9 WHICH, ALTOGETHER, TIPS THE SCALES IN FAVOR OF...

January 27, 2014

TWO WORDS to set up my pick: Pot Roast.

Did you see the aptly nicknamed Terrance Knighton against the Patriots? The 6'2", 335-pound Broncos defensive tackle stuffed the run and twice got into the backfield for takedowns, one of them a sack of Tom Brady (right) on a desperation fourth down. I'd pick the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII if I thought running back Marshawn Lynch could have the kind of grind-it-out day that would hold Peyton Manning to seven or eight possessions (which is a key to beating Manning: limit his touches). But the prodigious Pot Roast will clog the running lanes for Lynch, and even if Seattle wide receiver Percy Harvin (concussion) can play, I like Denver's linebacker speed—especially Danny Trevathan's—to cut off the corners on end sweeps and option runs.

Now back to Manning. When he does get his touches, the key for the Seahawks won't be Richard Sherman or Kam Chancellor or any of the other Legion of Boomers on the back end, but lineman Michael Bennett. The 6'4", 274-pound Bennett has played about half his snaps as a dangerous interior rusher, and I bet coordinator Dan Quinn will use him in that role even more often in the Super Bowl. That added pressure up the middle could make tight end Julius Thomas, slot man Wes Welker and running back Montee Ball the go-to guys for Manning—receivers who get the ball in space, right away, near the line, then slice and dice even the best defenses.

Of course, turnovers can change everything, and here the Seahawks are superior: They ended the regular season plus-20, while Denver was dead even at zero. The Legion of Boom had a large hand in most of those mistakes—but so did Seattle's intimidating 12th Man, which Manning won't have to worry about in the Meadowlands. Add all that up, and I think Manning will make enough plays on Feb. 2 to walk off his brother's gridiron with a second Super Bowl title.

Broncos 27, Seahawks 24

PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)