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Game Scout: Seahawks vs. Broncos

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: Jan 31 2014 12:34:31 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 31 2014 12:34:40 PM CST

Seattle Seahawks (15-3) vs. Denver Broncos (15-3)

Sunday, 6:25 p.m. ET, at MetLife Stadium -- TV: FOX

*TV announcers: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman

*Keys to the game: Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch and QB Russell Wilson power a running game that averaged 4.3 yards per carry in 2013.

Wilson's quickness and speed in the read-option is an element of the offense speedy WLB Danny Trevathan said this week the Broncos are concerned about. Lynch's bruising downhill running is the bigger worry. According to Pro Football Focus, Lynch led the NFL with 99 missed tackles against, and he draws a crowd when he gets the ball. There is added pressure on the secondary of the Broncos -- with no regular over 200 pounds -- to stop Lynch from being a runaway train through the second level. That widens coverage windows for Wilson to find his underrated receivers, who thrive in the play-action based offense.

WR Doug Baldwin leads the Seahawks with eight receptions for 136 yards in the postseason, but Percy Harvin is set to play after missing the NFC Championship game with a concussion.

QB Peyton Manning completed 72.2 percent of his passes in the first two playoff games for the Broncos. WR Demaryius Thomas has 15 receptions for 188 yards and two touchdowns in the playoffs, but could be a secondary option against Seahawks All-Pro LCB Richard Sherman.

Manning will not force the ball, with TE Julius Thomas and WRs Eric Decker and Wes Welker all candidates to play the role of a No. 1 receiver in a given game.

Manning's self-described simple approach has been to run the ball with RBs Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball when defenses overplay to stop the Broncos' fleet of wide receivers.

Seattle led the NFL with 39 takeaways, and can tip the field with Harvin stepping in as the primary returner.

*Matchup to watch -- Broncos WR Eric Decker vs. Seahawks CB Byron Maxwell: At 6-foot-1, 207 pounds, Maxwell wants to body up receivers off the line. He has help behind him in the Seahawks' Cover 3 defense, but Decker is able to separate with long arms and good speed. Maxwell had four interceptions -- the starting secondary combined for 20 picks -- and started just seven games, including two in the playoffs.

*Player spotlight -- Seahawks WR Percy Harvin: He logged 39 snaps this season and was injured in each of the two games he played, but Denver defenders pointed to the explosive receiver as the X-factor this week. Harvin has 4.4 speed and scored 29 total touchdowns (five returns, four rushing, 20 receiving) with the Vikings.

--Broncos DT Terrance Knighton: "Pot Roast" weighs heavily on the interior of the Seattle offensive line and primarily works slanted between the center and left guard. Seahawks C Max Unger gives up 25 pounds to Knighton, who is agile enough to get to and bring down Wilson.

*Fast facts: Manning is 0-4 in postseason games when the temperature at kickoff is below 40 degrees. He is the only player in the game with a Super Bowl ring.

--Denver held two playoff opponents to 66.5 rushing yards and 16.5 points per game. The Broncos allowed 101.6 rushing yards and 22.6 points in the regular season.

--Wilson was pressured on 43.8 percent of his passes, worst in the NFL.

--Manning was pressured on an NFL-low 14 percent of dropbacks. The Seahawks led the NFL with pressures on 32 percent of opponent pass plays (201 total pressures).

--The Seahawks are the first team since the 1990 Buffalo Bills without any player having previous Super Bowl experience.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

With a mild evening forecast, Peyton Manning and the Broncos hone in on cracking the code of the Seahawks' No. 1-rated defense. Seattle slows down Denver's top-scoring offense with a timely takeaway or two and wins the Lombardi Trophy with a last-minute Steven Hauschka field goal.

*Our pick: Seahawks 26-24

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