players to watch
PEYTON MANNING •
Talk about a stressful 60 minutes of football. A record five-time league MVP and one-time Super Bowl winner actually needs to win this game to be remembered as having lived up to his full potential. Fair? No. Reality? You betcha. A win would tie little brother Eli in Super Bowl victories and move him within one of Tom Brady with still enough time to even the score with his career-long nemesis. A loss and, well, the record season and a great career will be always — and wrongly — include a “yeah, but …”
RUSSELL WILSON • SEAHAWKS QB
On the flip side, there’s no historical pressure on Wilson beyond the usual Super Bowl stress. Wilson, 25, is a former third-round draft pick who already has more regular-season wins (24) than any other second-year quarterback in NFL history. But his unflappable poise and extraordinary ability to elude tackles, extend plays and make crisp, on-time throws down the field will be tested early. When the jitters are fresh, that’s when passes from young QBs tend to do the Super Bowl sail.
TERRANCE KNIGHTON • BRONCOS Dt
The focus this week has been on Manning vs. Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” secondary. But what about “Pot Roast” (Knighton) vs. “Beast Mode” (Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch)? Seattle’s a run- oriented team with a wild man running the ball. Lynch is averaging 5.0 yards per postseason carry. “Pot Roast” is a giant mound of flesh and muscle smack dab in the middle of a run defense that’s allowing a postseason-low 64.5 yards per game.
RICHARD SHERMAN • SEAHAWKS cb
The self-proclaimed best cornerback in the world now has to prove it while facing a legendary quarterback and an offense that had a record four receivers catch at least 10 touchdowns. Sherman kept his mouth under control for the most part this week, but he did slip by saying Manning tends to throw “ducks.” He was right, of course, but it still became sensationalized.
keys to the game
WHO’S MORE PHYSICAL?
Typically, the conversation about the physical battle is contained to the line of scrimmage. But this game could come down to the hand-to-hand confrontations between Seattle’s oversized cornerbacks and aggressive safeties and Denver’s receivers and tight ends. Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase uses well-designed bunch sets that allow receivers and tight ends to beat man coverage with legal and sometimes questionable pick plays. If Seattle can disrupt that, it will affect the rhythm that makes Manning, well, Manning.
CAN DENVER CONTAIN LYNCH?