After the end of an amazing regular season, the NFL was able to showcase some of the most compelling postseason matchups in recent memory. As the playoff battles ended, the dust settled, and only two teams remained standing. The Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks will clash this Sunday in the biggest football game of the year, the Super Bowl.
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has had a season for the ages. He set NFL records in passing yards and touchdowns in 2013, the first quarterback to do so since Sid Luckman did it in 1943. Behind Manning's arm, the Broncos had the most explosive offense in history. With the records he has broken, and the success he has led his team to, it has been nothing short of heroic.
With every hero comes a villain to match up up with. The villain in this scenario is being painted as Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. Sherman's controversial comments in a postgame interview generated a storm of criticism. In the interview, Sherman referred to himself as "the best corner in the game," a title that may rightfully be his. Sherman led the league in interceptions this season with eight, and leads the NFL in interceptions and passes defended since he entered the league.
While Manning and Sherman have both had great individual seasons, their team success is what brought them to this point. The Broncos have the top offense in the NFL, where as the Seahawks have the top defense in the NFL, which sets the stage for a historic Super Bowl.
To get a good idea of what type of action will take place Sunday, it is important to look at the journey each team has had to get to the Super Bowl, and what things to watch for in the matchup.
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When: Sunday, Feb. 2, at 4:30 p.m. MST
Where: MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
TV coverage: FOX
The Broncos had a dominating season, leading the NFL in total offense with 457.3 yards per game and setting the league's single-season record in total points scored with 596.
Manning shattered nearly every available record in what will go down in history as one of the greatest seasons ever by an NFL quarterback.
This season has been spectacular for Manning and the Broncos, and they ended with a 13-3 record, earning the top playoff seed in the AFC.
After their first round bye, the Broncos hosted the San Diego Chargers, a team that had beaten them in Denver earlier in the season. But the Broncos took off on a 17-0 lead, and by the time the Chargers started their comeback, the deficit was just too great. Denver went on to win 24-17.
In the AFC championship game, the Broncos faced the New England Patriots, a team that has had a rich recent history of postseason success. But experience wasn't enough for the Patriots to stop Manning, who threw for 400 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Broncos to the 26-16 win.
The Seahawks had a tremendous season, led by their devastating defense, known as the "Legion of Boom." They were the best in the NFL in total defense, allowing just 273.6 yards per game, ranked third in the NFL in passing defense, allowing only 172 yards per game, and ranked seventh in rushing defense, allowing 101.6 yards per game.
In the end, their 13-3 record earned Seattle the top playoff seed in the NFC, which earned it a first round bye.
Following their bye, the Seahawks hosted the New Orleans Saints, a team that was looking to win its second away playoff game in franchise history. But they would be disappointed, as Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns in the game. The Seahawks jumped out to a 16-0 lead early, and despite a late comeback attempt from the Saints, Seattle was able to scrape away with the 23-15 win.
In the NFC championship game, the Seahawks faced their division rivals, the San Francisco 49ers, a team that had made the Super Bowl the year before. The game came down to the wire, and Sherman was able to deliver the game-winning play to give Seattle the 23-17 win and send them to the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl XLVIII will be the first Super Bowl ever held outdoors in a cold-weather city.
The NFL leader in passing yards has never gone on to win the Super Bowl. They are 0-47 all-time in attempts. As Manning led the league in passing yards this year, he could become the first to ever accomplish it.
With the Broncos' top-rated offense facing the Seahawks' top-rated defense, it will be the first time the top offense and defense have squared off in a Super Bowl since 1990.
The Seahawks led the NFL in points allowed, total yards allowed and passing yards allowed, while forcing 39 turnovers, which also led the league. If they want any chance at slowing down Manning, pressuring him into turning the ball over will be key.
With a win this weekend, Manning will have a winning record in the playoffs, a record that is currently 11-11.
Lynch led the NFL in rushing touchdowns in the regular season with 12 and will carry the workload this weekend for Seattle's offense. Look for Seattle to try to run the ball, chew the clock and keep Manning off the field.
Thanks to Manning, eight different Broncos players caught touchdown passes this season, which will put a ton of pressure on Seattle's secondary. Look for Peyton to spread out the defense and pick it apart at its weak points.
If the Broncos win this weekend, Manning will be the first starting quarterback to lead two separate franchises to Super Bowl wins.
Zane Beadles (Utah, Hillcrest High), Denver offensive guard
Paul McQuistan (Weber State), Seattle offensive lineman
Robert Turbin (Utah State), Seattle running back
Bobby Wagner (Utah State), Seattle linebacker