Pittsburgh Steelers fans can’t help but have a love/hate relationship with a player like Peyton Manning. Like the many teams he faces, Pey Pey traditionally performs solidly against the Steelers (3-2 lifetime) – even though the Steelers have the last laugh from their 2006 Super Bowl run. His arrogance can be irritating, but his humor often softens the hard glares. Yes, the men of the Manning family have been born with a silver football in their mouths. But, with Peyton and his story over the last few years, it’s hard not to root for a quarterback that is one of the smartest to ever play the game, attain such success, face health risks, and now has an opportunity to solidify a legacy.
Mr. Ed, aka John Elway, brilliantly amassed a team that is an offensive juggernaut. Scary scary good. All the pieces are in place for Peyton Manning to lead this team to its first Super Bowl victory since 1999 when Elway himself led the Denver Broncos to back to back Super Bowl championships – a solid pass blocking offensive line, four to five very good passing targets, and a decent run game that can help keep defenses honest throughout the game.
Manning and his Broncos face a very good Seattle defense led by the outspoken Richard Sherman. The Seahawks have been just as dominating on the defensive side of the ball as Peyton and his offense have been dominating on their respective side. The chew his gum like a horse head coach Pete Carroll (there’s a horse theme this year I guess) uses his defense brilliantly to win field position battles and set the offense up for quick attacks and scores. This is the first Super Bowl in a long time where not only the top two teams (winning record) in the league will face off but also where the #1 offense will face the #1 defense. The odds out of Vegas and the opinions of many out there are that it will be a very tightly played contest.
It’s an easy trap to fall into. But, I personally believe that Manning is primed to perform superbly as the game wears on and will raise the MVP trophy shortly after raising the Lombardi. The Seahawks just don’t have enough weapons on defense to take care of everyone on the field. It’s the same issues that every team has faced the entire season when facing the Broncos. D. Thomas, Decker, Welker, J. Thomas, and even Caldwell. No matter how you line these fellas up on the chess board, one of them will be open. The offensive line has been superb in getting Manning the time he needs to find the open receiver. Manning has only been sacked 18 times this season, which is one of the lowest among starting QB’s. And, even when teams blitz, Manning is smart enough to recognize what it is, where it’s coming from, and ‘Omaha’ his way to a quick out or hot route in less than 2 seconds. Seattle ranks 8th in the league in sacks with 44 on the year. They will get pressure on Manning and will probably even get to him a couple of times, but the key is that Manning has just too many weapons and is savvy enough to avoid throwing errant passes (only 10 INT’s on the year). He will figure out this Seattle defense, and by the second half, will be slinging deeper passes against a secondary that will become tired and confused.
Pey Pey has a league of haters out there. But you have to respect his talents. He is primed to have a good game in Jersey…. oh wait is weather a factor here? No worries. Temps will be in the mid-30′s by game time and then fall into the upper 20′s throughout. No snow. The passing game will be largely unaffected. And everyone was worked up about an outside venue under winter conditions.
It should be a great game to watch, and I fully expect the Broncos to dominate on offense and have just enough gas in the tank on defense to keep Wilson out of the end zone enough times. Peyton will be holding up the Pete Rozelle Trophy along with the Lombardi, and his legacy will be solidified.
Stat line prediction for Manning: 31 of 49 for 310 yards, 3 TD’s, 2 Sacks, 1 INT
Final Score: Broncos 31 Seattle 24
Have a great time watching no matter who you are cheering for – even if it’s just for the commercials.