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Saturday, 1 February 2014

Super Bowl XLVIII Pick- Denver Broncos v Seattle Seahawks (February 2nd 2014)

I can't believe the last five months of the season have come and gone as quickly as they have, but here we are in New York/New Jersey for Super Bowl 48 and I think it is fair to say that the two most deserving teams will get a chance to play for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Some will argue that the San Francisco 49ers could feel hard done by to not have a chance to avenge their loss against the Baltimore Ravens from Super Bowl 47, but I think the opportunity to have the Number 1 Offense take on the Number 1 Defense is too intriguing to pass up.

Before the Conference Championship Games were decided, I said I believed the NFC team, whoever it was, would beat the AFC representative, but I am also unsurprised that the Denver Broncos are the favourites to win this game. In all honesty, a good Offense will always be more attractive than a good Defense and while the public are pounding the Denver Broncos, they are not overwhelming favourites to win the game with the spread still under the key number 3.

There is every chance that will change either through Saturday night or early Sunday morning as bettors get their wagers to the windows in Vegas, which should in turn have a reaction with the off-shore layers.

So the question from here is whether I have changed my mind about backing the NFC team against the AFC team? Well, let me breakdown how I think the game will go below with the strengths and weaknesses of both teams and then I will make my pick.

This season has been a strong one for the picks, although the Play Offs have been hit and miss with the Conference Championship Games going 1-1 two weeks ago.

I can't complain about the season though, even if a couple of breaks here and there would have meant the Play Offs were a successful month too, especially with one more game to go until we have a six month break from games in the NFL.

Denver Broncos v Seattle Seahawks Pick: This should be a fantastic Super Bowl with plenty of story lines from Peyton Manning cementing his legacy in the NFL to the young and brash Seattle Seahawks team trying to put their Defense in amongst the very best of all time by adding the Super Bowl to their CV.

Both teams are 15-3 for the season, but there is little doubt that the Seattle Seahawks have come through the harder path over the last five months with big games littered throughout their season in the tough NFC. You have to respect what the Denver Broncos have done this season Offensively, but the AFC was not the same level of competitiveness as the other Conference and their Division does not compare with Seattle's NFC West exploits.

One of the big factors that everyone would have been waiting on was the weather, but that seems to no longer be a big concern with the wind at a reasonable level and little chance of seeing rain. The temperature looks conducive to good football too so the fears that most had when the Super Bowl was awarded to the Met Life Stadium is no longer a concern.

That has to be music to the ears of Peyton Manning, even if he won't admit that openly, because he has not performed to the same level that we expect when the weather does take a turn for the worse. Wind would have been the biggest problem for Manning to overcome having been the only winning Quarter Back in a Super Bowl where rain was a real factor, but he now has a clear chance to join his brother with his second ring.

It will be interesting to see how Manning copes with the Defense that he sees in this game as Denver would not have played a physical unit like the one that Seattle will show him in this game. The referees will be critical to this end as the Seahawks will look to jam the Receivers at the line of scrimmage to disrupt the route running timing that is a key to this whole Denver Offense.

If the referees decide to let them play, Seattle will have a great chance to force turnovers and restrict this Denver Offense from really getting off, but a penalty-happy crew could make it very tough for the Seahawks to use the game that has been so effective for them through the season.

I will assume that the referees are going to let these players play as much as possible, so the Seahawks physical Secondary will cause a lot of problems for this Offense as far as I am concerned. Jamming them at the line of scrimmage is one element, but the pressure the Seahawks get up front is going to be critical in testing this Denver Offensive Line that has managed to keep Peyton Manning upright in their two Play Off games.

Seattle will find it important that they can get pressure with a three or four man rush as that will provide more coverage, while the Defense has also been stout against the run and will likely limit Knowshon Moreno or Montee Ball from out of the backfield. Both Running Backs are likely to be more effective as the check down pass from Manning, but the pressure again will be key to prevent the Quarter Back feeling comfortable in the pocket and forcing him to move around a little.

Disrupting the timing at the line of scrimmage and earning pressure up front will give Seattle a huge chance to slow down an Offense that became the first to surpass 600 points in the regular season. The pressure the Seahawks get up front will also test this Denver Offensive Line, which has held up well through injuries during the season, but who will be facing their toughest opponents in the trenches with the likes of Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin capable of cracking the line.

I still expect Denver to move the chains at times, but Kam Chancellor will have the Receivers second guessing themselves when going over the middle to make plays, and Richard Sherman has the chance to prove he really is the best Corner in the NFL as he will likely match up with Demaryius Thomas for much of the game.

This side of the ball has been the most talked about aspect of the Super Bowl over the last two weeks, but the game won't be won and lost on that side of the ball alone.

Denver's Defense hasn't escaped the injury curse that afflicted the Offensive Line with Von Miller and Chris Harris both out for the game, although Champ Bailey will be playing in his first Super Bowl in what could be his final season. Despite these injuries, the Broncos have actually been pretty good against the run all season with the likes of Terrance Knighton improving all the time.

The Broncos have only allowed 3.9 yards per carry all season, but improved that to 3.6 yards per carry over the last three games and limiting Marshawn Lynch is integral to their chances in this game. Keeping Lynch in check will not only stuff the immediate game plan of the Seattle Seahawks, but will also prevent the NFC team controlling the clock and making sure Manning and the powerful Offense is kept off the field, much in the manner that San Diego did in their win in the regular season.

With the way the Denver Defense has played though, the pressure is also very much going to be on Russell Wilson in the biggest game of his career, but he has proved at the College level that he can perform in big games and not be overawed. Wilson has struggled a little down the stretch, but getting Percy Harvin back will give him another Receiving threat.

There are holes in the Denver Secondary that can be exploited, as we saw when Tom Brady missed a couple of wide open Receivers in the Conference Championship loss two weeks ago, but if Wilson can make those throws, he will give his Defense something to protect in terms of points. Harvin is a wild card who could make his biggest impact in the biggest game, although I am interested to see how much Seattle expect from their big off-season trade from the Minnesota Vikings.

If Harvin can give Denver enough to think about, the likes of Golden Tate and Zach Miller can make big catches to keep the Seahawks moving down the field, while Wilson's scrambling ability means he can avoid some of the pass rush. The scrambling also means the Secondary has to stay focused on the Receivers, while Wilson will also be able to pick up some yards on the ground if he is not being spied.

That makes the Seattle Offense a little more interesting too and getting up between 21-24 points will give the Seahawks a real chance to win the game.

Personally, I liked Seattle when the game was set two weeks ago and getting a 3 point head start on the handicap looks a lot of points in what could be a very close game as far as I am concerned.

Both teams will have some success moving the chains, but the intangibles are also leaning towards the Seahawks on this one, although they are playing against Peyton Manning who may not have another chance to play in a Super Bowl (even if I think Denver are the favourites to get back to this point next season as long as Manning returns to Colorado).

The intangibles I talk about are the turnover differential and Seattle have found a way to force those and win that battle through the season which could prove to be the ultimate difference in a game as close as this one. I also believe the Defense is going to cause some real issues for Manning and the Denver Offense, while Russell Wilson has shown his ability to make big plays when he is most needed.

Playing a clean game from a penalty perspective is also all-important for Seattle, but that is a tone the referees have to set early and is the hardest factor to really put a feeling to. If the referees let Seattle play as they have for most of the season, they should cause enough second guessing from Peyton Manning in the game, especially if they get pressure by sending three or four men after the Quarter Back.

 A couple of trends also favour the Seahawks in this one too: The NFC is 8-3 against the spread in the last 11 Super Bowl games; the underdog is 9-3 against the spread in the last 12 Super Bowl games.

I also read a statistic that showed the Quarter Back that was the higher rated one by the public is 2-9 against the spread in the Super Bowl since 2000 (the person giving the statistic had two Super Bowls with Quarter Backs that would have been considered level in ability at the time of the Super Bowl game).

Finally, the Number 1 Offense has faced the Number 1 Defense five times previously in the Super Bowl since 1970 and it is the Defense that leads those games 4-1.

It wouldn't surprise me to see the drama of the Super Bowl unfold with Peyton Manning having the ball last with a chance to win the game for the Denver Broncos, but everything is pointing to Seattle as the outright winner in the game and I think they are being given too many points in this one as the City celebrates its first major Championship since 1979.

Super Bowl Prediction: Denver Broncos 21-24 Seattle Seahawks

I don't get involved in too many of the prop betting markets because they tend to be heavily skewed throughout the season, but these could be a fun play for the Super Bowl:

I am not a big fan of prop bets during the season as there simply isn't great value in them, but this is the Super Bowl and everyone has small bets on other markets aside from the main bets they may have.

I am openly admitting that I will be having a few dimes on these prop bets just for the sake of fun, but they could be worth a shot.

For example, Paddy Power are offering 21.00 that we see an Interception returned for a Touchdown in this game- remember the last time Peyton Manning was in a Super Bowl and Tracy Porter picking him to the house for the New Orleans Saints? If Seattle get pressure up front, this Defense could potentially trap a Receiver which leaves a wide open lane for a turnover creating team to take a slant pass for the pick six.

The same company are offering over 5.5 sacks at 3.20 and I think both Quarter Backs could be under pressure in this game, although Russell Wilson is schooled to get rid of the ball if there is no one open down field rather than risk an Interception. That has led to sacks with Wilson dropping deep in the pocket and I also think Seattle will have success getting to Peyton Manning so that looks a decent price.

We haven't seen a Defensive player win Super Bowl MVP for over ten years since Dexter Jackson did that in 2003, but the Seattle Defense has been the strength of their team and if they limit Denver to the points I think, the Super Bowl may have their next Defensive MVP.

Richard Sherman has received so much negative attention following the NFC Conference Championship Game and THAT interview, while the Denver Offense may focus away from hime. However, he leads Seattle with the most Interceptions on the season and another pick off to seal this game could make the 35.00 look a very big price.

Super Bowl XLVII Pick: Seattle Seahawks + 3 Points @ 1.92 Bovada (3 Units)

For a very small interest, these three prop markets are my choices for the big game:
Defensive Interception for a Touchdown @ 21.00 (Paddy Power)
Over 5.5 Total Sacks @ 3.20 (Paddy Power)
Richard Sherman Super Bowl MVP @ 35.00 (Pinnacle)

Conference Championship: 1-1, - 0.10 Units
Divisional Round1-3, - 4 Units
Wild Card Round2-2, - 0.10 Units
Week 177-1, + 10.68 Units
Week 164-6, - 4.23 Units
Week 152-6, - 5.32 Units
Week 145-4, + 0.54 Units
Week 136-4-1, + 3.65 Units
Week 126-4, + 1.43 Units
Week 116-2, + 7.59 Units
Week 104-4, + 0.86 Units
Week 92-5, - 4.24 Units
Week 85-3, + 4.64 Units
Week 77-2, + 5.70 Units
Week 62-7, - 8.15 Units
Week 54-4, + 0.35 Units
Week 47-1, + 9.27 Units
Week 33-4-1, - 1.10 Units
Week 26-1, + 6.46 Units
Week 15-6, - 3.50 Units

Season 201385-70-2, + 20.43 Units
Season 2012- 4.78 Units

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