A unit-by-unit look at who has the advantage:
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS VS. DENVER BRONCOS
3:30 p.m. Sunday, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
TV: Ch. 13. Radio: 710-AM, 950-AM, 97.3-FM, 1240-AM, 1030-AM.
Here’s the most discussed position at the Super Bowl: the legendary Peyton Manning and youngster Russell Wilson. Manning set numerous passing records this year. Wilson is in Year Two of a career he hopes has a similar arc to Manning’s. Experience, knowledge and ability to adapt for Manning pushes this to Denver.
Running back: Seahawks
As Marshawn Lynch said during the week, he’s “about that action, boss.” The Broncos have said during the week that stopping Lynch is their top priority. Denver has a solid running back itself. Knowshon Moreno ran for 1,038 yards during the regular season. He’s no Lynch, however.
Wide receivers: Broncos
The Broncos have three wide receivers with 10 or more touchdowns this season. They have a slot/possession receiver in Wes Welker, a deep threat in Eric Decker and a big receiver in Demaryius Thomas. The return of Percy Harvin bolsters the Seahawks’ group, as does Doug Baldwin’s 106 receiving yards in the NFC title game. It’s closer than some might think, but the edge still belongs to Denver.
Tight end: Even
The Seahawks have done an excellent job of shutting down pass-catching tight ends such as San Francisco’s Vernon Davis and New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham. The Seahawks have used multiple defenders to cover tight ends. They’ll face another good one in Denver’s Julius Thomas (12 touchdowns). Zach Miller is an experienced tight end who is supplemented by the speed of rookie Luke Willson and blocking of Kellen Davis.
Offensive line: Broncos
Peyton Manning has been sacked 18 times in 18 games. A large part of that is because he releases the ball so quickly. Another aspect is his offensive line. The Seahawks’ offensive line has been in flux all season because of injury or mediocre play. Seattle has yet to reveal who will start at left guard Sunday. It could be a crucial position because Denver defensive tackle Terrance Knighton will need to be stopped. The Seahawks have two former Pro Bowl selections, Max Unger and Russell Okung, to lean on, though neither has played up to their usual standard this season.
Defensive line: Seahawks
Terrance Knighton, nicknamed “Pot Roast,” is the defensive line anchor for Denver. Seattle’s experiment of bringing in several defensive linemen and rotating them has worked beautifully. Each says they are rested, even into Super Bowl week, because of the reduction in snaps played during the season. The Seahawks have a much deeper and more versatile defensive line.
The return of K.J. Wright to a starting spot will be important to the Seahawks’ ability to cover Denver tight end Julius Thomas. One of the quietly developing players on the team is second-year linebacker Bobby Wagner. He led the Seahawks in tackles. Danny Trevathan is a force for Denver, which lost Von Miller in Week 16.
Defensive backs: Seahawks
There was a mini brouhaha last week when a couple of Denver radio hosts said the Broncos’ secondary was as good as the Seahawks’. That’s a stretch from someone serving home cooking. Byron Maxwell is the least-known player among the starters in the secondary and could start for a lot of teams. Both Denver cornerbacks, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Champ Bailey, are near retirement. Broncos safety Duke Ihenacho is prone to mistakes. The Seahawks have the best secondary in the league.
Special teams: Seahawks
Steven Hauschka has been on-point almost every kick this season. Jon Ryan has helped the Seahawks control games via field position with his punts. Golden Tate has been solid in punt returns, and Doug Baldwin and Percy Harvin provide a strong kick return duo. Jeremy Lane could be the league’s best gunner. Denver’s diminutive Trindon Holliday (5-foot-5) is among the league’s best returners. He has run back a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown this season. Kicker Matt Prater has missed just one field-goal attempt all season. One thing to keep an eye on: Denver allowed the highest average kick return in the league this year. Hello, Harvin?
Pete Carroll is in his first Super Bowl but has managed dozens of big games in his life. This will be the biggest. However, I don’t see it fazing him. John Fox has coached in a Super Bowl before. He knows how this works. This will be more about nuanced, in-game decisions. Will Carroll get “hormonal” in the biggest game of his life? Will Fox be desperate to win now with Manning? Neither is likely.
Pick: Seahawks 30, Broncos 23
The Seahawks’ secondary will buy its rush just enough time to get to Peyton Manning often enough that he ends up fumbling. That turnover, plus an interception, a solid throwing day for Russell Wilson and a big Percy Harvin kick return deliver the Seahawks their first title.