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Week 22 Picks

6:30 PM Sunday, February 02, 2014

DenverDenver (-3.0)
Schultz Picks: Denver

World Picks: 53.7% - Seattle
SEA 43 DEN 8 Seattle Wins
Your Pick:

Maybe the best aspect of this specific Super Bowl game is that whether Denver or Seattle wins you can confidently call them the best in football. Seattle finished No. 1 in the NFC and Denver finished No. 1 in the AFC through the regular season and both won at home in the divisional round and the conference championship games. Whoever raises the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday night will be the best in football.

For Denver to Win: Peyton Manning must not necessarily have his best game but must have a fundamentally sound game. By that, I mean no turnovers, good time of possession and very important, a balance between pass and run to effect Seattle's pass rush. Manning threw for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns this season which are both NFL records. But he plays a Seahawk team that led the league in interceptions and fewest yards per attempt at 5.8.

Denver's offensive line is coming off two very good playoff games. Against San Diego there was a rough first quarter but there was improvement after that. Against New England it was a complete game. If they can duplicate the New England performance on Sunday night Denver will win easy, but that is a big if. Orlando Franklin at right tackle is beginning a long and effective career but the surprise performer is left tackle Chris Clark. When Denver lost Ryan Clady they took a big hit. But Clark has made the loss as minimal as possible. Denver runs the ball to keep a defence honest because they have four excellent receivers of different abilities and styles.

A key issue is how close pass interference will be called. If called by rule it will be a big advantage for Denver, but they will not get a feel for that until maybe as late as the third quarter. On defence Terrance Knighton has taken over for the absence of Von Miller. Danny Trevathan is a very good young linebacker and having Champ Bailey back as a starter is also significant in this game.

Denver does not have to punish Russell Wilson, quite the opposite. They must contain him. San Francisco did that very well and almost won. Wilson is one of, if not the best outside of the pocket. Inside he is not nearly as effective. On special teams Trindon Holliday is also an impact player but must be aware of ball security.

For Denver to win Manning has to have a sound but not necessarily a spectacular game. They must limit Marshawn Lynch as a running back with no major negative plays in the return game.

For Seattle to Win: The Seahawks have a simple but amazingly effective defence because it not about deception and out-thinking and all about anticipating and reacting. As good as the defensive backs are the pass rush complements the defensive backs in every way. Peyton Manning is a stationary target, he is not Colin Kaepernick and Drew Brees is more of a runner than Manning. Seattle's pass rush could be very effective on Sunday because they can pass rush to a spot on the field and not to a person. Because at that spot, Manning should be there. Just as with Denver pass interference is a judgment call and Seattle has to figure out what they can and can't get away with. Denver's receivers are big people that run like little people, with an athletic body type that is tough to cover consistently.

Then there is Wes Welker who is a little guy who plays like a big guy. Seattle's defensive backs have exceptional confidence which was developed through success. That confidence will be tested Sunday night.

On offense the addition of Percy Harvin is immense. Marshawn Lynch is the power but Harvin is the finesse and downfield speed. He keeps the safeties off the line of scrimmage which makes the blocking and opportunity for Lynch much easier. The less people in the box the less people to block, sometimes it's that simple. Then when you add the athletic speed of Russell Wilson a defence has three elements to prepare for: power, downfield speed and deception. Deception is that you can't prepare or predict when Wilson will take off with the ball or run to the line of scrimmage and at the last possible moment hit a receiver when that defensive back or linebacker comes up for run support.

The fact that the Seahawks have Russell Okung back at left tackle to end the season and move into the playoffs is significant. Seattle's blockers are athletic and underrated, as they are able to get Lynch to the second level where his ability to run over people or make people miss is evident. Seattle needs 100 yards from Lynch, if they get it they can win.

Tackling is so important in this game. On final calculations it will be interesting to see how many tackles Lynch broke or made a defender miss, and how many Denver's defence executed on first effort. Harvin as a returner is also a key issue. Golden Tate is good but Harvin has the ability to be spectacular. Trindon Holliday and Percy Harvin, which team will have a shorter distance to produce points depends on the cover teams and the return teams.

Who will win? Tough one but I like Denver to win and cover the 3. If there was only one week in between games I would take Seattle but with two weeks Manning and his receivers will have a plan that just needs to be put into reality.

Manning is 37 years old in his 16th season. Russell Wilson is 25 years old and in his second season. For Manning it is a prepared process that he has had immense success with. For Wilson the preparation is high but the experience is low. For Seattle to beat Denver they have to either force Manning into poor decisions or hope he self-implodes. For Denver to win they have to make Lynch an average running back and keep Harvin in front of them. The challenge for Denver's defence is perhaps easier than the challenge for Seattle, as good as Seattle is.

They say defence wins championships...as long as they don't play Manning's offence, that is. Denver 28, Seattle 24.

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