Super Bowl XLVIII Prediction: Seattle Seahawks vs Denver Broncos

One of the biggest things regarding a topic that makes me talk about it is my perception of a team compared to the general publics perception.  Its part of the reason I talk about the Niners, Seahawks, and Broncos so much.  They’re the leagues top teams and as such, everyone seems to have an opinion about em.  Since the beginning of the season, I’ve held on to the belief that the Seahawks fit the superbowl blueprint better than any other team.  Infact, I think I believe they fit the superbowl blue-print better than any team I’ve seen in recent years.  The Broncos on the other hand are probably the best passing offense we’ve ever seen.  But best passing offense does not equate to best team, and its going to take a complete team effort to win the superbowl.   Here are the most important things I’m considering for this game:

Seahawks Defense vs Broncos Offense

Pressure on Manning is the key – I think this applies to most teams, but against Manning it will provide the greatest return.  The common theme every time the Broncos have lost or been close to losing is pressure on the QB.  The Broncos O-line did a great job of recognizing the Patriots’ blitzes, but at the same time, if you need to send extra guys just to be able to get pressure, Manning will tear it apart.  But the talent of Seattle’s defense is on a different planet compared to New England. They have the skills, talent, and speed to beat even the best offensive lines with a 4-man rush. You might not think much of it after the SF game, but a mobile QB changes the pass-rush game. Against a mobile QB, not only is the D-line’s job doubled by having to spy the QB, but an extra linebacker needs to be used as a spy.  Against a statue like Manning, the 4-man rush can be much more effective at getting to the QB, and the linebackers’ jobs become much simpler.  Combine that with the best defensive backfield in the NFL and its almost certain they will force mistakes.   This is the reason they lead the league in interceptions.   Players like Manning, Brees, Brady, Rodgers can always pick up the blitz and torch you for it. When you have an effective 4-man rush, you essentially leave no glaring holes for these great QBs to exploit.

Broncos Defense vs Seahawks Offense
Shut down the running game and don’t give them any big plays over the time.  Those are the 2 keys to beating Seattle.   The engine of the team is Lynch.  As long as Lynch was getting shut down in the Niners game, Seattle struggled to move the ball.  Lynch’s TD run was their first touchdown for the seahawks and that really established the run game.  When they pound the running game and the safties start to creep, thats when Seattle hits you with the long-ball.  If the front 7 of Denver can hold strong, and the back 4 and keep everything underneath, Seattle will have to change its gameplan, and thats when they will be backed up on their heels.   Denver had a great pass-rush against NE, but getting to Wilson alone will not win the game.  Wilson can make plays outside the pocket, so when Denver does bring the extra guy, Wilson can buy enough time to burn you.

I think ultimately, while Denver has one of the best passing offenses of all time, they aren’t as complete of a team as Seattle.  I think this game will resemble the Colts-Broncos game, where Manning was pressured and made uncomfortable. On the other side I think Wilson’s creativity will be enough to put up consistent points on Denver.    This defense is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time.     I’m picking the Seahawks by 4.

I would also like to note that I’m actually very confident about my pick, and even as a broke-ass student, I’m think I’m going to put down $100 on the Seahawks, which is alot for me.

What to Do with Andy Dalton

While I’m not a huge fan of Andy Dalton, I think the bigger problem with the Bengals offense against the Chargers was their play-calling.  Dalton had 51 attempts, 57% completion, 1 TD, and 2 picks.  There is no reason whatsoever Dalton should be getting 50+ attempts.  If you break it down, the Bengals had their 2 best drives of the game in the 2nd quarter. The first was a run-heavy drive of 8 rushing attempts or dumps to the RB, 2 were passes. That was their lone TD of the game.  This set up the next drive, allowing them to drive another 60 yards, which looked like it would’ve ended in a TD had Bernard not fumbled.  Once the Bengals lost the lead, with 6:46 left to go in the 3rd quarter, they completely abandoned the run.  They ran 42 plays after that point, 5 rushing attempts, 36 drop-backs in shotgun formation.  At one point they ran 24 pass plays in a row in shotgun formation.  Even the best, most pass happy offenses like Denver or New Orleans, don’t have that kind of play-calling.  It was abysmal and it will get overlooked because Dalton is the easiest target to blame.

Andy Dalton in loss to the Chargers – Taken from ESPN

What the Bengals need to do next season is commit to the running game.  Not only will this open up opportunities for Dalton, so he doesn’t have to force it, but it will allow them to control the clock, tempo, and rest the defense.  After all, they are a defensive team.  With Atkins, Hall, Newman, and Gaethers all healthy, this will again be a top 5 defense in the league.  If Bernard and BJGE can be established as a legit dual-threat, this team can go deep into the playoffs.  If they going to continue to do their best 07-Patriots impression, they won’t make it out of the 1st round.   Eli and Flacco have 3 superbowls among them.  They won those superbowls by having great defenses and run-games, and being the type of guys who aren’t afraid to make the high-risk high-reward passes.  When their running games were going, the return tended to be more reward.  Now that they both have bottom of the league running-games, they are #1 and #2 in the NFL in interceptions.

I saw a few ESPN analysts criticize the Cincinatti defense, I think that’s totally unfair to the Bengals defense.  If you take away the Ronnie Brown 58-yard TD run with 2 minutes left in the hopeless game (right after a turnover on downs which pretty much sealed it), the Bengals gave up 138 yards on 39 attempts, thats 3.5 YPC.  Yet these ESPN analysts are taking about how the Bengals D-line got manhandled up front? Get outta town.  At one point Cincinatti turned it over 3 times in a row, all 3 times in their own territory. The subsequent result was 2 FGs and a Punt.  To say it was a team loss is totally incorrect.  This was a loss on the Bengals offense – the play-calling, Bernard’s fumble, and Dalton’s mistakes. It was an offensive collapse that can’t merely be labelled “fluke” plays.

2013 NFL Playoffs – Round 2 Predictions

New Orleans at Seattle Seahawks
I’ve been saying all year long that the Seahawks are the best team in the league.  I predicted a Denver-Seattle superbowl since last years playoffs, and I still stand by my statements. It will be vitally important for New Orleans to put up touchdowns early in the game to not only quiet the crowd but build their own confidence, and take away Seattle’s confidence.  If they get behind early and have to play catchup, they play right into Seattles hands.   Meanwhile its important for Seattle to have a balanced offensive attack.  Once they get the running game going, the passing game opens up, then read option, play action, trick plays, etc. all open up.  Like I said before the first meeting, I like the Seattle offense against the Saints defense over the Saints offense against the Seattle defense.  I think the Saints defense will step up and make it a close one, but Seattle has so few weaknesses and so many strengths, I’m taking Seattle by 6.

Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots
Andrew Luck is such a unique QB, he reminds me more of Aaron Rodgers than Manning.  While belichick is the ultimate mastermind, I think the Colts pass-rush will step up and slow down Brady just enough for Luck to win the game.  I think the Patriots and Colts have been the two toughest teams to predict the score.  The Patriots D has been banged up all season.  They’ve been involved in almost every flukey game this season.  They beat the Saints on a horrible non-holding call.  They lost to the Jets on a penalty.  They lost to the Panthers on a horrible non-PI call.  They beat the Browns on a horrible call. They beat the Broncos on a fumbled punt.   But they have had a very average to below-average defense all year long.  I just see the Colts as a more balanced team.  I dont trust this heavily 1-sided teams in the playoffs. I’m taking the Colts by 2.

San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers
The Niner defense has clear weak points that teams have been exploiting week after week, but all these teams seem to have had major flaws.  They’ve been scraping by alot of these teams, but one team they could not get lucky against is Carolina.  Kaepernick will struggle against the better defenses in the league.  Carolina might just have a better front 7 than San Francisco.  As much as I don’t like Cam, I have to take him over Kaepernick.  He has proven multiple times this season he has the ability to lead a game winning drive.   Carolina has the speed at linebacker to keep up with Kaepernick.  It will be a heavily defensive game, just like the first game, but I think both offenses will look deep in their playbooks to score points.  Carolina by 2.

San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos
This is one of the easier predictions of the post-season. Denver should have absolutely no problem taking care of business.  Had the Bengals not had 2 stupid interceptions and 2 fumbles in their own territory, they would have taken the game.  Playing a slow conservative game against the Broncos is simple not going to work unless they have a tough defense to compliment it.   The Broncos are hungry and you have to be a Superbowl calibre team to stop them.  Broncos by 10.

First Round Recap:
-I was 3/4 in the first round.  I was off by 1 in the Niners and Colts games, and off by 5 in the Saints game.  I really thought the Bengal defense would’ve been able to carry them, as long as Dalton didn’t blow it.  I severely underestimated how inept he actually is.

-Andy Dalton is terrible, I’m officially off the Dalton bandwagon.  Last season what I saw in him was a good arm, ability to make all the passes, decent accuracy, good chemistry with many weapons, and average vision which I thought would improve.   Now what I see out of him is, a good arm, average accuracy, poor decision making, average vision that hasn’t improved in 3 years, and decent chemistry with weapons. It sounds harsh but the Bengals lost solely because of Andy Dalton.  I hear Dilfer on ESPN saying it was a team loss, that the defensive line got owned all game long? If you take away Brown’s 58 yard carry, which came after the Bengals just had a turnover on downs and it was pretty much a guaranteed loss, the Chargers had 138 yards rushing on 39 attempts, that’s 3.5 ypc.  Compare that to the Bengals’ 113 yards on 25 attempts for 4.5 ypc.  The Bengal defense came up with 2 critical stops in the 3rd and 4th quarter, holding SD to field goals, keeping the game close.  It really all came down to Dalton.

-The Saints didn’t put up as many points as I thought they would against the Eagles, but when they needed to score points, they did, including a 5-minute time-killing drive at the end to set up the game winning field goal. A good point about Foles, one of the reasons he doesn’t throw alot of interceptions is because he takes many sacks.  He took a few critical drive-killing sacks that really hurt them.

-Andrew Luck, wow.  Some people knock him for digging the hole in which they had to climb out.  Yes he made some dumb passes that were picked, but the 3rd one should’ve been caught, instead bounced out of the defenders hands.   His adjustments during the game are what separate him from other QBs, he can correct his own mistakes and make all the adjustments needed during the game.  A QB that can consistently perform in the clutch is a Superbowl winning QB.  I have no doubt he will win multiple Superbowls by the time his career is over.

-Niners barely sneak by Green Bay, the dropped pick on the flat or the FG that went through the defenders arms, both could’ve saved the game for the Packers.    I have great respect for the Niners defense, but I honestly feel like this is the luckiest team as of late.  The big frank gore run against Seattle, the Matt Ryan bobbled catch picked for a TD, the cardinals defensive collapse at the end, despite playing tough all game long, and now this.    I don’t think the Niners can get lucky against the Panthers.  If they can get through the Panthers and Seahawks, then I will be proved wrong.  I wish the Packer D was healthy, it feels like Matthews is the only player on the Packer D that has the speed to keep up with Kaepernick.  If they want to get passed the Niners they need to draft another speedy outside linebacker or defensive end.  That’s how Seattle and Carolina built their team and thats why Kaepernick struggles against them.