The AFC’s top-seeded Denver Broncos will face off against the NFC’s top-seeded Seattle Seahawks at New York’s MetLife Stadium with the Super Bowl, the biggest prize in sports, on the line (Sunday, February 2, 6:30pm ET on FOX).
The Broncos are the sportsbooks’ three-point favorites while the prediction is for a mid-scoring game and the bookies’ mark is over/under around 48 total points. This Super Bowl preview gives its verdict on the best plays for those two betting markets. On the player props, not surprisingly (DEN) QB Peyton Manning (pictured) is the odds-on favorite to take home the SB MVP honors.
Defense Wins Championships?
The age-old saying is that defense wins championships. In the past, this has come true more often than not but the past has never seen an offense quite like this Denver team.
At the end of the 2013 season, the Broncos were alone atop the record books as the best offense not just this year but in the history of the NFL. The team shattered passing and total yards records and their QB, the one and only Peyton Manning, also entered a place in history as he broke Tom Brady’s single-season TD mark and Drew Brees’ single-season yards mark. His offense was the only one to have four receivers reach 1,000 yards and at least 10 TD and have a RB hit those same numbers on the ground. Historically speaking, this was the best single-season of any player and team ever.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a single flaw with this team but if there was something it would be that based on defensive metrics, the Broncos actually did not face a top-five defense in 2013.
As can be expected with any player, Manning’s numbers do tick downward against higher level defenses. This is nothing unusual for any player but what it does show is that if there is any kryptonite it would be this. The only way to beat Manning is to neutralize him and this of course is where the Seahawks come into play.
- (DEN) Offense: 37.9 PPG (1st), 457.3 YDS (1st), 340.2 PASS YDS (1st)
- (SEA) Defense: 14.4 PPG (1st), 273.6 YDS (1st), 172.0 PASS YDS (1st)
With the exception of the running game (which favors the Seahawks), Denver and Seattle parallel each other in every way. For as good as the Broncos are offensively, the Seahawks are equally good defensively.
Unlike Denver, Seattle’s defense has actually faced top-five offenses and has had success. Most notably, they held the NFL’s second best passing offense in the New Orleans Saints to just 22 points over two matchups this season.
The best news for the Seahawks comes in the fact that during two playoff weeks, their numbers on defense have stayed virtually the same as during the regular season (16 PPG postseason vs. 14.4 PPG regular season). The Broncos meanwhile, have not been able to maintain their ridiculous scoring trend (25 PPG postseason vs. 37.9 PPG regular season). Both of these lowered scoring outputs, which ranked second (24) and third (26) lowest for the team this season, have come against subpar defenses as well.
While this should look like the Seahawks have a pretty good shot in a low-scoring game, the flip-side to the coin is that Denver’s defense has been the best it has been all season in the last two games. The team surrendered just 16 and 17 points respectively, which were the third and fourth lowest marks of the season. This was done against two top-10 offenses.
Denver’s defense is easing the pressure on Manning and the offense and shows that the Broncos don’t need to score 40 points to win. They have just as good a shot in a low-scoring game that otherwise would favor the Seahawks so long as the defense continues to thrive.
So to make a long story short, defense has propelled the Broncos in the playoffs as much as it has the Seahawks and the better defense, no matter which team it represents, will continue to emerge victorious.
X-Factor: (SEA) WR Percy Harvin
Percy Harvin is kind of a wildcard. After missing the entire season due to recovering from hip surgery, Harvin, who just signed a lucrative offseason contract, came back to play in Seattle’s game against the Saints. Harvin was targeted just once in the game, a reception for 17 yards. On the catch however, Harvin was hit hard and was forced to miss the rest of the game and all of the NFC Championship with a concussion.
But Harvin is back now and according to head coach Pete Carroll, is in line for a significant role in the Super Bowl. He has explosive speed and the talent to go along with it. If healthy, Harvin can be a game changer for the Seahawks and their championship hopes.
With Harvin on the field, Seattle’s overall offense is that much better. Not only does he function as a WR 1 but he has also been used effectively in the special teams play. One of the most underrated aspects of a playoff team, special teams is where Harvin really shines.
Since entering the NFL in 2009, Harvin has been a staple in the special teams game as a kick returner. He has amassed over 3,200 yards in those four years and in one attempt this year, collected 58 yards. He also scored at least one return TD in each of his first four full seasons.
Harvin is a weapon that cannot be ignored and if he really is 100% or at least close, Denver will have to watch out in both facets of his game.
Super Bowl Betting Picks
And the winner is . . . the Seattle Seahawks. Despite the fact that they will be missing their home field advantage and despite Denver’s incredible offense, my Super Bowl preview’s verdict is that Seattle will be the 2014 champs.
Harvin back will be a huge factor but the defense will ultimately have the final say. The “Legion of Doom” as the secondary is called, leads the league in interceptions and forced turnovers. Now Manning isn’t an interception machine but championships come down to just a few plays. I’m putting my money on the fact that Seattle will make those plays.
- I do expect the Seahawks to win on the moneyline (best odds +115 with Bovada), but the best betting advice would be to take Seattle on the spread +3pts at best odds of -110 with Bovada. They are currently +2pts @ -107 with BetOnline.
- Also, take the under on 48.5 total points for the Super Bowl @ -110 with BetOnline (it is under 48pts with Bovada) as both teams have played to the under in each of their last five games. Plus, defense does win championships.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.