Conventional wisdom tells most every sports fan to chose the Seattle Seahawks in this Sunday’s Super Bowl; after all, defense wins championships, does it not? Convention, however, falls flat in the face of Peyton Manning.
This truly is an incredible Super Bowl matchup: we see the number one pass offense against the number one pass defense, a matchup sure to erupt into a game for the ages. Everyone has heard of the record-breaking year the elder Manning is having, shattering the record for most touchdowns in a regular season as well as most passing yards in a year.
As I myself argued, Manning has an absolute bevvy of targets to throw to: he has a stunning five receivers with more than 60 catches, four of which have 10 or more touchdown passes. Manning has no X-Factor to throw to, no single person for vaunted pro bowler Richard Sherman to lock down on (see: Michael Crabtree for the 49ers). Perhaps at this point you’re willing to bet against Manning, his consistent running back combo of Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball and one of the better offensive lines in the National Football League.
I, however, would like us all to remember a different Peyton.
No, I’m not referring to the Peyton who chokes in playoff games (his 400-yard, two-touchdown clutch performance against the Patriots should have scared off a lot of his critics in that realm). I’m talking about the Peyton who, shockingly, chokes in cold weather.
According to Jonathan Clegg of the Wall Street Journal, in playoff games colder than 40 degrees (which this Super Bowl is most certainly predicted to be), Manning is 0-4, with a cumulative passer rating of 57.3, 32.8 points lower than his playoff average.
In those four games, Manning has tossed only four touchdowns against nine interceptions and has never thrown for more than 300 yards. Further, Manning’s teams have been held to two touchdowns or less in three of those four games, including a 41-0 shutout against the Jets in 2003.
That game, while in no way a reflection of how Manning has progressed as a player, and his playoff performance when it gets cold, is enough for me to believe that the Broncos will be forced to utilize their ground game more. While Moreno and Ball have been solid, on their own they pale in comparison to the staunch cold weather team the Seahawks have put together.
Featuring one of the best overall defenses in the league and one of the scariest backs in the league in Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks are a tried-and-true cold weather team built for playoff success. I predict Seattle’s defense holds Manning and Moreno to a touchdown apiece in what will be a close game that the Seahawks will grind out in the end, earning the franchise its first ever Super Bowl trophy.
My pick: Seahawks: 23 Broncos: 17