We cling to the idea that football players are warriors with the tougher team and tougher defense prevailing.
Go back to 2008 and Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Ariz. New England came in with a devastating offense and rediscovered receiver Randy Moss. The undefeated Patriots were favored by 12 points against the New York Giants.
But the Giants did what nobody else had all season. They beat up Tom Brady. If Brady had a Peyton-Eli Manning shoulder slump in his repertoire we would have seen it.
Instead, we saw Brady sacked five times. When he wasn’t going down he was getting hit. The Giants had just enough offense. A jumping one-hand catch by David Tyree sustained their final drive and set up the winning touchdown. The Giants upset the Patriots 17-14.
On Sunday, Denver is New England and Seattle is the Giants, although the Seahawks are better.
Every fan who likes to see breath coming out of the mouths of players and frozen or quasi cold tundra will pull for Seattle to stuff the Broncos in a mild upset (Denver is favored by 2).
I don’t see it. The Giants’ upset was six years ago. Now, more than ever, the NFL is a quarterback-driven league and Peyton Manning will drive the Broncos Sunday.
I love Seattle’s defense. The secondary is the league’s best and the pass rush isn’t bad. The Seahawks have designated pass rushers and designated run stoppers and it will be interesting to see if Manning plays speed offense to make Seattle’s switches more challenging.
Those receivers are as good as Seattle’s defensive backs. And except for Wes Welker (11 receptions for 119 yards as a Patriot against the Giants in ’08) they’re tall enough to get on all the rides at Carowinds. Big targets are easier to find.
Manning has an array of them, three of which would be No. 1, or at least 1A, receivers on other teams. You don’t know which one is going to get you. But most days, at least one of them will.
Manning will see openings in the Seattle zone, and unless the Seahawks get to him quickly, he will exploit them.
Manning has yet to be sacked in the playoffs, although Denver’s opponents, San Diego and New England, don’t play defense like Seattle.
Denver plays defense, too. The Broncos held LaGarrette Blount to 6 yards in their AFC championship victory. Going into the game, Blount was Marshawn Lynch East – big and tough to tackle. It helped that the Patriots fell behind early and abandoned their power rush. Blount had only five carries.
Seattle’s Russell Wilson is smart and opportunistic. But can you see him leading the Seahawks to enough points to win this one?
I can’t. The game will be good, maybe a classic. I like Denver 26-24.
It’s been a good season for the Panthers and for picks. Thanks for reading.
Sorensen: 704-358-5119; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @tomsorensen