident in a team’s chances when they’re coming in hoping to stay close and wait for a game-breaker, especially when they look around the room and see themselves competing for years to come – ready with a ‘we’ll be back next year’ in their pocket. This is it, this game, and in a matchup as tight as this, I’ll go with the seen-it-before and the methodical ability to score over the fingers crossed hope for breaking a big play.
Sam Monson – Pick: Seattle Seahawks
Why Seattle Wins: The more I look at this the more I think the Seahawks are tailor-made to beat the Broncos. Denver’s offense is all about timing, and the Seahawks have the ability on defense to mess with that timing from both sides of the equation. They have more pass rush than most sides the Broncos have faced, and even though Manning is capable of mitigating most pass rushes, the more a team can beat the OL and get to him the bigger the chance of them creating a single big, negative play. In addition to that rush the Seahawks are uniquely qualified to mess with the timing of the receivers in their patterns. Seattle will get aggressive in coverage and physical with those Denver receivers. Even if it does nothing to the receivers themselves it screws with the timing Manning has down and makes him hold onto the ball a split second longer, only increasing the likelihood the pass rush will get home.
Why Denver doesn’t: I think the Seahawks come close to shutting that Denver offense down. In the five times since the merger that the No. 1 offense has met the No. 1 defense in the Super Bowl the defense has come out on top four times. The only time it didn’t was when the 49ers waxed the Broncos 55-10 (and the 49ers had the league’s No.3 defense in addition to their No.1-ranked O.) I just don’t see Denver bucking that trend. In a low scoring game I think Seattle has more chances to win the game than the Broncos do and the addition of Percy Harvin, assuming he lasts longer than a hand full of snaps this time, is the kind of game-breaking addition that can prove the difference. He’s done nothing this season to earn his millions, but if Harvin turns up big in the Super Bowl the Seattle brass will consider it money well spent.
Steve Palazzolo – Pick: Denver Broncos
Why Denver Wins: In a fascinating matchup between Denver’s offense and Seattle’s defense, I think Peyton Manning continues his stellar play to lead the Broncos to victory. Seattle’s defense creates as much pressure as any team in the league, but the Broncos are best equipped to handle it with a strong offensive line and Manning’s ability to put them in a position to succeed. Seattle doesn’t do a lot of disguising on defense, but they may need to add in a few wrinkles in order to keep Manning off balance. Either way, I think he has the weapons, and the smarts, to move the ball on the league’s best defense.
Why Seattle Doesn’t: In addition to the offense playing at a record-setting level, Denver’s defense has played well in recent weeks with Terrance Knighton leading the way up front. They have the players to slow down the Seahawks’ running game and assuming they commit extra bodies to make that happen, the game falls into the hands of Russell Wilson. He hasn’t played well in recent weeks and I don’t think he’ll be able to keep up with Manning on the other side.