Turn the clock back to the Broncos first Super Bowl appearance at the end of the 1977 season. Denver, led by the best defense in the league, a terrific home field advantage, and just enough offense to be dangerous beat two perennial power house teams at home in the playoffs (the Steelers and defending Super Bowl champ Raiders) before meeting Dallas in the Super Bowl. That veteran Cowboy team handled the upstart Broncos easily, 27-10.
The Seattle Seahawks this year remind me of that 77 Broncos team. With the best home field advantage in the NFL and the #1 defense, Seattle beat what I felt was a superior San Francisco team in the NFC title game in a highly emotional game. Just like the Broncos beat a better Oakland team to win the AFC in 1977. The clock struck midnight for the Cinderella Broncos in Super Bowl XII, just as I feel it will for the Seahawks in this year's Super Bowl. I believe the Broncos will win.
Now I admit I am a Broncos homer, a lifetime fan and long time season ticket holder. On this blog I correctly picked the Broncos playoff wins over San Diego and New England. Super Bowl 48 won't be a slam dunk for the Broncos, I'll give some reasons to fear the Seahawks below, but I think in the end the Broncos experience in the big game at the quarterback position will win out.
Why I like the Broncos to win on Sunday:
Peyton Manning. He's had the best season of his career, he's healthy, and he has one Super Bowl championship under his belt. By contrast Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson is only in his 2nd year making his first appearance in the Super Bowl. Wilson struggled with his passing in his last four games, only passing over 200 yards once. Manning is coming off a 400 yard passing game vs New England in the AFC Championship.
Other Super Bowl Experience. Broncos head coach John Fox lost a Super Bowl when he was coaching Carolina, and he was New York's defensive coordinator for the Giants 2001 Super Bowl team. In addition to Manning, the Broncos have Wes Welker, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, and exec John Elway who have played in the big game before. Seattle's head coach, Pete Carroll, has never been to a Super Bowl as a coach or a spectator, and little used receiver Ricardo Lockette is the only Seahawk with any Super Bowl experience. The history of the Super Bowl is full of losing teams that made their first appearance in the game (like those 77 Broncos).
Denver's rushing defense. Seattle's biggest threat is running back Marshawn Lynch, who has rushed for over 100 yards in each of the Seahawks two playoff wins. The Broncos enter the Super Bowl playing their best rush defense of the season, holding the Chargers and Patriots to under 70 yards rushing in each game.
Today's NFL. An old axiom is "good defense always beats good offense". That no longer applies in today's pass happy NFL, where teams with good offenses have had success in the Super Bowl. Three of the past four Super Bowl winners have scored over 30 points in the game.
Why Seattle has a chance:
Turnovers. Seattle's defense is opportunistic, and Peyton Manning has thrown crucial interceptions in playoff losses in the past (like his game clinching interception to Tracy Porter in Super Bowl 44, and his overtime interception in last year's Baltimore playoff game which led to the Ravens victory that day.
The preseason game. The Seahawks beat the Broncos in this season's preseason matchup, winning 40-10. The preseason doesn't mean much, you may ask? Well that day Seattle physically dominated Denver, even when the starters for both teams saw action in the first half. Over the years I've seen physical teams like the Seahawks beat finesse teams like the Broncos in playoff games more often than not.
Percy Harvin. Seattle wide receiver Percy Harvin has missed most of the season due to injuries. He is reportedly healthy now and will be a key player for the Seahawks on Sunday. The last time the Broncos faced Harvin, when he played for Minnesota, he had 156 receiving yards, 2 td's, and also carried the ball 5 times out of the backfield. The multipurpose Harvin is also a threat on punt and kick returns.
Russell Wilson's mobility. Bronco fans are sure to remember the scrambling ability of Tim Tebow from the quarterback position. Seattle's Russell Wilson has that ability to make plays with his feet, too, and with a much more accurate arm than Tebow has.
Yes, the Seattle matchup won't be easy for Denver. I expect Sunday's game to be close through three quarters, with the Broncos pulling away at the end to win by 10 to 20 points.