The Schein Nine  

 

Super Bowl XLVIII keys include Seattle's pass rush, Wes Welker

What a week in New York and New Jersey. History will show it was the greatest Super Bowl week ever.

Now, as we close in on the big game, let's sift through the madness and turn our attention to what will happen on the field, Schein Nine-style.


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Super Bowl coverage:
» 'Hawks stomp Broncos in SBXLVIII | Smith is MVP
» Manning falls flat on big stage | No-so Super night
» Manning running out of time | 'Not embarrassing'
» 'Hawks' dominant D new normal | Why effective?
» 'Best defense since '85 Bears'? | D sets tone
» 'Hawks savor the moment | Carroll's a.m. rounds
» Harvin saves his best for last | Intimidation factor?
» Broncos center takes responsibility for safety
» Lynch dances with himself in locker room | Watch
» Namath's coin flip gets picked by ref | Name it

Video:
» Watch all the Super Bowl commercials
» Game highlights | Trophy presentation | Remix
» Highlights: Seahawks D | Harvin | Wilson | Sherman
» Safety first | Pick six | Harvin's return | Kearse TD

Photos:
» Super Bowl XLVIII | Halftime | Celebrities

NFLShop.com:
» Seahawks Super Bowl XLVIII champs gear

1) Seattle's pass rush will be everything

The "Legion of Boom" secondary is fantastic and has a catchy nickname, but make no mistake: The Seahawks' pass rush is a gigantic part of Seattle's success. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, great free-agent pickups by general manager John Schneider, have really delivered, combining for 16.5 sacks and six forced fumbles during the regular season.

Of course, getting pressure on Peyton Manning is a Herculean task. The Broncos quarterback is so smart, and he gets the ball out quickly. Plus, Denver's offensive line has been nothing short of sensational this season. (Shame on me -- I thought the unit would suffer after Ryan Clady was lost for the season with a Lisfranc sprain.) It's no coincidence that the Broncos gave up a league-low 20 sacks. Ultimately, though, I think Avril, Bennett and Bruce Irvin will be physical enough with Manning and his protectors to force a turnover.

It's happened before. Just look at what the Colts did against Manning and Co. in Week 7, notching four sacks -- including a key safety-causing strip-sack by Robert Mathis -- and an interception in their upset win over the Broncos. And that was Indy's defense; Seattle has the best D in the NFL.

2) We might not hear much more from Richard Sherman

Last week, I wrote that Sherman is wonderful as the face of Super Bowl XLVIII. And I meant every word. Sherman is strong. But Manning feasts on the weak.

Remember the AFC Championship Game? Manning stayed away from Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib, and the offense didn't truly take off until after Talib was knocked from the game in the second quarter.

Sherman is the best -- which means I would be stunned if Manning attempted numerous passes in Sherman's direction. Why would he?

3) Wes Welker will have a big Big game ...

Everyone remembers Welker's crucial drop when he was with the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, a fourth-quarter flub that helped open the door for the Giants' game-winning drive. But that was a fluke; Welker's hands are much better than that. And Manning rightly trusts him.

I love Seattle's defensive backfield -- but Welker running crossing routes is unstoppable.

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4) ... and Julius Thomas won't

Thomas broke out as a physical presence this season, collecting 65 passes for 788 yards and 12 scores. That said, Seattle's Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor represent the elite safety combination in the NFL -- which means the Broncos' tight end won't be putting up eye-popping numbers.

5) Adam Gase will look to run early

I think the world of Gase, the Broncos' young, bright and innovative offensive coordinator. He has really helped Manning and is well-respected around the NFL. For all of the talk about Manning's legacy, he can't do it alone; Peyton needs some balance and help. Running back Knowshon Moreno, who rushed for 1,038 yards and 10 touchdowns in a solid season, is a big key to what the Broncos try to establish. Bobby Wagner and the rest of the Seahawks' linebackers had better be ready.

6) Marshawn Lynch will be the most important player in the Super Bowl

Yes, Lynch (unintentionally) grabbed the spotlight this week because he didn't want to talk on Media Day, relenting only for a very brief session with the assembled media and a quick NFL Network spot with Deion Sanders. Come Sunday, Lynch will do his talking on the field.

The Seahawks running back, who has rushed for 249 yards and three touchdowns in two playoff games thus far, is so physical and strong; he's built for the cold weather. He will pound the football, taking the pressure off Russell Wilson while moving the chains and keeping Manning on the sideline.

7) Russell Wilson will make three game-changing plays

Wilson averaged just 209.8 passing yards per game this season, an anemic, stunningly low number for a quarterback in today's pass-heavy league.

But who cares? The Seahawks' signal-caller is a winner. Some quarterbacks hate that line of thinking, but I use the label as the ultimate compliment.

Think of Seattle's playoff victories over the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers. Witness Wilson's gorgeous touchdown toss to Jermaine Kearse in the NFC title match. When Wilson gets out of the pocket, he's dangerous. He has a knack, as Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma accurately put it on our "Schein on Sports" SiriusXM Radio show this week.

8) Percy Harvin won't make a difference ...

Here's the deal: The talented Harvin has immense playmaking potential, but the Seahawks' offensive weapon just can't stay healthy, missing almost the entire 2013 campaign. Until he does, why should I believe he can get through a game and maximize his skill set?

9) ... but the weather will

I love it. This is how football is supposed to be played.

Though the Broncos and Seahawks might not be facing bone-chilling extremes of temperature or snowfall, it will almost certainly be cold, meaning Manning and Wilson will have to take extra measures to grip the football.

Manning, in particular, has a history of struggling in chilly weather -- a storyline he loves to shoot down. Remember when he torched the Tennessee Titans in below-freezing temperatures and told his critics to "shove that (narrative) where the sun don't shine"? That was awesome.

Of course, the Seahawks are a deep and intense bunch, built to handle the elements. So I'll pick Seattle to win 28-27 in a wintertime classic.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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