DENVER -- The deeper the Denver Broncos play into this season, the harder it is to pick against them.
There's simply something to this team that goes far beyond its mind-boggling offensive statistics or the star power of its quarterback. It's the Broncos' mental toughness, their unyielding belief that they can weather whatever challenges come their way. Now that they've drawn the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII, the Broncos are looking even more like a team about to claim its third championship in franchise history.
For all the great things Seattle has accomplished this season, the Seahawks are arriving at the wrong place at the wrong time. This is the year when Peyton Manning and the Broncos get to savor being the team of destiny, the squad that can thrive even when chaos hovers all around them. They've lost key starters on their offensive line. They watched their best defensive player tear his ACL before the regular season ended and their best defensive back suffer the same fate in their first playoff game. Oh yeah, Broncos head coach John Fox also missed a month of work after undergoing open-heart surgery.
The point here is that Denver is officially this year's Baltimore Ravens, with Manning playing a role that worked well for Ray Lewis last year. That team battled through extensive adversity before eventually beating San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII. The Broncos now have a similar attitude -- that they will not be deterred -- that is working in their favor.
"What we've been through, throughout the year, how we finished last year, everybody deserves to be in at this point," said Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker, referring to Denver's upset playoff loss to Baltimore last season. "It just shows how we stuck together and now we have an opportunity to play in the big game."
The Broncos also have a chance to face a Seattle team that they should beat. There's no question the Seahawks have a great defense: relentless pass rush, speed and athleticism at linebacker and aggressive ball hawks on the back end. What they don't have, however, is an offense that is dynamic enough to exploit a Broncos defense that has been depleted by injuries to players like Pro Bowl outside linebacker Von Miller, defensive end Derek Wolfe, safety Rahim Moore and cornerback Chris Harris. That unit surprisingly has played well in the postseason and that means Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson could face more issues than you'd expect.
For one thing, New England quarterback Tom Brady couldn't dominate the Broncos' defense -- he went 24-for-38 with 277 yards and one touchdown -- in Denver's 26-16 win in the AFC Championship Game. The Seahawks have marginally better talent at receiver than the Patriots but they've also been hurt in two areas. Wide receiver Percy Harvin was plagued by injuries all season and ultimately sat out Seattle's 23-17 win over San Francisco in Sunday's NFC title game. The Seahawks also lost wide receiver Sidney Rice to a torn ACL in late October.