Thursday, February 27, 2014

Giants Will Play Bills in Hall of Fame Game

The Giants now know when their first game of 2014 will be, albeit a preseason game. 

The Giants will participate in the annual Hall of Fame Game, a traditional highlight to NFL Hall of Fame week. The Giants will play the Buffalo Bills in the contest, marking the fifth time Big Blue will play in the game. 

The last time the Giants played in the Hall of Fame Game was 2002 against the Houston Texans. This will be the first time that the Giants will play the Bills in the HOF contest. 

In a way the match-up is very fitting, since former Bills wide receiver, Andre Reed, and Giants defensive end Michael Strahan are both getting enshrined into the Hall of Fame that weekend. 

Some might not like the fact that this now means that both the Giants and Bills will play five preseason games this year, but, to be honest both coaching staffs probably will welcome the extra work after the mess that was 2013 for both franchises. 

The game will be played August 3 at 8:00 p.m. and will be televised nationally on NBC. 

Alderson Says Mets Will Win 90 Games

Perhaps out of shear hubris, or maybe he knows something about this years Mets that we don't know yet, General Manager Sandy Alderson made it be known that he believes and expects his ball club to win 90 games this season.

Yes, in year four of the Alderson era, the Mets GM is doing his best Rex Ryan imitation -- hoping that all of the potential finally rises to the top this season and makes the 2014 Mets the surprise team of the year.

But lets be honest, even if this team finds a way to get to .500 and win more than 80 games that would certainly count as a surprise enough.

You have to respect Alderson's optimism; this is the team that he has built over the past four years and he wants to see a winner now, something that all Mets fans can certainly agree on. However, I don't think Alderson ever expected his comments from a staff meeting to leak out. Its almost like a NFL coach telling his team during a training camp meeting that he expects to win it all, and word gets out all over social media when he least expects it.

At least Alderson didn't run to the papers, a la the aforementioned Rex Ryan, to boast about how great his team is. And as far as I know, Alderson didn't yell "let's get a GD snack" after he was done.

 Even Fred Wilpon jumped on the bandwagon, reportedly saying: "We better win 90."

How about the Mets win 80 first, Freddy?

The idea that this team as currently constituted winning 90 games is really outlandish.

1) They don't have their number 1 starter, Matt Harvey, who is out for the year with Tommy John's Surgery.

2) Jon Niese went back to New York on Wednesday to get an MRI done on his pitching elbow.

3) Noah Syndergaard is not ready yet.

4) Bartolo Colon. That's all I need to say here, unless you want me to write: devil dogs, hamburgers, and three chins.

5) David Wright and Curtis Granderson are on an island. Both hitters are going to be looking everywhere for help this year in a lineup that right now features Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, Ruben Tejada, and Eric Young Jr.

6) Speaking of Davis, Duda and Tejada -- it looks like the Mets are making this spring their mission to fish or cut bait with one, two or all three players.

7) The Mets don't have a closer, even with Bobby Parnell healthy. Sure Parnell was much improved in the closers role last year before going down with a neck injury, but his mental makeup in big spots has always been a question. The Mets signed Jose Velverde and Kyle Farnsworth as second and third options. In other words: not good.

Overall the Mets don't have enough right now to even compete in their own division, let alone in the National Leauge. They talked about pushing all their chips to the middle of the table for 2014, but the best they could do in the off-season was sign Granderson. The Mets lineup is not going to scare anybody, and the pitching staff will have issues, especially if Niese isn't healthy.

Las Vegas has the Mets at 73.5 wins, and that is probably where they are right now as a collective unit. Perhaps the Mets can surprise us all and finish .500 this year.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Mets Need to Dump Ike Davis After Hiding Injury

The Ike Davis saga has been a bizarre one over the last couple of years.

 Two years ago, Davis and the Mets drummed up a odd disease called valley fever as an excuse for his poor performance at the plate during the first half of the 2012 season. After another horrific season in 2013 that saw Davis hit only .205 with nine homers and 33 RBI. The Mets did everything they could to trade him in the off-season, but nobody budged.

The Mets made it very public that they were shopping the embattled first baseman leading to Davis' father, Ron to trash the Mets publicly, saying they "screwed up." Another black eye, and sign that the relationship between the Mets and Ike Davis was on stilts.

Now, more excuses and distractions are flowing out of Davis' corner. The New York Post caught Davis in a lie to the team that employees him when he concealed an oblique injury from the team for most of the past year.

According to the report, Davis injured the oblique in mid-May, but said nothing because he was fearful of being viewed as weak or an excuse maker, since the team was thinking about sending him down to Triple-A. Davis, of course went to Triple-A Las Vegas in June.

The Post said that Davis didn't want to come across as "Alibi Ike," because, as Davis said, "It makes me look like a baby...It looks like I am whining about how I [stunk]. I was terrible, now it's over," (NYPost).

On Monday, Davis decided to go after the Post reporter who wrote the story. Several reports say that Davis "loudly chastised" the man who wrote the article, saying: "It shouldn't have been a story anyway. ... It's just an overblown thing. Everyone has injuries and then they get hurt. So it was pointless to write an article. I sucked last year because I sucked. It's not because I had an injury. You always have injuries. And now it just looks bad."

By all accounts Davis made a scene that was more about himself than it was about his team, his teammates and the job he has before him to win the starting first base job. In short, Davis has been nothing short of selfish. He was selfish for concealing the injury to begin with -- it hurt him, and hurt the Mets even more. 

What kind of example does this set for some of the younger players in the Mets clubhouse? What kind of tone does this set for the season, if Davis can win the first base job? 

The Mets came into Spring Training still licking its financial wounds, even though they spent some money this year on the likes of Curtis Granderson and the overweight Bartolo Colon. On the field, the Mets come into this season still with plenty of young players who have not lived up to their potential -- Davis is one of those guys.

For all the power that Davis has shown in his bat, at times, he still has not developed into a consistent hitter. A .240 lifetime batting average is nothing to be proud of. At some point the excuses and sympathy has to go by the wayside, and, the Mets have to fish or cut bait.

Davis is now a distraction; if he doesn't produce this spring becomes locker room collateral damage.

Davis is not the only one who has to prove himself this Spring. The man with whom he is competing with for that first base job, Lucas Duda, and short stop Ruben Tejada are both on the hot seat as well. All three have been major parts of the mediocrity that has stunk up this Mets franchise for the past four years.

You get the sense Sandy Alderson and crew want them out if they don't get it done now. The Mets have already made it be known they aren't happy with the work Tejada put into the off-season either. Stephen Drew a free agent is out there.

For Davis picking fights with the media is not going to get it done. He has to pick his fight with the battle that is taking place on the field instead. If he does that maybe he has a chance to save his career in New York -- that is if this scene didn't already spell his ending as a Met.


Yankees Spend More Money on Outfield, Extend Gardner

So much for all that talk earlier in the off-season about the Yankees trading Brett Gardner. New York finalized a long term 4-year, $52 million deal with the speedy outfielder to be the team's left fielder for the forceable future.

The move is a complete 180 from where the Yankees were on Gardner's status within the organization. After the club signed former Red Sox Jacoby Ellsbury to a mega contract, Gardner was pushed out of center field, and became a bargaining chip if the Yankees decided to trade him.

The Yankees already had aging outfielders Alfonso Soriano, likely a DH in 2014, and Ichiro Suzuki along with Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. Short term, the Yankees could have survived if they traded away Gardner, but perhaps with a eye toward 2015 and 16, GM Brian Cashman felt obligated to keep Gardner, who is only 30 years old.

With that move, however, the Yankee still have not spent a dime on fixing the problems at third base and second base. The Yankees have spent $247 million on the outfield this year, with only cheap pickups for second and third in the form of Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson.

While the Yankees are off the hook for this year anyway, regarding the Alex Rodriguez contract, perhaps the fact that New York will owe him $61 million from 2015-17 is strangling what the Yankees could and should do with the infield.

Instead New York is going to rely on aging stars like Beltran, and Soriano, an overpaid Ellsbury, an oft-injured Mark Teixiera and Derek Jeter on his last victory lap to get the team to the top. That is why New York's pitching will be so important this year; hence Mashario Tanaka, who has looked brilliant so far in camp, along with returning aces CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda.

While the Yankees certainly won the off-season, and have been no strangers to spending -- the question will be when the games begin for real was it enough?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Coughlin receives 1-year extension from G-Men

Those clamoring for 2014 to be the final year of Tom Coughlin in New York, may have to wait a little while longer. 

The two-time Super Bowl winning coach got something of an endorsement by Giants ownership, who inked him to a one-year extension that keeps him in New York through the 2015 season. This gives Coughlin now two years to get the Giants back on track, but make no mistake 2014 is a win now situation. 

Coughlin, 67, is not getting any younger, so any contract extension is a year to year affair based on both the teams performance, and how much Coughlin feels he can keep on coaching. He earned the right to make the decision about his future by winning two Super Bowls.

The Giants are trusting that Coughlin can turn the team around this year. Eli Manning is coming off an uncharacteristically bad year, as is the entire Giants, which is being revamped by new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. 

With a new offense, maybe it will not only breath life into the Giants, but into the closing years of Coughlin's Giants' tenure.  

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Incognito-Martin Saga, and It's Impact on the NFL

The past week has not been a good one for the National Football League.

Anticipated for a while now, the findings in the investigation of the Jonathan Martin Case by Ted Wells of Paul,Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP are now out, and it paints a very dark picture about the locker room environment of the Miami Dolphins, and the culture NFL players participate in in general.

When Jonathan Martin came out and told the world about how he was verbally abused by teammate Richie Incognitto it changed the dynamic of how we perceive the NFL. While Martin had every right to press charges, and proceed with a lawyered up investigation, we have to take note to the fact that we the fans, and we the media are partly to blame as well.

Why?

Because we crave the National Football League 24/7. We want as much coverage of the NFL as we possibly can get our hands on. From the NFL combine; off-season workouts; live television shows dedicated to the regular season schedule release; live television shows when a team, or team(s) change their uniform; the draft, and of course training camp; everything and anything there is to know about an NFL team -- minus of course the play on the field -- we grasp at it like the old horse to a carrot trick.

Just look at the Michael Sam situation as another example. Sam, a college linebacker at Missouri, who is slated to be a late second round, if not third round draft pick, came out that he was in fact gay. Perhaps he did this out of fear about meeting similar harassment as Jonathan Martin or "Player A;" or perhaps he came out with a cunning knowledge that the media would grab his story like a piece of fruit, and make him a "victim" that has to be drafted because he's "socially hip." Sam is now a known name for all the wrong reasons. 

Just life in the hit and run NFL media.

So we have to wonder why we get offended when the grim reality of the game comes pouring out onto our television sets?

From Rex Ryan's creative use of the F-word in "Hard Knocks," to Richard Sherman's post-game rant, and everything in between like Terrell Owens' meltdown in Philly, to Ben Roethlisberger, twice in the news for all the wrong reasons, and Aaron Hernandez's arrest and confinement for a homicide. Then the serious stories about post career concussion syndrome, lawsuits over concussions, and, now this, the Jonathan Martin fiasco.

It's not a pretty picture, but think about it for a second, 15-20 years ago most of these stories would never have gotten much press, because 15 years ago there was no Twitter, Facebook, TMZ, blogs, and the NFL Network. The league disappeared after the Super Bowl, and was never heard from again until late July when teams opened training camp. Yes, there was life in February and March other than the lives of NFL players during the off-season.

The Jonathan Martin case is another sad chapter in recent NFL history, where the public finds out all the gory details and then some about locker room hazing. By no means am I defending the perpetrators in this case. Richie Incongnito and his comrades, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey are disgusting men. They are an insult to their profession and should never, ever play another down in the National Football League.

Their actions alone are the reason why, now, people are going to look at the NFL through tainted lenses.

But it is not just the credibility of these men that should come into question, it is the credibility of the Dolphins coaching staff as well.

Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin conducted an uncomfortable press conference in which he said he had no idea that there was workplace harassment taking place in his locker room, yet took responsibility for setting the standard in the locker room. This coming from a guy who made Inconginto a leader on his football team.

Philbin promises to change the dynamic in the locker room -- but let's be fair, how is it that this guy still has a job? Philbin should have been fired along with his entire staff. Only GM John Ireland and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman were fired after the season. It was not until the Martin report was released last week that offensive line coach Jim Turner and trainer Kevin O'Neil were fired after it was revealed they were involved.

Philbin should be gone, and it will take more than a nice 9-7 second place season for him to save his job in 2014. I'd expect him to be the first head coach fired this season, especially if Miami gets off to a slow start this year.

It's a sad day in the National Football League, and you can rest assure that the Jonathan Martin story, and the like are not going away any time soon. I bet it will only be a matter of time before other stories of NFL locker room harassment come out.

Sad. Just very, very sad.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Derek Jeter Announces 2014 Season Will Be His Last

"A great man leaves clean work behind him, and requires no sweeper up of the chips." - Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

We all knew that this day was going to come sooner or later.

The writing was on the wall as recently as last season, when he struggled to stay on the field longer than 17 games; struggled to hold a bat in his hand, field his position, and run the way he used to. It was only a matter of time before the great career of Derek Jeter would come to an end.

Now it is over -- just about.

On Wednesday, Jeter surprised the baseball world, days before the rest of his Yankees teammates join him in Tampa Bay for Spring Training that he will hang up his #2 jersey at the end of this season for good.

"I have achieved almost every personal and professional goal I have set. I have gotten the most out of my life playing baseball. I have no regrets. ... New York made me stronger, kept me more focused and made me a better, more well rounded person. For that I will be forever grateful. I never could have imagined playing anywhere else." - Derek Jeter.


Jeter started his career with the intention of playing baseball for the University of Michigan after a stellar high school career. However in the 1992 draft Major League teams were pinning for his services. The Houston Astros held the first pick in that year's draft, and scout Hal Newhouser loved Jeter so much he told the Astros to take him. Houston decided to pass on Jeter.

Another turning point in history. Imagine had Jeter joined Houston instead of the Yankees how different the world would be.

Jeter fell to the sixth pick and the New York Yankees, who selected him, even though they were worried he'd forgo any offer and go to Michigan. Instead, as we all know, Jeter went pro, signing with the Yankees.

He would make his MLB debut on May 29, 1995, batting ninth. It would not be until 1996 that Jeter was inserted as the full time shortstop, batting either lead-off or second in the Yankees batting order. A position he would hold for 19 years.

The rest as they say is history.

Jeter became the centerpiece to five Yankees World Series titles, four of them coming from 1996-2000, which was the pinnacle of the modern Yankees dynasty.

He was at the center of amazing Yankee comebacks against the Orioles, A's, Red Sox, Braves, and Mets in the playoffs. In 2000, he won his first World Series MVP after dominating the Mets, hitting .409 with a pair of monster homers.

From the flip play in Oakland, to the dive into the stands against Boston, and the late night homer against the Diamondbacks in the World Series, Jeter had one big moment after another, after another for the Yankees. Even when the Yankees were not as good during a big portion of the past decade, where spending big money produced little results, Jeter was still at center stage -- the leader of the pack.

To the Yankee fan he was the 21st century answer to Babe Ruth, or Joe Dimaggio. To the Yankee hater, he was the center of their hatred for the Bronx Bombers.

In 2011, Jeter became the first Yankee to join the 3,000 hit club, and in Jeteresque fashion, a term that became a verb over the past two decades; he got that hit in dramatic fashion with a home run.

If there is a gold standard in baseball, Jeter was it. No steroids, no lies, just baseball 365 days a year.

Here's to Derek Jeter on a job well done.

DEREK JETER FLIP PLAY VS. A's 

DEREK JETER HOME RUN VS. METS

DEREK JETER FLIES INTO STANDS VS. RED SOX 

DEREK JETER 3,000th HIT VS. RAYS

DEREK JETER FAREWELL TO OLD YANKEE STADIUM.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Seahawks Crush Broncos for 1st Super Bowl Title in Team History

SEAHAWKS 43
BRONCOS 8 

Call it total annihilation.

Call it domination. Call it whatever you want, because the Seattle Seahawks did whatever they wanted to against the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, turning what many thought would be a coronation for the career of Peyton Manning into the Nightmare Before Christmas for any Denver loyalists.

The Broncos never had a chance against the speed of the Seahawks front seven. A Broncos offense that had given up only 18 sacks all year, and set incredible passing records throughout the course of the 2013 season was no match for the Seahawks.

Everything that people feared could happen to Denver did times 10.
- The Broncos needed to protect the quarterback -- they failed. 
- The Broncos needed to protect the football -- the failed miserably. 
- The Broncos needed to challenge the Seahawks secondary -- they couldn't even do that. 
- The Broncos had to keep Russell Wilson in the pocket -- they struggled. 
- The Broncos couldn't let the X-Factor come into play, and Percy Harvin ate their lunch. 

The only thing Denver did right was shutting down Marshawn Lynch for 39 yards on 15 carries.

Right from the get-go Super Bowl XLVIII had this eery feeling that Seattle had something extra up their sleeve. It started with the idiotic decision by Trindon Holiday to come out of the end zone with the opening kick, only to get tackled at the Denver 13. The crowd went nuts, and it became apparent that this was really a pro-Seattle crowd instead of the pro-Denver crowd that everyone expected.

Malcolm Smith, Super Bowl 48 MVP.
Whether it was butterflies, the crowd noise, or someone from the Seahawks defensive line yelling "Hike", Broncos center Manny Ramirez snapped the ball over Peyton Manning's head on the first play of the game. The ball rolled into the end zone, before Knowshon Moreno fell on it for the safety giving Seattle a startling 2-0 lead.

That turn of events seemed the shake Denver so much that they never recovered. The Seahawks now had a mental edge, and quickly imposed a physical edge on this contest.

The Seahawks took the free possession after the safety and jammed the ball down Denver's throat. Harvin was the main catalyst on Seattle's first possession. He stunned everyone on the Broncos defense when he took the ball instead of Lynch, and darted up the sideline for 30 yards to the Broncos 31-yard line. Three plays later, Russell Wilson completed a monster third down and six with a 12-yard slant to Jermaine Kearse. The Seahawks would settle for a field goal, but the momentum was clearly slipping from Denver's grasp.

The Broncos couldn't answer down 5-0. Their next possession was a three and out. A flicker and Peyton Manning, the league's reigning MVP was off the field once again. Wilson then started to show why he is more than just a simple game manager when he converted three huge third downs, with short, but precise completions to put Seattle in range for another Steven Hauschka field goal to make it 8-0.

The worst quarter of Denver's entire season would finally come to an end when Manning was blitzed hard from the right side by Chris Avril, forcing a poorly thrown pass, intended for Julius Thomas, into the hands of a waiting Kam Chancellor for the first interception of the game.

After one quarter the Broncos had the football for a whopping 3:29 with only 15 yards on six plays. Seattle not only pulled a page out of the San Diego Chargers play book from November, they tore every page out of that book. They dominated with both their defense and a ground attack from all over the field.

It wouldn't get any better as the second quarter started. The Seahawks took the gift interception by Manning, and rammed right down the throat of the Broncos leaky defense. Percy Harvin again dashed down the sideline for 15 yards to the Denver 22, before Lynch powered his way for six, and Wilson completed a short pass for seven yards to the Denver 5. Finally, Lynch found his way into the end zone, falling over a pile of Broncos and Seahawks linemen for the score to make it 15-0.

At this point it was easy to think the game was over. Denver's largest deficit all year in any game had been 19 points -- a deficit they nearly erased in a loss to the Colts back in October.

And for a short while it looked like Peyton Manning was starting to get into a groove. He wasn't forcing the football, instead throwing slants to his receivers and allowing them to eat up yards in open space. It was an impressive drive that started at the Denver 16, and found it's way to the Seattle 35. Manning was 7-for-9 on the drive, converting four big third downs in the process.

It looked like Denver was going to score and cut the deficit to a manageable 15-7. However, the mistake bug finally came back to bight Manning. Once again Seattle put out a heavy blitz of Manning, and the quarterback was forced to hurry his throw. His pass was like a fly ball in baseball as it popped straight up into the air and came down into the hands of linebacker Malcolm Smith for the interception.

Smith then turned on the jets, speeding into the end zone for the score to give Seattle a 22-0 lead.

At this point, the game was virtually over.

For as good as Denver's offense had been this year, there was no chance they were going to come back against this defense. The Seahawks came out with a mission, and they were taking it to Peyton the way they took it to his brother, Eli Manning back in December, when Seattle won 23-0 in this very same building.

Think about that in eight quarters against a Manning quarterback, the Seahawks outscored them by a combined 66-8! Ouch!

As if Denver didn't know how hard it would be coming back in this contest, Percy Harvin made sure they would never forget it. After another insidious halftime show, Harvin lit a charge into MetLife Stadium with the exclamation point of the game, when he brought back the opening kickoff of the second half back, 87-yards for a touchdown. Seattle now led 29-0. Can you say "uncle," Denver?

At this point any national interest in the game probably went down the drain. Seattle would pour on two more score to fatten up their lead, making this Super Bowl the biggest blowout we've had since Super Bowl XXXV, when Baltimore beat the Giants 34-7.

This is also one of the most lopsided Super Bowls in NFL history joining Super Bowl XXVII (Dallas 52, Buffalo 17); Super Bowl XXIV (San Francisco 55, Denver 10); Super Bowl XXIII (Washington 42, Denver 10); and Super Bowl XX (Chicago 46, New England 10).

Seattle now joins an interesting group. Like the 1985 Chicago Bears, the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, and to an extent, the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Seahawks won this Super Bowl with defense and special teams. They didn't need a quarterback to make big time plays to win the big game. Russell Wilson might be a champion, but he takes a back stage to this defense for the Seahawks; who, now enter the conversation as one of the best units ever with the aforementioned Bears and Ravens.

As for Peyton Manning this was a horrendous loss; one that while it shouldn't tarnish his legacy is going to be a loss his harshest critics will never let him live down.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Broncos & Seahawks Ready for Super Battle in Jersey

The wait is finally over! Super Bowl XLVIII is now upon us, time to put aside all of the press conferences, all of the distractions, and all of the discussion and finally play this game between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks.

Much has been made this week about the match-up between the number 1 defense against the number 1 offense; Peyton Manning's legacy, as well as Richard Sherman's big mouth. Now it all comes to a head for 60 minutes with the Lombardi trophy lying in wait.

Let's do a quick breakdown first...

BRONCOS OFFENSE vs. SEAHAWKS DEFENSE 
The match-up everyone is talking about. The Broncos have featured the NFL's top ranked offense all season with Peyton Manning setting records for touchdowns (55) and yards (5,477). At 37, and coming off of four neck surgeries, this has been Manning's best statistical season -- which says a lot, because he has had a tremendous career.

How Manning does against this Seahawks defense is going to tell the tale of Super Bowl XLVIII. The Broncos will need a total team effort to get it done against this unit, and it starts with the offensive line. My key for the Broncos offensive line is left tackle Chris Clark, who has served at left tackle all season with the loss of Ryan Clady due to injury. The Broncos have only allowed 18 sacks of Manning all season, and keeping him upright against that Seattle pass rush will be key.

The Sehawks front seven, specifically, Michael Bennett, and Chris Avril will be targeting Manning all night long. If Manning withstands the pressure it will be a long night for Seattle.

Much has been made about the Seattle secondary, and why not? This unit is phenominal. From Richard Sherman to Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas and the unsung Bryon Maxwell, the Seahawks pose the best secondary in the NFL. They have not faced a receiving corps like this one, however. The Seahawks did a great job shutting down Vernon Davis and Jimmy Graham in respective weeks in the playoffs, but they will have more than Julius Thomas to cover. Peyton Manning could easily go to Wes Welker, Eric Decker and Demarious Thomas. All those weapons could open a hole in space for Julius Thomas.

Speaking of Demarious Thomas, he will be covered by Sherman. This is a great match-up, but don't expect Manning to not throw in the direction of Thomas and Sherman. He will test Sherman, and Manning the type of quarterback who can fit the football into a tight window. If Manning's pass do float in the Meadowlands winds, then Sherman is going to make some big plays on the football.

SEAHAWKS OFFENSE vs. BRONCOS DEFENSE
The Seahawks offense comes into the Super Bowl with a lot of questions; most notably, can Russell Wilson put this team on his back? Two weeks ago against the 49ers, the Seahawks had to rely on a lot of crazy moments in order to win that game after trailing 10-3 at the half. The running of Marshawn Lynch, special teams, and turnovers were all keys for Seattle.

The Seahawks have to run the football to be successful. If Lynch has another big day, and rips off a couple of big runs, Seattle is golden. If the Broncos keep him in check, then Wilson will be forced to make plays -- which could be an issue. Wilson can create a lot of plays with his legs, but his blah postseason performance certainly raises eyebrows about whether he can go toe-to-toe with Manning for 60 minutes.

Percy Harvin's return from a concussion he suffered against the Saints will be a bonus, but I don't expect him to go nuts in the Super Bowl. His presence will create a lot more opportunities for the likes of Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin the receiving corps.

Defensively the Broncos have had their issues, especially in the secondary. They were ranked 27th in the NFL in pass defense, and allowed both the Chargers and Patriots to close the gap in their respective playoff match-ups. If Wilson is allowed to move around the pocket, the Seahawk receivers could have a good night against this leaky secondary.

Therefore the Broncos front seven, led by Terrance Knighton have to come up big. They did a great job against the run all year, and shut down Patriots running back LaGarrett Blount two weeks ago. While Blount is not as good as Lynch, slowing him down is the key to a Denver victory.

COACHING 

Both John Fox and Pete Carroll are great coaches. For Fox this is his second time in the Big Game; he took the Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl back in 2003, when they lost to New England 32-29. While having Peyton Manning has been a plus the last two seasons, Fox is no dummy. He knows the pulse of this team, and his calm and confident demeanor pours through this team.

As for Carroll, he is the perfect coach for the Seahawks. A rah-rah "college coach" who knows how to get the most out of young players. He has created a fun atmosphere in Seattle, and this is arguably the best Seahawks' team ever -- win or lose on Sunday. If it's a question of motivational speaking, Carroll would have an edge, but who needs motivating at this point? It's the Super Bowl.

I would call this coaching match-up a wash.

INTANGIBLES 
The Seahawks may be the more athletic team, but the Broncos are the team that knows what is at stake here. There are a lot of veteran players still looking for their first ring, and a quarterback looking to silence the critics one last time. The Seahawks have lapped up the New York spotlight all week, while Denver has hunkered down and worked all week long. Usually the team that treats this like a business trip has a slight edge.

PREDICTION
The Seahawks will put pressure on Manning, but the Hall of Famer is smart enough to adjust, and he will take what Seattle gives him, which will be the middle of the field. With so many weapons it is hard to imagine Seattle covering all of these guys. Marshawn Lynch will run for 100 yards, but his effectiveness will be limited in someway by a Denver defense ready to make a statement. If that is the case, Russell Wilson will have the football in his hand, and I expect him to turn it over a couple of times. A close three quarters will give way to runaway fourth for Denver.
BRONCOS 34, SEAHAWKS 17.