How LOB holds up will decide the game
Ultimately, Superbowl XLVIII will be decided by the Seattle Seahawks‘ secondary, code name the Legion of Boom.
It’s really a simple game to project what will dictate the eventual winner. It’s the No. 1 passing attack vs. the No. 1 defense. Simple.
Denver is easily capable of throwing up 40 points in the game. Peyton Manning’s main four targets each have 10 or more touchdowns on the season. Seattle’s offense, while good, probably can’t match Denver in a shootout, so stopping Manning’s formidable targets will be the decisive factor.
I believe Seattle’s offense will score around 24 points in this game.
Can the LOB hold Denver to fewer?
Demaryius Thomas vs. Richard Sherman
This is the single biggest one-on-one matchup for the Seahawks‘ defense. Demaryius Thomas has lit it up this year with 90+ catches, 1400+ yards and 14 touchdowns.
Can Richard Sherman cover Thomas? I don’t think Manning is going to be shy about throwing in Sherman’s direction like other QBs have done in the past, so Sherman is going to have to make more than 2 plays in this game.
Physically, these guys are nearly even. Thomas is 6’3″. Sherman is 6’3″. No real advantage there either way.
Thomas is listed at 229 pounds. Sherman is trimmer and listed at 195 pounds. That’s a 30+ pound advantage to Thomas, and if you’ve watched any Denver games, you know that he likes to use his body to shield defenders.
Sherman must counter that with his vertical skills. We’ve seen Sherman’s ability to out-leap his opponents and deflect passes away. It’s something we’ve seen a lot this year from Sherman. Nobody does it better. Just ask Michael Crabtree.
In the end, I truly believe Sherman wins this matchup because of his ability to out-jump Thomas at precisely the right time.
Julius Thomas vs. Kam Chancellor
Granted the Seahawks like to roll coverage of the tight end between a linebacker like KJ Wright and safety Kam Chancellor, but more often than not, I do believe this is the matchup we’ll see in this game.
Julius Thomas is another very tall receiver coming out of the TE spot for Denver. Thomas is yet another guy with 10+ TDs too. He’s listed at 6’5″, 250 pounds, and personally, I think 250 might be a little light.
Thomas is used in a similar fashion to that of the Saints’ deployment of Jimmy Graham. You’ll see a lot of plays 12-15 yards downfield to the sidelines with Manning trying to throw the ball over the defender to take advantage of Thomas’ height.
Kam is 6’3″ (and KJ is 6’4″) and fully capable of knocking down those high and outside pitches to Thomas. Seattle has played this type of tight end many times and has always come out ahead.
Denver, on the other hand, is not used to having such tall guys in the secondary covering their guys. As a result, Julius Thomas will wind up much like Vernon Davis and Jimmy Graham did — a non-factor.
Byron Maxwell vs. Eric Decker
I’m not sure why, but this matchup scares me a bit more than any other in the secondary. Byron Maxwell has done nothing to make me doubt him, either. Maybe it’s just that he’s “only” 6’1″ going up against a guy that is 6’3″.
Decker is no slouch, either, as the No. 2 wide-out behind Thomas. He’s the real deal, and Maxwell will have one of the biggest tests of his career on the biggest stage there is. Decker has over 1000 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns on 76 catches.
Maxwell, despite his relative inexperience, just keeps making plays. Like Sherman he has an amazing vertical and a nose for the ball. He’s always in the right place at the right time.
No, if anything gets to Byron Maxwell, it’s going to be his inexperience — not his physical skills. Let’s not forget that this guy still has only started at CB in an handful of games in his NFL career.
He’s made the most of those opportunities and deserves to be there; but still, I’m nervous on this one.
Walter Thurmond vs. Wes Welker
A lot has been said about Wes Welker’s pick play against the Patriots. Personally, I don’t think Welker had an intention of hurting anyone. The play is a marginally legal play depending on whether you think Welker made the hit while the ball was still in the air or not. You do need to know this, though, about Welker: The guy can play.
Welker might be the best slot receiver the Legion of Boom has seen this season, and he’s yet another Bronco’s receiver with 10 or more touchdowns on the year. Thankfully, Walter Thurmond is a starting cornerback playing nickel on a extremely deep Seattle secondary.
Thurmond, for all his faults with injuries and substance abuse — or whatever else you want to throw at him — has persevered this season. He continues to make plays, force turnovers and even score touchdowns despite all he has had to deal with.
Wes Welker is no match for Thurmond physically. Thurmond is 5’11” and listed at 190 pounds while Welker is just 5’9″, 185 pounds. Thurmond is younger, faster and stronger than Welker too.
Where Welker can beat Thurmond is with experience, using those rub and pick plays that Denver loves to see out of the guy coming from the slot. Welker runs those as well as anyone in the game today.
Thurmond, to counter that, is going to have to make sure that he is physical with Welker at the line. If you give Welker a free run across the field, he’ll kill you.
The good news is that I don’t think Thurmond will have an issue jamming Welker at the line. He’s got the physicality matchup in his favor; he just has to remain vigilant and stick to the plan Seattle has had all year in their secondary.
In the end, the Hawks will prevail in the secondary. Their ability to disrupt a passing offense based on precision timing is too great for even the mighty Peyton Manning to overcome. Seahawks win 24-14.