Matchup: Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks
Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)
This Sunday marks one of the most anticipated matchups at this point in the young 2014 NFL season. For only the 6th time in NFL history the two teams that squared off in the previous year’s Super Bowl meet in the regular season. This time around it is the defending world champion Seattle Seahawks playing host to the defending AFC champion Denver Broncos. The Seahawks come into this week’s game at 1-1 and are coming off a 30-21 loss to the San Diego Chargers. The Broncos are 2-0 and are coming off a win at home over the Kansas City Chiefs. The Broncos lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 38-20 but by now you already know what happened the last time these two teams met in a meaningful game, a 43-8 Seahawks win in Super Bowl XLVIII. Of those previous 5 Super Bowl rematches, the defending champion is 3-2. Here is what I will be focused on from section 340 this week.
I think a lot of Seahawks fans are thinking “if we play the Broncos exactly like how we did in the Super Bowl we should win easily again.” I am adamant that this approach will not work and it not what I expect the Seahawks offense to do this week. In the Super Bowl Russell Wilson only threw for 206 yards and this week I think it is crucial for him to take advantage of the third worst passing defense in the league so far this season. If he is healthy Marshawn Lynch will see his share of opportunities but I believe that Seattle must rely on the passing game to move the ball down the field and score points. If the defense struggles like they did against San Diego more will be required of Wilson to throw the ball to go blow-for-blow with the Broncos offense. Percy Harvin will have a big impact in this game but look for Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse to have a significant impact on the outside. The Broncos will start Aqib Talib and Chris Harris at cornerback this week, two players who did not play in the Super Bowl hence they do not have the experience of going up against Seattle’s receivers. Look for Baldwin and Kearse to make a large impact throughout this week’s game.
After being picked apart by Philip Rivers last week, the challenge does not get any easier with Peyton Manning coming into town this week for the Seahawks defense. There are a couple of specific things on the defensive side of the ball I am looking for. First I want the Seahawks enforcers to come out and make a physical statement early in the game. A lot of players in the locker room believe that when strong safety Kam Chancellor hit Demaryius Thomas on a crossing route early on in Super Bowl XLVIII the game was already over; that the Broncos were intimidated and that threw them off their game for the rest of the night. Laying the wood early could do the exact same thing this time around, especially at home. I’m calling on Chancellor and our entire linebacker corps to make hard, clean hits on Denver’s skill position players to take away any momentum the Broncos may have. Secondly I want to see how the Seahawks defense handles a potential no-huddle offense led by Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. It would not surprise me the least bit to see Manning try to get to the line of scrimmage fast to try to silence the crowd. If the Broncos offense is successful in the no-huddle, I could see the Seahawks struggling, at least in the early part of the game.
The defense of the Denver Broncos sports many new faces this year. After the butt-kicking they endured in the Super Bowl, the Broncos made large financial commitments to high-profile free agents to help their defense become more competitive, especially in big games. My X-Factor player to watch this week is one of those new players, defensive end DeMarcus Ware. Ware leads all Broncos defenders in sacks so far this season with 1.5 and after watching film of last week’s game Ware’s presence on the field cannot go unnoticed. Although he is 32 years old, Ware proved in the preseason against the Seahawks that he can still chase down even the most mobile quarterbacks, sacking Russell Wilson once in the first quarter. For the entire Denver pass rushing unit, the key will be to try to contain Wilson inside the pocket. If you let Wilson scramble he will find ways to get away and make throws which will kill the Broncos defense. If the Broncos are going to be successful in putting pressure on the Seahawks offense, much like how San Diego was successful last week, you must stop the run, force third downs, and keep the quarterback in the pocket.
There is one matchup that I rank above all else this week: Peyton Manning versus the 12th Man. As surprising as it may be, this week will be the first time Manning plays a full game at CenturyLink Field. His prior two trips to the Clink include a preseason game last season and a game in December 2005 where Manning played in a preseason capacity. In that game, Manning’s Colts had already clinched home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Manning only played the first couple of series before turning the game over to backup Jim Sorgi. This will be Manning’s first “true” dose of the 12th Man and I have no idea how he will handle our crowd. Other than Peyton Manning, the last 10 opposing Super Bowl winning quarterbacks are a combined 5-12 playing at CenturyLink Field. The last of these quarterbacks to beat the Seahawks in Seattle was Eli Manning’s New York Giants all the way back in 2010. With the complicated snap counts the Broncos use and the silent counts they will have for this specific game it will be crucial for the 12th Man to be constantly deafening to try to frustrate Manning and confuse the entire Denver offense.
Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear navy jerseys and navy pants while the Broncos will wear white jerseys and white pants this week… Jim Nantz and Phil Simms have the call for CBS this week with Tracy Wolfson patrolling the sidelines. This is the Sunday afternoon game of the week and the majority of the country will get to see this game on television. The only major cities that will not see Broncos/Seahawks on CBS are Phoenix, Kansas City, Jacksonville, and Miami… Bill Vinovich is this week’s referee… In addition to this being a Super Bowl rematch, this will also be a Super Bowl reunion. I will be taking my friend James to this week’s game. James and I both went to New York for the Super Bowl back in February so we are both excited to see two meaningful Broncos/Seahawks games in two different seasons, but only 7 months apart of each other… I know this sounds crazy but hear me out. What if instead of booing the Broncos when they run out of the tunnel, the 12th Man gives them a roaring cheer? All the Broncos did was be the final team on our way to our first Super Bowl championship. It probably won’t happen but I think that would be an interesting way to maybe throw Denver off guard. Kind of a “thank you for our first Lombardi Trophy, Denver”… Speaking of tunnels, it is rumored that the Seahawks may run out of the tunnel as a team for every game for the rest of the season. I personally do not like this idea because one of the main parts of pregame is to get the 12th Man fired up. The best way the Seahawks do this is by introducing the individual members either the starting offense or defense. Introducing the entire team kind of takes the fun out of all the pregame festivities in my opinion… Looks like it will be a hot one on Sunday with a game time temperature in the mid-80’s. Dress appropriately… With an early bye week this year this week’s game is of even greater importance. It would be terrible start the season 1-2 with 13 straight games ahead of us following the bye week.
Prediction: Although this game will not be as lopsided as the Super Bowl, I am still confident in the Seahawks bouncing back to beat the Broncos this week. Russell Wilson will outgain Peyton Manning through the air and will throw two touchdowns to Jermaine Kearse and one to Zach Miller. The Seahawks will go to 2-1 heading into their early bye.
Seahawks 33, Broncos 24
Check back late Sunday night for by Broncos review. Thanks for reading and enjoy the game everybody. Go Hawks!