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Does the Sultan of Sides dare select the Seahawks?

Posted: January 30, 2014 - 9:19pm

I was a little over six months into my inaugural season on earth when I experienced my first life-altering moment. I was sitting silently in my high chair while my dad and his buddies stared into this strange box of visual wonders (later on I learned that the box was a television) contemplating if I’d ever get some more applesauce.

Suddenly a huge roar echoed across the vast expanse of the living room! I cried in terror! What dark evil beast could possibly cause grown men to scream and yell like schoolgirls? Fearing for my life, and unable to escape my high chair due to athletic limitations, I could sense the end was near.

Darkness engulfed my infant soul as my dad approached. The same man who led me into this raucous hellhole was now attempting to soothe my sorrows. He calmly leaned over next to me and said, “Touchdown Seahawks!” Thirty years later and “Touchdown Seahawks!” is still bliss.

Sunday, Feb. 2, is a huge day in my life. I would miss the birth of my future child to watch the Seahawks win a Super Bowl. It’s not my fault if momma can’t keep the bun in the oven until after the game ends, right?

The Seahawks came tantalizingly close to securing my first fan championship in 2005 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sunday, they’ll get a second chance against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. It’s an epic showdown between old AFC West rivals. Top offense vs. top defense. Legendary quarterback vs. record-breaking youngster. Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker vs. the Legion of Boom. Beast Mode.

The anticipation is killing me.

OK, deep breath. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves let’s recap the year that was against the spread. A passable 9-7 mark in the final week of the season improved our record to 139-103-14 on the year, an incredible 36 games above .500! That’s a 57.4 win percentage over an entire NFL season.

Even the grungiest Las Vegas veteran would be proud of that mark. I’ve really enjoyed writing the column, it gives me a rooting interest in every game and occupies my mind when the winter doldrums would otherwise consume me.

I like to play golf, watch football and coach basketball. Currently I’m doing all three. Life’s not bad, but make no mistake, it would be a hell of a lot better if the Seahawks won the Super Bowl this Sunday!

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
@ Denver Broncos -2.5

I know what you’re thinking. Of course the Sultan of Sides is going to back Seattle, he’s the biggest Seahawks homer around! You’re partially right. I’m a huge Seahawks fan, that’s been established, but I’ve also proven myself quite adept at picking NFL winners against the spread this season.

The Seattle Seahawks are going to win this football game, not because I’m rooting for them, they’ll win on Sunday because they’re the better football team. Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” defense is a historically great unit. The 1985 Chicago Bears were the only team in NFL history to lead the league in points allowed, yards allowed and turnovers forced. The 2013 Seahawks became the second team this season.

For all the hype Denver’s record-setting offense receives, and deservedly so, they haven’t faced a defense even remotely close to resembling Seattle’s. According to profootballoutsiders.com, the New York Giants were the stingiest defense the Broncos faced all year.

In fact, 14 of Denver’s 18 opponents this year rank in the bottom half of all NFL defenses. Seven of those contests were against defenses ranked 26th or worse. Peyton Manning is a wonderful quarterback. Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and company form a fantastic receiver group, but give a statistical assist to Denver’s anemic competition.

Quick bubble screens and short crossing routes, staples of the Broncos offense, work beautifully against teams lacking the talent to play press coverage. Seattle’s secondary does not lack talent.

Richard Sherman has shown himself to be a true lockdown corner. Earl Thomas is widely considered the top safety in football. Kam Chancellor, Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond form a more than capable supporting cast on the back end.

Seattle’s ability to play press on the outside while maintaining Cover 3 Zone concepts will neutralize the two plays (bubble screens and pick routes) that Denver has been hugely successful running this season.

Peyton Manning is deadly when he can drop back, survey the field and deliver a pass without duress. Pressure the immobile Manning and he suddenly becomes mortal. That’s the key to Seattle’s success this Sunday. The Seahawks must stay attached to receivers on underneath routes while Earl Thomas takes away the deep middle third of the field, forcing Manning to hold the ball just long enough for the pass rush to influence his footwork and delivery. Easier said than done, just ask the 15 opponents Denver defeated this year, but Seattle is uniquely equipped to slow (not stop) the Broncos passing attack.

On the other side of the football, Denver will struggle to stop a Russell Wilson-Marshawn Lynch led offense.

The popular thought is Seattle’s offense has struggled this season but the team has continued to win because of sterling play on defense. Not true. Seattle’s offense ranks seventh in the NFL per profootballoutsiders.com.

Surprisingly, Seattle’s pass offense ranks eighth. Don’t be a dumb fan that relies solely on counting stats. Counting stats have value but they fall way short of telling the whole story. Seattle’s pass offense appears to be a weak link but is actually very productive on a per play basis.

The Seahawks simply don’t throw the football very much, but when they do they’re quite successful. That doesn’t bode well for a Denver secondary that’s been decimated by injuries. The Broncos will be without starting defensive backs Rahim Moore and Chris Harris.

Harris’ absence in particular will be tough for Denver to overcome. He had emerged as the team’s top cornerback before tearing his ACL in the Divisional Round playoff game against the San Diego Chargers.

The Broncos aren’t any healthier up front. All-world linebacker Von Miller is recovering from an ACL injury and monster interior lineman Kevin Vickerson is still out with a hip issue. Derek Wolfe, a versatile contributor, was placed on injured reserve two weeks ago. Jeremy Mincey, a player the Jacksonville Jaguars cut just a month ago, is now firmly entrenched in Denver’s defensive line rotation. Yikes!

In Week 1’s Clarion column I boldly predicted the Seattle Seahawks would win the Super Bowl this season. I don’t see any reason to change now. The Seahawks are the better team and the healthier team heading into this contest. Seattle has played a far more challenging schedule and just defeated the San Francisco 49ers, the one team that matches up with Seattle physically. Now is the time.

Let’s go Seahawks! Let’s go Seahawks! Let’s go Seahawks!

Seahawks win 27-19

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