The Denver Broncos bring their unstoppable offence to face the Seattle Seahawks' unbreakable defence. Something has to give besides our brain cells after two weeks of Super Bowl hype.
These teams follow the personalities of their leader, with the Broncos' aggressive, preparation-oriented offence reflecting quarterback Peyton Manning. The Seahawks counter with their brash and disruptive defence, feeding off the vibe sent by cornerback Richard Sherman.
I like the Broncos to win it, and here are five reasons why:
1. Manning has never been better
He might be throwing more often than at any time in his career, but Manning is no longer a reckless gunslinger. He's not going to try to force a pass that isn't there. He's not going to throw at Sherman just to prove he can.
He's not afraid to rely on Knowshon Moreno and the running game if it moves the chains and keeps those long drives alive.
I think Manning's approach will emphasize long, time-consuming drives where the Seattle defence remains on the field, growing frustrated with Denver eating up field and clock.
Manning had the greatest pressure of his life two weeks ago playing nemesis Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. He was near flawless.
2. The Seahawks can't cover everyone
Sherman, Byron Maxwell, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, otherwise known as the Legion of Boom, present a puzzle for Manning to solve. They've shown they can put the clamps on a number of receivers this season.
They're likely to amp up the contact, too, presuming officials can't call pass interference every play and officials tend to call fewer penalties as the post-season progresses.
Here's where Manning has the edge: He has more receivers than the Seahawks can handle. He has Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker, Julius Thomas and even Moreno out of the backfield. He can steer clear of Sherman and run all sorts of different formations to cross up the Seahawks.
3. Marshawn Lynch could press too much
Lynch, the Seahawks running back known for "beast mode," has played well in the post-season, but there's been a different vibe leading up to this game as a result of the attention generated by his reluctance to talk with the media. Super Bowl players are made available for nearly four hours in hour-long increments once they arrive at the Super Bowl site. Lynch has talked about 20 minutes total, and half of that was listening to the questions. Does it matter? Only in this sense: He wants his playing to do the talking. So he's going to try to be loud today. If he presses too much, possibly turning the ball over, it could be a game-changer. I'm not saying he will press, but the potential is there.
4. Denver's defence will play with a chip on its shoulder
Does anybody even remember the Broncos have a defence? No, it was not an elite one, especially after all the injuries to Von Miller and others. But it is a proud one and did a nice job of throwing Tom Brady off his game in the AFC Championship. It has Terrance "Pot Roast" Knighton, who'll be set on slowing Lynch. Suppose the Broncos slow the Seahawks' running game, as they did with the Patriots. Then what? Then it rests in the hands of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. He's made some great plays in his young career, and he's forced some things under pressure. Champ Bailey might not be the defensive back he was, but he can rally the secondary.
5. It's not going to be the windy city
Apparently game-time conditions will be wintry, but not arctic, chilly but not overly windy. The possibility of bad weather was one of the factors many thought could affect the Broncos' game plan. If it were too windy, Manning's passing attack, and the precision it requires, could be altered. Now that it looks like a relatively mild day, weather becomes less a factor. The Broncos can score points in a hurry. It's not as clear the Seahawks can respond, especially if they're trailing and forced to be one-dimensional.
THE PICK: Broncos 34, Seahawks 27
-- The News-Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Ind.)