NFL Insider

NFL INSIDER: Manning poised for second Super Bowl title

2014-01-30T18:25:00Z 2014-01-30T20:52:33Z NFL INSIDER: Manning poised for second Super Bowl titleMatt Erickson NFL Insider nwitimes.com
January 30, 2014 6:25 pm  • 

NEWARK, N.J. | Ladies and gentlemen, we've got ourselves a ballgame.

The last time the NFL's best offense went up against the league's best defense in the Super Bowl, I was a freshman in high school – Super Bowl XXV. But it will happen again Sunday.

The Broncos had the NFL's best offense by far – and essentially, thanks to Peyton Manning, the best offense in the history of ever. But the Seahawks' defense was sensational – and certainly better than any defense Denver faced this year.

The story, provided the over-hyped fear of potential weather doesn't rear its ugly head, is Manning, and for good reason. The former Colts QB and future Hall of Famer shattered most passing records this year, leading the Broncos to nearly 38 points a game.

But against the Seahawks, he'll face a defense that gave up only about 14 points a game and just 172 yards passing. In addition, the Seahawks averaged about two and a half turnovers per outing.

So Manning has a tough task on his hands. At the same time, his counterpart across the field, Russell Wilson, certainly hasn't gotten the same kind of attention – but he hasn't been a slouch, either. It's been more than 60 years since a QB has had as many wins – 24 – as Wilson had in his first two seasons.

It stands to reason he might find more success against the Broncos than Manning could have against the Seahawks. But even though Denver's defense wasn't as stout as Seattle's, in the last month, it has been stellar – allowing only a couple touchdowns a game, and that includes a pair of big postseason wins.

And that's why, naturally, it might come down to the running games.

Denver (15-3) vs. Seattle (15-3)

5:30 p.m. Sunday, Fox. Broncos -2.5 (47)

The skinny: Manning might not be able to put up the same kind of statistically gargantuan numbers he's been putting up all season, but his veteran savvy should be more than enough to carry the Broncos. Besides, I picked the Broncos to win the Super Bowl at the beginning of the season (granted, to beat the Saints), so it's hard to pick against them now. If Manning struggles early against the tough Seahawks passing defense, look for the ball to wind up in Knowshon Moreno's hands plenty of times to grind things out for a while and open up those passing lanes for Manning. Seattle should be able to keep things within striking distance, but this is Denver's game to lose.

MattE's pick: Broncos 29, Seahawks 23

2013 record

Last week: 2-0 straight up, 2-0 against the spread.

Playoffs: 6-4 straight up, 6-2-2 against the spread.

Regular season: 165-90-1 (.647) straight up, 131-115-10 (.533) against the spread

Matt Erickson is an award-winning journalist whose NFL picks have appeared in The Times for 12 seasons. He covers mixed martial arts for The Times and is assistant MMA editor for USA Today and MMAjunkie.com.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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