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Can Russell Wilson Send Old Man Manning To A Loss?

To say that Peyton Manning has a lot on the line this upcoming weekend in Super Bowl XLVIII would be a major understatement. The future Hall of Fame quarterback  found his way past Tom Brady and the New England Patriots when his Denver Broncos took the AFC Championship two weekends ago. It was vindication for Manning, who had struggled defeating Brady in big games in the past.

Manning now leads the Broncos in his third Super Bowl appearance against the upstart Seattle Seahawks and second-year quarterback Russell Wilson. Can Russell Wilson show Manning and the NFL that the new breed of quarterbacks are ready to take over? Something his division rival Colin Kaepernick couldn’t do against the Baltimore Ravens last season.

In reality, this game isn’t going to be decided in a matchup between Manning and Wilson. Instead, how they perform against the opposing defense will be telling and may end up accounting for who wins Super Bowl XLVIII.

Seattle’s defense finished the regular season No. 1 in the NFL in points against, pass defense and total defense. It allowed just over two touchdowns per game and forced a ridiculous 43 turnovers in 16 games. All of these numbers are representations of a unit that absolutely dominated opposing offenses throughout the regular year.

Can Russell Wilson>

Via Kyle Terada of USA Today Sports Images

It was Seattle’s secondary that stood out above everything else. Cornerback Richard Sherman allowed quarterbacks to complete just over 50 percent of the passes thrown in his direction. In total, Sherman allowed only two touchdown passes all season long. Fellow Pro Bowl selections Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas also dominated on the back end of the defense.

In order for Manning to come out on top in this one, he’s going to have to be spot on when going after the Seahawks secondary…a secondary that intercepted 22 passes on the season.

Manning broke the single-season NFL record for passing yards and touchdown passes, but he wasn’t immune to the turnover. The future Hall of Fame quarterback threw 10 interceptions and lost six fumbles. That’s  an average of one turnover per game.

It goes without saying that Demaryius Thomas will line up against Sherman on the outside for most of the game. If so, Manning has to pick and choose his spots against the best cornerback in the league. It’s the other side of the field and the slot where Manning might be able to have some success. The likes of Byron Maxwell, Walter Thurmond III and Jeremy Lane will be switching off assignments against Wes Welker and Eric Decker. If Manning can have success on that side of the field with the combination of Earl Thomas and K.J. Wright going up against tight end Julius Thomas, the Broncos will be in a good position offensively. Of course, that’s a big “if.”

Offensively, Seattle should have a little easier time of it. Denver’s defense ranked in the bottom third of the NFL in points against and passing yards allowed. It yielded over 20 points per game 12 different times during the regular year, including 28-plus points six times. With that being said, Jack Del Rio’s defense started to come together towards the end of the regular season and in the playoffs. Denver has given up an average of just 15 points per game in its last four outings. Not too shabby compared to where it was earlier in the season.

On the other hand, Seattle’s offense hasn’t been clicking on all cylinders recently. It hasn’t put up as much as 200 passing yards in each of its last six games. This will have to change against a Broncos defense that ranked eighth in the NFL against the run during the regular year.

If Denver can put this game into the hands of Russell Wilson, while taking Marshawn Lynch out of it, the Broncos will be celebrating a Lombardi Trophy come Sunday evening. While Wilson is one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL, he doesn’t have the top-tier receiving targets that Manning has. Forcing the young quarterback out of his comfort zone by putting it up 35-40 times in a shootout only bodes well for the favored Broncos.

Can Russell Wilson?

Wilson attempted an average of just 25 pass attempts per game during the regular season and attempted 30-plus passes just four times. While the former third-round pick did account for three times more touchdowns (27) compared to interceptions (nine), he did lose five fumbles. It’s all about managing the game, moving the sticks and avoiding turnovers.

In the end, Super Bowl XLVIII is going to come down to who does a better job holding on to the ball. If Wilson continues his turnover-free ways, the Seahawks will be in great shape. This is only magnified if Sherman and Co. are able to force a couple Broncos turnovers.

Stay tuned for more Super Bowl coverage during the week.

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