Sorry, Seattle, this is Denver's year

As much as Seattle has survived with less heralded targets like Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, this is still an offense that ranked 26th in the NFL with 202.2 passing yards per game. This really is a unit built around the power running of Marshawn Lynch and the opportunities that approach creates for Wilson's play-action passing. Seattle simply doesn't have the weapons in the passing game to frighten a Broncos secondary that has quickly become a patchwork unit. That matters big in a game where Seattle will need to score touchdowns to win.

The Seahawks also won't be facing a quarterback who will make the errors that doomed San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick on Sunday. Kaepernick had three fourth-quarter turnovers in that contest, including an interception in the final seconds that resulted from Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman tipping an ill-advised pass to linebacker Malcolm Smith for the game-clinching interception. Forget for one moment Sherman's postgame bluster or the classless way he celebrated that play -- by taunting wide receiver Michael Crabtree and clutching his throat in the choke sign. Manning isn't making that throw in that situation. He's going to find the weakest link in the Seahawks' secondary and wear that guy out whenever possible.

That doesn't mean the Seahawks won't get theirs. They deserve all the hype they're getting on that side of the football. It's just that Manning didn't set league records for passing yards and passing touchdowns in a single season solely by getting on a nice roll. He's blessed with exceptional talent around him and a league that is biased toward offense. In other words, bet on Seattle -- a team that loves to clutch and bully receivers -- to not get nearly as many breaks from the officials as it might against other opponents.

This contest already is shaping up as a possible swan song for Manning, which means the emotional advantage resides in Denver. There's clearly a noticeable looseness to him at this time of year that has never been visible in the past. This is a man who was fighting to keep his career alive three years ago, after four neck surgeries nearly sidelined him forever. He can appreciate the effort it took to overcome both that and his departure from the Indianapolis Colts, the franchise that drafted him into the NFL in 1998.

Manning certainly recognizes how close he is to the conclusion of a phenomenal career. If this is where it's going to end, he's entirely comfortable with dropping one-liners at his news conferences and savoring the ride for all it's worth. Great quarterbacks with that type of mindset are tough to beat at this time of year. As Manning said after completing 32 of 43 passes for 400 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday, "Playing quarterback is what I was focused on doing today. Nothing more than that."

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...