Manning Seeks Second Super Bowl Ring

Image courtesy of Justin Edmonds/Getty Images
Peyton Manning is aiming for a second Super Bowl win. Image courtesy of Justin Edmonds/Getty Images
He should win his fifth NFL Most Valuable Player award this season, and there is little doubt he will end up in the Hall of Fame, but over almost two decades of excellence, Peyton Manning has only one Super Bowl ring to show for his efforts. Now that is nothing to sneeze at, but it would be the icing on the cake of his glorious career if he could become the first quarterback to win Super Bowls with two different teams as a starter when his Denver Broncos take on the Seattle Seahawks on Monday morning (AEST).

It’s a fascinating match-up for so many reasons, but not least of which, because it pits the league’s best offence against its best defence. Never before has the team which scored the most points and gained the most yards met the side which allowed the least number of points and yards on defence. Five times before has the highest-scoring team met the side which conceded the least points throughout the season, and on four of those occasions it was the defensive dynamos coming up trumps.

Manning threw for 55 touchdown passes this season, and four of his receivers had 10 touchdown catches or more; both are NFL records. The Broncos haven’t come up against a secondary like Seattle’s this season, though. Known as the ‘Legion of Boom’, the Seahawks’ collections of safeties and cornerbacks are monsters who have the size and strength to play a very physical brand of football. Richard Sherman may have gained notoriety for the post-match spray he gave Michael Crabtree after Seattle’s 23-17 win in the NFC Championship game, but the third-year star out of Stanford has been the standout corner in the NFL this season with a league-leading eight interceptions. Amazingly, he has been targeted just twice throughout two postseason games. Byron Maxwell and Earl Thomas are also gun CBs so don’t expect Manning to deviate too much from percentage plays up the middle of the field.

A big reason why Manning was so effective this season is his deep receiving corps. Wes Welker , Eric Decker and Julius Thomas can all break this game open, but Manning’s favourite target in his two seasons in the Mile High city has been Demaryius Thomas . He has amazing strength and is one Bronco who won’t be intimidated by the brutes in Seattle’s defence. Denver was second in the NFL with 46 passing plays of 20 yards or more, and much of that has to do with the ability of its receivers to gain yards after the catch.

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson doesn’t have the same benefit of a brilliant bunch of wideouts. What he did get last week in the win over the Niners was a receiver who played out of his skin in the form of Doug Baldwin . He has only had two 100+ yard games in his career, but he had 106 receiving yards last week in the Championship game. With speedster Percy Harvin getting game time under his belt after hip surgery kept him out of almost the entire season, suddenly Wilson has some targets. The second-year QB hasn’t thrown for most than 215 yards in his past six starts and he has just one TD pass in two postseason games. If he can’t connect with his receivers early, then Denver will be able to zero in on Marshawn Lynch , who has somehow lifted his game to yet another level the past couple of weeks. Against the Niners, ‘Beast Mode’ had 22 carries for 109 yards and one TD. In six playoff games, Lynch has four touchdown runs of at least 25 yards.

Denver has allowed less than 100 rushing yards in five of its last six matches after it was torn apart on the ground mid-season. The Broncos were 4-1 against teams with a top-10 running attack this season and if they can limit Lynch, it forces Wilson to go to the air when he’s hardly in a purple patch of form. Denver running back Knowshon Moreno is dealing with a rib injury he suffered late in the 26-16 victory over New England a fortnight back.

The last issue in this game is the weather, which neither team can control playing outdoors in New York. Despite plenty of snow and wind over the past couple of weeks, the weather forecast at this stage is for the temperature to stay around the zero degree mark for most of the game. Importantly, the wind isn’t expected to gust strongly, at all, which means there shouldn’t be any great disadvantage for Denver’s aerial game.

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