Seattle's Russell Wilson has been impressive over his first two seasons. He's an athletic improviser who can extend plays with his legs. But Denver's Peyton Manning is, arguably, the greatest ever to play the position, a master who is coming off a historic season. He set league records for passing yards (5,477) and touchdowns (55).
Seattle's Marshawn Lynch is a man of few words, but "Beast Mode" lets his physical, hard-nosed running style do all of the talking. Lynch has more yards between the tackles over the past three seasons than any other back. But the Broncos' Knowshon Moreno is no slouch, either. He's a 1,000-yard rusher who caught 60 passes for 548 yards.
Receivers/ tight ends
The Seahawks' receivers are better than advertised with Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate leading the way and Percy Harvin now healthy. But the Broncos' diverse group boasts three No. 1-type wideouts in Damaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker. Plus, Denver has the better tight end in Julius Thomas.
Denver's Peyton Manning barely has been touched this postseason, aided by his ability to deliver throws quickly and recognize blitzes. His offensive line allowed just 20 sacks this season. Both lines have been just as solid in run blocking. But with the Seahawks' defensive front four, Manning likely will be more uncomfortable than usual.
The Broncos' front is underrated. It's led by NT Terrance "Pot Roast" Knighton, who has been unblockable in recent weeks. And DT Malik Jackson has been a stout interior rusher. But Seattle's front four can create more havoc. It racked up 29 sacks led by Cliff Avril (9) and former Buccaneer Michael Bennett (9).
If it weren't for Von Miller's season-ending torn ACL, the Broncos would have the edge. Denver still has allowed just one 100-yard rusher all season. But the Seahawks have a better unit overall led by the unsung Bobby Wagner. Wagner, in his second season, had 15 tackles in the NFC title game against the 49ers.
The Broncos boast strong veterans in CB Champ Bailey and CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. But Seattle's "Legion of Boom" is the league's top secondary for a reason. Richard Sherman is, arguably, the best corner in the game, and S Earl Thomas effectively mans the middle. They play physical and rarely give up big plays.
Both teams have quality kickers: Denver's Matt Prater (25-of-26 on field goals) and Seattle's Steven Hauschka (33-of-35). If the Seahawks can get Manning & Co. to punt, they have playmakers in the return game with an 11.1-yard average. Seattle has better kick/punt coverage, and that could be an X-factor in field position.
The Broncos' John Fox has more Super Bowl experience. He previously went as coach of the Panthers (2003) and defensive coordinator of the Giants (2000). Pete Carroll's energy and aggressiveness has rubbed off on the Seahawks. But with Peyton Manning, Denver has another coach on the field, which gives them the edge.
Joe Smith, Times Staff Writer