It’s the rare Super Bowl rematch everyone’s been waiting for when Denver and Seattle face off this afternoon on CBS. The Broncos (2-0) enter this game plenty motivated after two less-than-stellar efforts and memories of their 43-8 Super Bowl XLVIII drubbing still fresh. The Seahawks (1-1) return home to the friendly confines of CenturyLink Field with the intent of not only showing Denver they are still the best team in the NFL, but also putting last week’s discouraging road loss to the Chargers behind them.
For historical perspective, this will be just the sixth time teams that played in the Super Bowl will face each other the next season. The last time it happened was during the 1997 season when Green Bay matched up against New England. The Packers beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI and also claimed victory the following season. Can Seattle “sweep” Denver in the same fashion?
Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Seattle -4.5
Three Things to Watch
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1. Denver Takes A Page from San Diego’s Playbook?
The Chargers did what the Broncos couldn’t — beat the Seahawks — and don’t be surprised if Denver takes a page or two from its AFC West rival’s playbook. San Diego dominated time of possession against Seattle, holding the ball for 42:15. Besides keeping Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and the rest of the offense on the sideline, this ball control display also helped wear down the Seahawks’ defense, especially on a 90-plus-degree afternoon in San Diego. Denver’s offense is certainly capable of making the quick strike, but Peyton Manning and company may be better served by putting together extended drives. The Chargers also nearly doubled up the Seahawks in terms of first downs (26 to 14), a statistic that was helped by converting 10 of 17 third down opportunities. Ball security of course is important, and Phillip Rivers and his teammates didn’t commit a single turnover. And while Rivers did a good job of spreading the ball around to six different receivers, he and tight end Antonio Gates did most of the damage. The longstanding duo hooked up seven times, three of those connections resulting in touchdowns. Manning has his own dangerous tight end in Julius Thomas, who is tied for the NFL lead with four touchdown catches through two games. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; so don’t be shocked if Denver’s game plan looks a lot like San Diego’s this afternoon.
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2. Seahawks’ D vs. Broncos’ O Take Two
Back in February, Seattle’s vaunted defense got the better of Denver’s record-setting offense, holding the Broncos to a single touchdown and 306 total yards. While some of the faces on each respective unit have changed, the main cast of characters remain. Will there be any sort of Super Bowl carryover that allows the Seahawks to continue their dominance or are the Broncos ready to flip the script, and the results, on the reigning world champions on their own turf? Seattle figures to stick to the game plan that worked for them the first time – dominate Denver physically, run the ball effectively to set up the pass, and apply consistent pressure to disrupt the Broncos’ passing game and their offensive tempo. Denver meanwhile hopes its restocked offensive line (All-Pro left tackle Chris Clady did not play in the Super Bowl because of injury) and a more balanced attack will have more success moving the ball and scoring points. This also will be the first game that Peyton Manning will have his full complement of weapons with wide receiver Wes Welker returning from suspension. How quickly Welker finds his rhythm in the offense, remains to be seen, but Manning won’t lack for options to try and get the better of the “Legion of Boom” this time around. Can the Broncos do what the Chargers did and “expose” Richard Sherman and his cohorts?
3. Litmus Test for Denver’s Revamped D
In many ways this is the game that Broncos general manager John Elway went on his offseason free-agent spending spree for. Even though Seattle’s defense got most of the credit for beating Denver so handily in the Super Bowl, the Broncos’ defense had its share of issues in that game. Elway knew he needed to beef up his defense if he wanted to take some of the pressure off of Peyton Manning and the offense and put a more balanced team on the field. That’s why Elway added pass-rush specialist DeMarcus Ware, lockdown cornerback Aqib Talib and physical safety T.J. Ward to his roster. Those three along with linebacker Von Miller didn’t face this Seahawks offense in February, and Elway and head coach John Fox are hoping they can be difference-makers this afternoon. This revamped unit is still finding its way, however, as evidenced by its struggles in getting off of the field and committing penalties last week. Denver’s defense allowed Kansas City to convert on third down on five different occasions when the yards to go were eight or longer, including a third and 20. The Broncos also were called for eight defensive penalties against the Chiefs, four of which resulted in first downs. Denver’s defense clearly needs to continue to gel and clean up its mistakes, but the question everyone is asking is has Elway’s defensive moves leveled the playing field against the defending Super Bowl champs or is the gap still as big as it was back in February?
A rare Super Bowl rematch could also end up as a Super Bowl preview. Regardless of how this season turns out, this game has been circled on everyone’s calendars ever since the schedule was announced. For Seattle, this is an opportunity for the Seahawks to demonstrate their dominance once again, this time in front of their beloved and boisterous “12th Man.” Denver meanwhile is tasked with trying to defeat a team that not only soundly whipped it earlier this year, but also one that’s playing at home with the support of the loudest fan base in the NFL.
The Broncos have made some changes on both sides of the ball, gets a big weapon back in Wes Welker, and still has Peyton Manning at quarterback and a wealth of talent throughout their roster. The Seahawks are coming off of a loss, but motivation won’t be an issue for this game, and this team has basically been unbeatable at home dating back to last season. Don’t expect another blowout, but Russell Wilson shows why he belongs in the elite quarterback conversation by leading his team to another victory over Manning and the Broncos.