Below is my breakdown and prediction for the game. Full disclosure, I'm a lifelong Seahawks fan. I'll try to be objective because "homer-ism" bugs me.
Below is a SWOT analysis of the two teams:
Strengths and Weaknesses
Seahawks Strength - Defense. This is clear. Seattle has the best defense in the NFL by virtually all measures. In particular, their pass defense is tight with big, strong, fast DBs who can cover and hit hard. Legion Of Boom don't you know. Without having to worry about Denver QB Manning running the ball like they had to be with San Francisco, can the Seahawks top-rated DBs control Denver receivers and let the pass rush pressure Manning into bad throws or sacks?
Denver Strength - Offense. In particular the arm and brain of QB Payton Manning. The passing game is the Bronco's bread and butter. Manning's ability to deduce, fool and pick apart a defense is as good as it gets. Denver would not be in the Super Bowl without their QB and passing attack. Their run game is so-so at best.
This sets up a strength on strength matchup - Denver O vs. Seattle D. Obviously, this could be the place where the game is decided. Will the prolific Denver O produce points against the Seahawks D or will the stingy, hard-hitting Seahawks slow them down, limit them? Will they get FGs or TDs? Will Manning be pressured into throwing a pick or two?
Seahawks Weakness - Offense. While not truly "weak" (they did score enough points to win 15 games en route to the Super Bowl after all), the Seattle offense is not as strong as their defense. The run game with RB Lynch is the key for the Hawks. Get "Beast Mode" going and it could be a long day for Denver because off of that: 1) QB Wilson can be effective passing, and 2) Manning can't score if he's on the sideline as Seattle grinds it out on the ground. But the thing is, that has been difficult for the Seahawks to do over the past few weeks. Throw in a penchant for untimely penalties and mistakes, and they hamper themselves too often. The NFC championship game was better for them, but still...one wonders how they will perform in the Super Bowl.
Denver Weakness - Defense. Denver does not have what you would call a great defense. Good? OK. Above average? Maybe. Great? Not really. But, can they stop Lynch? Can they force Russell Wilson to have to throw the ball to win? Will they be able to deal with Wilson's ability to scramble and find open receivers...or even run the ball?
This sets up a weakness-on-weakness matchup. I think this will decide the game.
The biggest opportunity is in the weakness vs. weakness matchup. Who comes out on top there? The Denver offense is very likely going to score a few times, even against that Seattle defense. And, Seattle's D is probably going to stymie Manning and the Bronco's O a few times...perhaps even getting a turnover or two.
BUT, what about the other way around? Is Seattle's O capable of scoring, say, 24-28 points against Denver? Therein lies the opportunity to win for Seattle. Conversely, if Denver's D has a great game, they have an excellent chance to win the game.
After that, I think special teams are a great opportunity for both teams. For Seattle, it's the kick return game that offers the best shot. Harvin, Baldwin and Tate are all guys who can take a kickoff or punt all the way back for a TD. Meanwhile, Denver has a FG kicker who is spectacular. If it comes down to a last second long FG attempt, Denver has the edge.
- Weather - cold temperatures, wind, rain and perhaps even snow all could all materialize during the game. And, if any or some combination does develop, it could have an impact on who wins. Bad weather probably benefits Seattle with its defense and ability to run the ball.
- Referees - Super Bowl XL, that's all I am going to say. Referees can have a profound and definitive impact on who wins if they make a bad call, or worse...a series of unexplainable calls all against one team.
- Injuries - Who's out? Who's in? The one person I think could make an impact by being there or not is Seattle's Percy Harvin. If he can make the game and stay in it, his speed and dynamic playmaking ability might be an edge that puts Seattle over the top for a win. Without him, Seattle is a more pedestrian offense.
OK, so with that analysis now out there, who wins? I think this legitimately could go either way. Objectively, it may be a close one that goes down to the wire. I don't see either team blowing out the other.
However, I must confess that as a lifelong Seahawks fan, it is unfathomable to me that they could actually win the Super Bowl. Don't get me wrong, I desperately want them to. But Seattle teams (basketball, baseball, football, soccer) have such a long and consistent record of breaking the hearts of their fans on the verge of glory that I just can't imagine them actually winning this one. I think any real Seattle sports fan know the Hawks are unlikely to pull this off against Manning. We've seen it too many times. Whether its sub-par play, unprecedented bad luck or just being outclassed...Seattle sports teams almost always blow it. The one exception is the 1979 Supersonics who won the NBA title. That's it.
Maybe if they'd gotten lucky and were facing, say, San Diego or even New England...I'd be optomistic. But Payton Manning? In the cold of NYC?
So, while it pains me to do this, I'm going to pick the Broncos to win the Super Bowl.
I think Manning will have enough success through the air that they'll score 24-28 points, and I think the Seahawks offense - because of a turnover and penalties - will not be able to match that.
The weakness-on-weakness matchup will break in favor of Denver.
SO, I say Denver Broncos 27, Seattle Seahawks 17.
I hope I'm wrong.