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If the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos work as hard in Sunday’s Super Bowl as the sled dogs worked during the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon, it will be a game for the ages.
The Super Bowl brings to an exhaustive close another pro football season. We’ll all watch it, some with benign casualness, others with intense scrutiny. Whichever, when the Seattle Seahawks run into the Denver Broncos in a New York stadium that is actually in New Jersey, it could be the best and most entertaining Super Bowl of all those Roman numerals.
We’ll line up our goodies. Chips, snacks, veggies and dips, maybe chicken wings, and who knows what all? Get ’em ready and all laid out, arrange the chairs just right, and crank up the ol’ big-screen television.
There are excellent reasons for picking either team, but of course we can’t. We’ve got to pick one, and see how it works out. But for once, we don’t have to watch our pick with passion and find a way to hate the other team; both teams deserve high praise just for getting there. And the fact that one of them has the most high-powered offense in the whole NFL (Denver) and the other has the most impressive defense in the whole NFL (Seattle) just adds to the requirement that we bow to both of them for surviving the pounding and the nastiness required to get to this point.
It’s easy to favor the Broncos. Peyton Manning is like an artist back there in the pocket, sizing up the whole field in a glance, sending out and then spotting open receivers from sideline to sideline, and sending perfect passes to then wherever they get open.
It’s also easy to favor the Seahawks. Young, brash, trusting a hard-smacking defense to bail out an offense that can be inconsistent and sometimes erratic. But that offense should not be underestimated. Richard Sherman’s last play against San Francisco -- a spectacular leaping swat of the ball in the end zone that was immediately caught for an interception that prevented San Francisco from beating Seattle -- and his absurd conduct after that play to run after the wide receiver and yell taunts in his face, which was as stupid as his play was brilliant, has become the talk of this Super Bowl. Somebody said he had become the face of the Seahawks, much as Peyton Manning is the face of the Broncos.
All of that, in my humble opinion, will help the Seahawks win this game and become NFL champions.
When Denver has the ball, Manning will be the focal point, and how the Seahawks deploy their defense against him will determine how many touchdown passes he might throw. A tremendous array of receivers will help give Manning clever and creative targets. Meanwhile, Sherman, No. 25, will be a big part of that Seattle defensive effort.
Ah, but when the Seahawks have the ball, watch for two things. First, Russell Wilson is one of the NFL’s bright young stars of the future at quarterback. Slipper and elusive, poised and amazingly calm under pressure, Wilson has not been brilliant the last few weekends. He’s been good, but not as brilliant as he was during most of the season. He seemed to be struggling against San Francisco -- right up until he threw a dazzling fourth-down 40-yard touchdown pass that was a game-breaker for the Seahawks. Because of the overdone hassle with Sherman’s unsportsmanlike antics and his raging tirade in the post-game interview, Russell Wilson slips in under the radar. If he’s sharp from the outset, he could be a game-breaker with his head, his arm, and his feet.
But even if Wilson is off his “A” game, or is subdued by Denver’s defense, Marshawn Lynch will be behind him, carrying the ball. In my opinion, Lynch is every bit as good as Adrian Peterson of the Vikings. No, he’s not quite the flashy, high-stepping machine Peterson can be at his best, but Lynch can both barrel through a small hole and blast it open, and he can duck, dodge and sprint away from linebackers and turn a third-and-2 into a 40-yard touchdown run. And when defenders gang-tackle Marshawn Lynch, notice how stubborn he is to bring down, and when he does go down, he always falls forward.
At the same time, our own Percy Harvin is coming back from his umpteenth concussion. He still plays too hard for his body, as he did with the Vikings. But he could get open and turn a routine play into a spectacular one, in the spotlight of the Super Bowl, and with Russell Wilson getting the ball to him.
Last August, I claimed Seattle as my favorite to go all the way. I also listed San Francisco, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Denver and Green Bay as prime threats. As it has boiled down, with Denver’s offensive-minded Broncos against Seattle’s ferocious defense, my pick is reinforced by a simple formula: The Denver offense will score, but the Seattle defense will also stop Manning more than he is used to, and the difference between the two teams’ strengths is very close. On the other hand, Seattle’s offense is almost as good as Denver’s, and better ifn the area of rushing, and I don’t think Denver’s defense is close to being capable of stopping the Seahawks.
I’m picking the Seahawks, 31-24.