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Seahawks, Broncos clash in Super Bowl XLVIII
By: Brian Graham - StatFox
Published: 2/1/2014  at  12:01:00 PM
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Super Bowl XLVIII
MetLife Stadium - East Rutherford, NJ
Kickoff: Sunday, Feb. 2 - 6:30 p.m. ET
Line: Denver -2.5, Total: 47.5

The top two seeds in the NFL meet up for Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2, as the Seahawks seek their first-ever championship against a Broncos team that last won the title in the 1998 season.

Both teams have identical 15-3 SU records (including 6-2 on the road) heading into the final game of the season, with Seattle going 12-6 ATS and Denver going 11-6-1 ATS. But the makeup of the two clubs is entirely different, as the Seahawks own the league's best defense (14.6 PPG, 283 YPG allowed) while the Broncos have the NFL's top offense with 36.4 PPG and 455 total YPG. The field conditions appear to favor Seattle, as the club is 10-1 SU (7-4 ATS) on turf this season and its run-oriented offense is more conducive to what is forecast to be the coldest Super Bowl in NFL history with a significant amount of wind. Although Denver has scored a lofty 41.0 PPG on 448 total YPG in its three turf games this season (2-1 SU, 1-2 ATS), the weather is less than ideal for its pass-happy offense. Both quarterbacks have had excellent seasons, with Seahawks QB Russell Wilson throwing for 3,357 yards (8.2 YPA), 26 TD and 9 INT, and Broncos QB Peyton Manning is coming off the best regular season in NFL history with 5,477 passing yards (8.3 YPA), 55 TD and 10 INT. These teams used to be in the same division, with Denver holding a 17-6 SU (12-10-1 ATS) advantage in this series since 1992. But they have met just twice over the past decade with Seattle winning 23-20 in 2006, but losing 31-14 in the most recent meeting in 2010 when Kyle Orton outplayed Matt Hasselbeck in the matchup of starting quarterbacks. Both clubs have loads of favorable betting trends, highlighted by the Seahawks' 10-0 ATS mark in the second half of the season under head coach Pete Carroll versus teams that allow 24+ PPG, winning by an average of 32.0 PPG to 12.0 PPG in this situation. But the Broncos have thrived with at least two weeks of rest since 1992, going 15-2 ATS and outscoring these opponents by nearly double-digits (29.4 PPG to 19.6 PPG). With the two weeks in between games, both teams will have time to get healthy. Seattle expects to have both WRs Percy Harvin (head) and Doug Baldwin (hip) on the field, while Denver lists both RB Knowshon Moreno (ribs) and DB Tony Carter (concussion) as probable.

Which team will capture its long-awaited championship? For the answer, connect to NFL Best Bets for the StatFox Experts final picks of the 2013 season. The experts continue to roll for NFL Best Bets, combining for a 59% ATS record (73-50-9) since Week 10, including 71% ATS (29-12-2) since Week 16. StatFox Brian is 9-2-1 ATS in the past five weeks of Best Bets, has a 69% ATS (29-13-4) mark since Week 8, and is 60% ATS (40-27-6) this season. StatFox Scott is 58% ATS (32-23-2) in Best Bets since Week 4, and is also a robust 66% (25-13) in NFL Totals since Week 9. StatFox Gary's 3-0 ATS mark in Week 17 gave him seven perfect weeks in Best Bets since Week 4, and he is 67% ATS (16-8-2) in Best Bets since Week 10. These three experts have combined for a perfect 10-0 record in NFL Totals during the playoffs with Scott at 5-0, Brian at 3-0 and Gary at 2-0.

For the BetDSI breakdown, see here:

The Seahawks offense is built around a power running game that averages 138 YPG on 4.3 YPC this season. RB Marshawn Lynch is the engine for this elite ground game, piling up 1,506 yards on 351 carries (4.3 YPC) with 15 TD this season, which includes 249 yards on 50 carries (5.0 YPC) and three scores in the playoffs. In two career meetings with Denver when he was with Buffalo, Lynch ran for 133 yards on 30 carries (4.1 YPC) and 2 TD. The Seattle ground game is also helped out greatly by QB Russell Wilson, who has galloped for 555 yards on 104 carries (5.3 YPC), although he has gained just 16 yards on 13 carries during his team's three-game win streak. But the Seahawks are capable of throwing the football too, with Wilson completing 63% of his passes for 204 YPG. Wilson hasn't had the services of WR Percy Harvin for nearly the entire season, as he touched the ball just twice during the regular season, but Harvin was a big part of the offense in the team's first playoff win versus New Orleans when he caught three passes for 21 yards in the first half of that game before sustaining a head injury. But even if Harvin isn't a big part of the team's offense, Wilson has been just fine without him in his playoff career, going 3-1 and completing 61% of his passes for 890 yards (8.5 YPA), 4 TD and just one interception. WRs Golden Tate (942 rec. yards, 5 TD) and Doug Baldwin (914 rec. yards, 5 TD) are his most frequently used receivers, while TE Zach Miller (423 rec. yards, 5 TD) also plays an important role in the passing offense. The Seahawks have not been great on third downs this season at 37%, and this rate has dropped to 28% over the past five games. But the club has done an excellent job of protecting the football recently, turning the ball over just five times in the past nine games combined.

The Under has occurred seven straight times in Seattle games thanks to a defense that has allowed just 12.0 PPG and 267 total YPG during this seven-game stretch. For the season, the Seahawks have been stingy in stuffing the run (105 YPG on 4.0 YPC) and have been even more proficient in stopping the pass (178 YPG on 5.4 YPA and 58.7% completions). Putting pressure on Peyton Manning will be a key to the team's chances of winning this matchup. Although Seattle has 47 sacks this season, the club has recorded two sacks or less in eight of its past nine games. But the Seahawks have also done an excellent job of forcing mistakes with an impressive 43 takeaways on the season, including 15 over the past five games.

Denver's offense has put up points in bunches all season, scoring at least 20 points in every game, and tallying at least 30 points 13 times, including six games of 40+ points. Although the offense has slowed down greatly since the start of November (31.3 PPG) compared to the first two months of the season (42.9 PPG), turnovers are also down considerably from 17 giveaways in the first eight games, compared to just 11 over the past 10 contests. The Broncos have also run the ball better in their past eight games, averaging 133 rushing YPG on a hefty 4.6 YPC. Running the football, especially in cold and windy conditions, will a big key to their success of sustaining drives, something they have been masterful at all season with a third-down conversion rate of 48%, which includes an eye-popping 62% rate (16-of-26) in the playoffs. RB Knowshon Moreno is the main ball carrier, producing 1,179 yards on 278 carries (4.2 YPC) with 11 touchdowns on the ground and zero lost fumbles. Backup RB Montee Ball has 654 yards on 142 carries (4.6 YPC) and 4 TD, and hasn't fumbled since Week 3. Although Moreno was held to just 51 yards on 24 carries (2.1 YPG) in the 2010 meeting with Seattle, he also gained 67 yards through the air and scored a touchdown that day. But this offense will not completely abandon the passing game, no matter what the elements are. QB Peyton Manning is 11-11 in his playoff career where he's thrown for 6,309 yards (287 YPG, 7.5 YPA), 36 TD and 22 INT, but his cold-weather numbers aren't to the level of his lofty standards. Since 2001, in 18 starts in outdoor games with a temperature below 40 degrees, Manning is just 8-10 with 4,415 passing yards (245 YPG, 7.2 YPA), 30 TD and 22 INT. In four playoff games in this cold-weather scenario, his numbers are downright horrible: 0-4, 56% completions, 226 passing YPG, 5.5 YPA, 4 TD and 9 INT. But he's never had a receiving corps nearly as good as his current foursome of WRs Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker, and with TE Julius Thomas. Demaryius Thomas has racked up 1,618 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns this season, with six 100-yard efforts in his past 10 games, including 134 in the AFC Championship win over New England. He also caught eight passes for 97 yards and a touchdown in that 2010 victory over the Seahawks. Decker has gained 1,393 yards through the air with 11 scores this season, but his yardage totals have been less consistent with four 100-yard efforts, but also eight games of 55 yards or less. The play of Wes Welker (854 rec. yards, 11 TD in 15 games) will be key in this matchup, as he is the possession receiver tasked with running shorter routes over the middle of the field. But Welker has been held below 40 yards in four of his past five games, and has already suffered two known concussions this season. Julius Thomas has 949 receiving yards and 12 TD this season, and has been excellent in these playoffs with 14 catches for 161 yards.

Defensively, the Broncos have allowed a pedestrian 24.0 PPG on 349 YPG this season, but these numbers have improved greatly during their current four-game win streak to 15.0 PPG on 269 YPG. However, the defense has been terrible on turf fields this season, allowing a hefty 35.0 PPG on 446 YPG in these three contests. The good news is that Denver is much more efficient in stopping the run this season (97 YPG on 3.9 YPC) than the pass (251 YPG on 6.7 YPA), and running the football is exactly what Seattle's offense will try to do. The Broncos don't have that dynamic pass rusher with LB Von Miller on injured reserve, failing to record more than four sacks in any of their 18 games this season. But they have tallied at least two sacks in 16 games, including each of the past six contests where they have totaled 15 sacks. Turnovers are a key to any game, as there are only four teams in the history of the NFL that have lost the turnover battle in a Super Bowl and still won the big game. In their past 10 games, the Broncos have forced only 10 turnovers, including zero in the two playoff contests.

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