It's not hyperbole: Super Bowl XLVIII is the greatest matchup between a historically potent offense and a dominant defense in NFL history. The difference between Denver's points scored and Seattle's points allowed was 375 points, which is nearly 100 points more than the next-biggest differential in the Super Bowl record book.
The offensive line will keep Peyton Manning clean
Manning gets rid of the ball quickly because he knows what the defense is going to do before it does it. He also has received spotless protection over the closing stretch of the season.
Remember early in the season when Manning was taking a lot of big hits? He's barely been touched over the last two months, even when the Broncos dial up big plays.
Clark is perhaps the most unsung hero on the entire Broncos roster. Denver lost a Pro Bowl left tackle in Ryan Clady, and Clark replaced him without attracting notice. Watching Clark closer on Game Rewind over the last two weeks, we became wildly impressed with his agility and toughness. He's great in the passing game and the running game.
Denver re-signed him to a low-cost deal during the season. If that hadn't happened, Clark could have struck it rich in free agency.
Improved run defense
The Broncos' defense improved the minute they went to a rotation at linebacker. Paris Lenon and Nate Irving play on early downs, while Wesley Woodyard and Danny Trevathan play on passing downs. Trevathan is playing lights out. Rookie defensive lineman Sylvester Williams has done a great job replacing the injured Kevin Vickerson. Jeremy Mincey has added nice depth after being brought in from Jacksonville. Terrance Knighton has developed into the team's best defensive player.
One of the greatest cornerbacks of all time was M.I.A. for most of the season. Even when Bailey played, he was a shell of his former self. Bailey is far from his prime, but he's coming off his best game of the season. The Broncos badly need Bailey back in form after slot cornerback Chris Harris' injury.
Manning, the coach
It's hard to outsmart the physical, cohesive Seahawks' defense. But Manning's greatest skill is between the ears. His connection with offensive coordinator Adam Gase is special. Manning will know when to run, when to pass and which areas to attack as the game goes along.
Manning is playing at an otherworldly level, and he's only picked up his efficiency late in the season.
The game is not in Seattle
Breaking news: The Seahawks aren't nearly the same team away from CenturyLink Field. They didn't even close the season that strong at home, getting smothered by Arizona and needing a big comeback in the NFC Championship Game. Seattle's defense is incredible, but it has given up some big rushing performances, especially on the road. The Seahawks' pass rush gets the type of jump at home that it won't have at a quiet neutral field.
Depth at wide receiver
Richard Sherman is one of the top cornerbacks in football, and Byron Maxwell isn't far behind. There isn't a better safety duo than Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. Still, there isn't another offense in the league that can test Seattle's nickel and dime defenses better than Denver. Colin Kaepernick believes the way to attack the Seahawks is to test their secondary depth like Walter Thurmond and Jeremy Lane. The Broncos have the horses to do so.
The temperature should be above 40 degrees at kickoff. Wind is not expected. The game might as well be in a dome! No matter how well Manning has played outdoors lately, there's no denying that the Seahawks are built for nasty conditions.
The conventional theory about beating the Broncos: Keep the ball away from them. But the Broncos have flipped the script in the playoffs, steamrolling opponents with long drives and consistent yardage. Even in the Denver-Seattle preseason matchup, the Broncos consistently gained yardage. (They just didn't finish drives.)
The Seahawks have been erratic on offense all season. They benefit from their defense putting them in advantageous positions and getting extra drives. The Broncos' offense could prevent that from happening, keeping their defense fresh to stop Russell Wilson.