1. When he eventually retires, quarterback Peyton Manning will go down as one of the best of all time. The only thing Manning’s heart is currently set on is winning his second Super Bowl. Following a record-setting regular season, Manning will now aim for a win at the Meadowlands after getting the best of Tom Brady and the Patriots.
2. While it helps to have someone like Peyton Manning, the veteran quarterback was also helped by one of the league’s best wide receiving corps. With Wes Welker, Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas as his top targets, Manning was able to succeed on short and deep passes as well as in the slot with weapons he did not have when he won Super Bowl XLI with the Colts.
3. Despite losing Pro Bowl guard Ryan Clady in Week 2 to a foot injury and center Dan Koppen to a torn ACL in July, the offensive line finished the regular season as one of the top units in the NFL. Although Manning is one of the best at getting the ball out quickly, his offensive line allowed him more than enough time all season and helped create sufficient running lanes for the running backs.
4. It would be hard to have a better season than the one kicker Matt Prater had this season. Prater not only converted 25 of 26 attempts (96.2 percent) but also cleared a NFL-long 64-yard attempt on Dec. 8 against Tennessee. With his powerful leg, coach John Fox has trust in Prater to make kicks from anywhere considered field-goal territory.
5. The league’s top offense shared the sideline with a mediocre to above-average defense at times. During the regular season, the Broncos allowed an average of 24.9 points, 101.6 rushing yards and 254.4 passing yards per game. Denver also forced 16 fumbles and 17 interceptions, while the Broncos gave up 24 turnovers all season.
6. One of the team’s main problems is staying healthy. Against New England, the Broncos were missing linebacker Von Miller and cornerback Chris Harris, who both have torn ACLs.
7. The Broncos made a splash last offseason when they added former Temple defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, who was selected by Jacksonville in the third round of the 2009 draft. In Jack Del Rio’s 4-3 defense in Denver, Knighton has had success, recording three sacks during the regular season with 18 total tackles.
8. As soon as Denver selected Montee Ball in the second round of the 2013 draft, the running back position was supposed to be locked up for the foreseeable future. Instead, Ball struggled to hold onto the ball, which gave Knowshon Moreno an opportunity to succeed. Denver enjoyed success with Moreno, Ball and Ronnie Hillman sharing handoffs, but Moreno became the top option with more than 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns.
9. Peyton Manning quickly made a star of Julius Thomas, a fourth-round pick in 2011. The young basketball star at Portland State turned tight end, finished the regular season with 12 touchdown receptions and 788 receiving yards. In addition to the many dangerous wide receivers on the depth chart, Thomas added a new worry to opposing defenses this season with his increased production.
10. The Broncos secondary features a few familiar names, including veteran cornerback Champ Bailey and former Eagle Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Since joining the Broncos on a one-year deal, Cromartie has had a career year, recording three interceptions. The Denver secondary will be invaluable going up against Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson.
1. In Seattle, defense is key. During the regular season, the Seahawks’ lockdown defense allowed a league-best 273.6 yards per game and an average of 14.4 points per game to opposing offenses. As a whole, Seattle’s defense allowed an average of 172.0 passing yards per game and 101.6 rushing yards, a good combination against Denver’s top-ranked offense.
2. Since leaving Buffalo for Seattle, Marshawn Lynch has been a beast, allowing him to trademark the nickname, “Beast Mode.” During the regular season, Lynch carried the ball 301 times for 1,257 and 12 touchdowns, while adding three more touchdowns so far this postseason.
3. While many things have gone right entering Seattle’s first Super Bowl appearance since 2005, the Seahawks still have questions at wide receiver. Against New Orleans on Jan. 11, Percy Harvin suffered a concussion and may not be able to return to the field for the Super Bowl. Behind Harvin on the depth chart sits Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse.
4. A third-round selection in the 2012 draft, quarterback Russell Wilson was also selected in the MLB draft twice and once in the MLB Rule 5 draft because of his incredible athleticism. Wilson, who threw for 3,357 yards and 26 touchdowns, also ran for 539 yards on the ground and one touchdown. Able to change a game at any moment, Wilson can rely on both his passing and rushing.
5. There probably is not a harder place in football to play than in Seattle. Unfortunately for the Seahawks, they must play in New Jersey for the Super Bowl XLVIII title and will not have that same 12th-man advantage. After just one loss at home during the regular season, the Seahawks were 6-2 on the road, which included a win at MetLife Stadium over the Giants on Dec. 15.
6. The main reason Seattle’s shutdown defense has been so successful this season is due, in part, to a dominant secondary. Led by cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas, the physical and quick unit has the ability to cause headaches for any offense. The Seahawks forced 28 interceptions and 17 fumbles during the regular season.
7. The Seahawks’ offensive line has had a roller-coaster season, either getting dominated by defensive lines or allowing wide-open holes for Marshawn Lynch to run through. While it is unsure which unit will show up in the Super Bowl, rushing the ball and blocking for Russell Wilson against the Broncos will be a key factor in Seattle’s success.
8. After recording 36 total sacks in 2012, a couple of free-agent signings helped the Seahawks’ sack total rise to 44 this season. Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett joined a unit led by defensive ends Red Bryant and Chris Clemons. Along with linebackers Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner and Malcolm Smith, expect a lot of pressure on Peyton Manning in a couple of weeks.
9. Kicker Steven Hauschka had a career year during his third season in Seattle. By converting 33 of 35 attempts (94.3 percent) in the regular season, Hauschka made all three of his attempts from beyond 50 yards, missed one of 12 attempts from 40-49 yards and missed one of 11 attempts from 20-29 yards.
10. Seattle’s offense and defense each feature a player from Penn State. Former Nittany Lions’ defensive tackle Jordan Hill joined the Seahawks as the 87th overall pick in the 2013 draft. Seven games into the season, Seattle signed fullback Michael Robinson after cutting him in August.
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