Call Off the Season: The Super Bowl Is Set

A little early? Maybe, but after a month of domination, how could it be anything but Broncos-Seahawks squaring off in February?

Crown them: the Seahawks and Broncos are fated to square off in the Super Bowl. (Stephen Brashear/AP :: Jack Dempsey/AP)
Crown them: the Seahawks and Broncos are fated to square off in the Super Bowl. (Stephen Brashear/AP :: Jack Dempsey/AP)

Four long months from today, the intriguing cold-weather Super Bowl that everybody has an opinion about will finally unfold at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. The real drama, of course, will be the historic wintry setting and the elements the game is played in, since we already know which teams will be vying for the Lombardi Trophy that night on the game’s grandest stage.

What’s that? Have you not been paying attention? Of course it’s going to be Denver versus Seattle in Super Bowl XLVIII. Duh. That Super pairing has been obvious for days now, ever since both the Broncos and Seahawks posted perfect 4-0 Septembers and proved in their own separate way that no opponent will be able to block their path to the big party in the Garden State.

If this saves everyone some time for planning purposes, you’re welcome. I’m here to help. Consider it the 120-day (or so) warning.

I know, I know, there are three other undefeated 4-0s out there (New Orleans, New England and Kansas City), and in recent years, the Super Bowl always features at least one lower seed that gets hot late and rides that momentum all the way to the big game (see the Ravens last year, the Giants in 2011, the Packers in 2010, the Cardinals in 2008, etc.). And besides, the NFL is always unpredictable and makes that “Any Given Sunday’’ mantra come true every year, as it has for decades now.

Alas, we can all stash that little chestnut away for 2014’s regular season. For a change, the two best teams in the league in the season’s first month will also be the last two teams standing on Feb. 2. Book it. Oh, and someone should remember to call Vegas and break the news.

If you’ve been watching the season’s first four weeks play out, I should scarcely have to explain much of anything. Denver, with its so-good-it’s-ridiculous offense, has been scoring at a breathtaking pace and has the record-breaking Peyton Manning playing in shockingly career-best form. Seattle, with its intimidating and brash-talking defense, has risen to every challenge and features the NFL’s finest defensive play-maker in cornerback Richard Sherman.

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One of them is headed for the league’s MVP award and the other is going to take home the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year trophy. And I don’t know about you, but the theater of Manning testing his arm in Sherman’s direction a dozen times or so on Super Bowl Sunday in the Meadowlands might make me tune in for more than all those clever new commercials.

But it’s not just Manning and Sherman who render the Broncos and Seahawks mortal locks. Far from it. Both Denver and Seattle have supremely talented and deep rosters, with play-makers galore and no shortage of motivation or confidence in their superiority. The Broncos burn with a sense of urgency brought on by Manning’s dwindling window of Super Bowl opportunity, while the more youthful Seahawks thrive on the belief and conviction that they are the team of now, with no time to waste before they scale the NFL summit.

You want numbers? Okay, I’ll give you numbers.

Denver is simply destroying opponents at home or on the road, winning its four games by a league-best average of 22 points per outing. Seattle is second in victory margin, at 15.5 points per game. The Broncos have scored in all but two of their 16 quarters this season, hitting double digits in points in 11 of those quarters. Denver has racked up at least 37 points in every game, and its 52-point mauling of the Eagles on Sunday at home represented the highest point total in the 54-season history of the franchise.

According to Tuesday’s New York Times, the Broncos’ 179 points are the second-most ever by a team in its first four games, trailing only the 1966 Cowboys, who scored 183 en route to a 10-3-1 first-place finish in the NFL’s eight-team Eastern Conference.

But Denver’s most absurd set of statistics, of course, belong to Manning, who is somehow better at 37, after 2011’s career-threatening neck issues, than he was at 27. Manning’s 16 touchdown passes with zero interceptions has never been done in a team’s first four games, and his seven-touchdown showing in Denver’s 49-27 humiliation of defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore in Week 1 established a career high and made him the first NFL quarterback in 44 years to throw that many in a game.

Statistically, the case for Seattle’s defense as the league’s best isn’t as overwhelming as it is for Denver’s offense. But you want to try telling the Seahawks that? By the eyeball test, nobody in the NFL is bringing it on defense like Seattle.

In Von Miller (top) and Bruce Irvin, the Broncos and Seahawks will get top pass rush talent back in the lineup shortly, making both even more dangerous. (Joe Mahoney/AP :: Richard Lipski/AP)
In Von Miller (top) and Bruce Irvin, the Broncos and Seahawks will get top pass rush talent back in the lineup shortly, making both even more dangerous. (Joe Mahoney/AP :: Richard Lipski/AP)

The Seahawks rank fifth overall in yards allowed (300.2 per game), but their 11.8 points per game given up is second only to Kansas City’s 10.3, and even that number is a bit deceiving. Up 38-7 at home against hapless Jacksonville in Week 3, the Seahawks called off the dogs against former Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s team and gave up 10 meaningless second-half points in a 45-17 win.

Only Houston has really dented Seattle’s defense to any degree, but the Seahawks—who still showed the resiliency and resourcefulness to rally to a 23-20 win in overtime—actually shut out the Texans for three of the game’s four quarters, plus two overtime possessions, with Sherman making the game-turning 58-yard interception return for a touchdown with less than three minutes to go, forcing overtime. Just as Seattle safety Earl Thomas had done in Week 1 at Carolina, when he helped force a DeAngelo Williams fumble deep in the Panthers red zone with less than five minutes remaining in the five-point Seahawks victory.

But this Seattle team can beat you with offense too, and no team has the suffocating home-field advantage that Seattle currently wields at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks haven’t lost at home since Week 16 of 2011, with second-year quarterback Russell Wilson having never been defeated at the CLink (10-0 in the regular season, and 4-0 in the preseason). Who in their right mind would welcome a trip to Seattle in the playoffs?

And believe it or not, in news the rest of the NFL is not going to want to hear, the Seahawks and Broncos are about to get stronger and deeper. Denver will welcome leading pass rusher Von Miller back after the outside linebacker’s six-game NFL suspension ends in two weeks. And the Broncos’ best cornerback, veteran Champ Bailey, is getting closer to returning from the preseason foot injury that has cost him the season’s first four games.

In Seattle, speed rusher Bruce Irvin returned this week after his own four-game league suspension. He led all NFL rookies last season with eight sacks, and should boost a Seattle pass rush from his new role at outside linebacker. With the Seahawks’ 2012 top pass rusher Chris Clemons (11.5 sacks last year) returning to the lineup in recent weeks and starting to round into form, Seattle should be able to do even better than its 11 sacks over the season’s first four games.

Two challenging road tests await this week for Denver and Seattle. The Broncos travel to Dallas, where the Cowboys are 2-0 at home, and the Seahawks are at 3-1 Indianapolis, where the Colts are 8-2 in front of their fans under Andrew Luck. But Seattle’s Wilson has yet to play on a stage that looked too big for him, and Manning continues to perform at the peak of his powers.

Truly, Denver’s and Seattle’s toughest game is still four months away, when they reach the Super Bowl. It’s a long way off, but you can already see it coming. And this time, in a rarity for the NFL, what you see is what you get. The rest of the season? Just needless buildup and window dressing. Good thing we cut to the chase and saved you the trouble.

And, oh, by the way, I like Seattle in the Super Bowl, 33-30, in a flurry of points, and snow.

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103 comments
theefingking
theefingking

Great! I think you'll be right again. But not about score..unless Manning is near perfect.. AFC teams weak this year, just look at  Denver's schedule, which played a big part in the TD record... Denver has NEVER seen a defensive squad the like the Seahawks' this year...Go Hawks! I can smell redemption..

mtw90954
mtw90954

Do they give Pulitzer's for sports writing/prognosticating?

MikeYoung
MikeYoung

Now don't you feel just a little silly this morning, Don?

YvesLachance
YvesLachance

I just don't think that peaking in late September-early October is indicating of much... I know you have a job to do and must deliver articles and analysis all season long, but December will reveal more as far as Super Bowl candidates are concerned. Who saw the Ravens as SB winners a year ago beside rabid Ravens fans?

Saintsman3
Saintsman3

Seems that the # 2 Saints offense, coupled with a #6 Defense would be a more logical choice to meet Denver in the SB at this stage.  In other words, the Saints offense is much better than Seattle's and the Defense is performing in the same league.  Advantage Saints.  I guess we will see when they meet in December.


expsly12345
expsly12345

Denver has yet to play any of the great teams in a hostile stadium (away games). They wont be tested till week 7 (Colts away game). And things don't get really difficult till week 10. But they get to play half of those hard games at home. Why not just hand them the AFC title now.

nfinitwordsfoto
nfinitwordsfoto

As a Tampa fan I'm perfectly fine with calling off the season.  Let's do it.  

tjstark1
tjstark1

Don, you're off your rocker. I wish you would re-post your power rankings and Super Bowl "locks" from the end of last season. Remember who was at the top of your list? Denver. They were a Super Bowl "lock." How'd that turn out? Remember which team needed to get it's "house in order" going in to the playoffs? San Francisco. And remember which playoff team was at the bottom of your list? Baltimore. What a crap article.

biglio
biglio

I for one like the Saints and the Pats which for different reasons are rightfully at 4-0, while Denver and Seattle SHOULD be 4-0.......given who they played....

jbuck97
jbuck97

Obviously someone didn't watch the Seattle/Houston game.  That game was handed to Seattle on a silver platter by the horrendous throw of M.S.   Seattle has a great defense and a good offense, but there is far too much talent out there to proclaim them a lock for the Super Bowl at this time.   As a Chiefs fan, I can say hands down Denver looks like the best team thus far due to the play of Manning, but he has yet to face a good defense or go on the road against a decent team.   Tom Brady apparently could win even with Urkel and Pee Wee at receiver... so one can never count him and the Pats out. 

ColinProctor
ColinProctor

Seahawks fan here. Articles like this make me cringe. We've got a really tough road game this weekend, and that's all I care about right now.

earlmp
earlmp

Who Dat, Who Dat, Who Dat say they going to beat them Saints, Who Dat!

Donald C1
Donald C1

Modsuperstar - Russell Wilson does not have the O-line protection he needs, so in max protect, is not winning with his arm  . . . .  YET.  Beast mode is carrying the team offensively, along with strong defensive play.

Seattle is a run-first, defense oriented team.  Show me in history where a Super Bowl appearance is impossible for this kind of team.  Prove to me that the current Wilson stats will prove to be his stats by the end of the season.  Have you done all of your homework on what it takes for a QB to lead his team to wins?   Where's the stat for that -- it's called Four and O, bubba!

Donald C1
Donald C1

Blackcatcrosses -  Right NOW Seattle has offensive line issues and does not have the player that Seattle will have come November / December -- who could be as valuable offensively to Seattle as Wes Welker is to Denver -- and that is Percy Harvin.  No -- even at 4 and 0 or 4 and 1, depending upon what happens in Indy, Seattle does not look like Super Bowl material.  Given Seattle's prospective improvements and home field advantage on the latter half of the season, Seattle looks like an NFC West division winner.  Playoffs at home?  Check.  Top Seeding? Check  Experience in playoffs?  Check.  NFC Championship contender?  Check  Don Banks makes a decent case here.  Denver? - lights out!

blackcatcrosses
blackcatcrosses

Seriously? Did you even watch Seattle last week? Do you actually remember what happens to Peyton when it gets cold and the winds start blowing?

This is just setting yourself up to look silly.

Karen Parker
Karen Parker

It's too early for anyone to be a "lock" for the SuperBowl... but right now, these two teams are playing the best.

Lem
Lem

Four weeks in and we have a 4 week winner. Remember Manning has lost more playoff games when they matter. Last year perfect example of a lot of what happened with the Colts. Could of should of games. Playoff time things will start to slow down, it would be nice to see Payton have 2 rings like his less talented brother, but on Payton's team's only once has there not been a breakdown. Sorry I just remember all of the playoff losses to teams that were not as good!

Carnifex
Carnifex

remember in the preseason how the 49ers were the best team in the NFL, Chip Kelly's Eagles were going to tear people apart, the Patriots weren't going to move the ball on offense at all, and the Redskins were going to run away (pun intended) with the NFC East? Yeah how are those predictions working out for everyone?

Antediluvian
Antediluvian

I mean this in the best way possible. Can someone please send me a glass of what Don Banks is drinking? It sounds delicious.

pmk1790
pmk1790

"Denver is simply destroying opponents at home or on the road"

Is 1 game against an 0-4 team really a good example of "on the road". 

rmcjls
rmcjls

I get that it happened in the preseason, so consider the large grain of salt taken, but why is nobody discussing the Seahawks beatdown of Denver in week 3?  Both teams played their starters extensively, and Seattle was the clear victor.  Now, things are definitely different now that the season is going, but why do no commentators include this game in their analysis.  Every ranking as the Broncos 1st and Seattle 2nd; shouldn't your analysis mention why Denver is ranked ahead despite of that game?

AVL
AVL

Can't believe people are taking this seriously.


Either laugh with him or at him.

randomdeletion
randomdeletion

Wow, way too many words committed to this premise for an article.  I am sure Bronco fans and Hawk fans are happy to read it, but how can anyone take this drivel seriously.  

In today's NFL, this kind of proclamation is just stupid.  The NFL used to be predictable.  Today, it is not.  

chaniyan
chaniyan

This guy gets paid to write this?

JohnDooms
JohnDooms

...and then Manning and Wilson got injured...

A season is comprised of 4, 4 game mini-seasons, which can vary considerably across a whole season.

You never know what will happen in the NFL.

nfinitwordsfoto
nfinitwordsfoto

@Carnifex And I don't remember anyone predicting the Eagles to be any good.  Just that they'd move the ball.  They're top 3 in the NFL in those categories and number 1 in rushing.  

Carnifex
Carnifex

@pmk1790 lol let's see how they do in arrowhead against a real defense before we start calling them destructors

ThinkerT
ThinkerT

@rmcjls "I get that it happened in the preseason"  You should have stopped right there.

Carnifex
Carnifex

@JohnDooms true. if I remember right, when the giants won the SB after the 2011 season, they're quarters looked something like 3-1, 2-2, 1-3, 4-0. then four more postseason wins (two on the road, one neutral site). Last season, the 49ers never won three games in a row but still won the NFC. The fact of the matter is that both the seahawks and broncos are only as good as their QBs - an injury to either of them and it's an oh-and-12 finish

Carnifex
Carnifex

@nfinitwordsfoto @Carnifex except that all four predictions are patently wrong so far - hardly cherry picking. shows that the experts know little to nothing more than you or I.

FuzzyManPeach
FuzzyManPeach

@Carnifex @pmk1790 I can assure you, despite the Chiefs' many improvements, PFM will hammer them as well. KC will score more points this time around, but both games will still be blowouts. 

Von Miller is back in the lineup for the 2-in-3 weeks DEN/KC games later this year, which will be exciting, fast paced, action packed games. People tend to forget that Denver's defense is extremely strong as well, and when Von Miller is back on the field, 2 of the top 10 pass rushers in the league will be teeing off on teams from BOTH sides. Shaun Phillips on the right side and Von Miller on the left. Plus, the DT/NT front is looking stout against the run. Add in explosive special teams play, and its blatantly obvious to even the stubbornest of homer fans that the Broncos are firing on all cylinders and will be monumentally difficult to beat.

rmcjls
rmcjls

@ThinkerT @rmcjls Why?  I think it's a legitimate question to ask for more analysis.  I'm not saying the Seahawks are better, just that there were downs played and that they should be considered in the whole analysis.  1,504 players (32 x 47) were layed-off four weeks ago due to their performance in the preseason, so you can't claim that it didn't mean anything.  I was just asking for some extra analysis, but thanks for contributing to an intelligent discussion here.

Carnifex
Carnifex

@FuzzyManPeach @Carnifex @pmk1790 okay, you're right smart guy. let's stop playing games and give them the trophy right now. Obviously they're going to go 19-0. no point in even going through with the charade.


please, deflate your head a little bit. this is the NFL, not the Mountain West. Someone will beat the Broncos this season and I'm picking the Chiefs to do it. There will probably be other teams to do it too. Saying that every game the Broncos play is going to be a blowout is completely asinine.

rmcjls
rmcjls

@nfinitwordsfoto @rmcjls @ThinkerT And there's some of the analysis I'm looking for. Anybody can say "it doesn't matter b/c it's the preseason."  But breaking down schemes and historical records actually leads to meaningful discussion and better understanding of the game (I assume that's why you're here, too).  Your generalizations about the legitimacy of my question and the fact that "nobody" cares about the preseason notwithstanding (obviously wrong, since I asked the question, and pursued an answer), thanks for your stab at a true answer.


Have a great weekend!

nfinitwordsfoto
nfinitwordsfoto

@rmcjls @ThinkerT It's not.  Nobody cares about the preseason and they run very vanilla schemes.  Peyton's teams frequently go 0-4 in the preseason and win 13-15 games in the regular season.  

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