F. Dale Lolley's Sports Column

Look for Manning to have final say in who wins Super Bowl

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Today’s Super Bowl will be a classic contrast in styles featuring the NFL’s top offensive team, Denver, against the league’s top defensive squad, Seattle.

Who wins in such a matchup? That’s what we’ll find out today.

This game will mark the sixth time that the NFL’s top offense has met the top defense in the Super Bowl. Defense has ruled the day in four of those previous five meetings, with the lone exception being San Francisco’s 55-10 whipping of the Broncos in 1990.

But chances are, it won’t be either team’s strength that helps define this game. That will be up to the “other” units to help decide the outcome.

For Denver, can its 19th-ranked defensive unit slow a Seattle offense that ranked just 17th overall, but included the NFL’s fourth-best rushing offense?

In other words, can the Broncos control Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch and mobile quarterback Russell Wilson enough to allow their offense, led by Peyton Manning, to rule the day?

The thought here is yes, though the quarterbacks are certainly the wild card in this equation.

This will be Manning’s third Super Bowl. He won’t be overwhelmed by the situation.

Wilson, who is in just his second year in the NFL, might not be able to say the same thing. As Steelers fans saw with Ben Roethlisberger in 2005, when he completed just 9 of 21 passes for 123 yards with two interceptions in a win over the Seahawks in his second season in the league, the Super Bowl is a different animal for players.

Roethlisberger is wrongly said to have been a game manager for the Steelers in 2005. That discounts the fact that he was a big reason why the Steelers were in the Super Bowl that season, throwing seven touchdown passes and just one interception in Pittsburgh’s first three playoff games.

Wilson hasn’t been nearly as effective as Roethlisberger was through his second run through the postseason. In fact, in Seattle’s first two playoff games this season, he’s thrown for just 318 yards and one touchdown while gaining just 16 yards on eight rushing attempts.

Wilson is going to need to do better than that if the Seahawks are going to win this game.

Manning, meanwhile, needs 116 yards passing to overtake Tom Brady (6,424) for the most in NFL postseason history. He also has 36 career postseason touchdowns, the fourth-most in league history.

Manning, by his own admission, clearly does not have the arm strength that he once did. As Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman has noted, Manning throws some wounded ducks.

That lack of arm strength hasn’t bothered him much, however, as his 59 touchdown passes against just 11 interceptions in 18 games this season would attest.

But Seattle’s defense is an opportunistic bunch, having led the NFL with 39 takeaways, including 28 interceptions.

Denver is a 2 1/2-point favorite in this game, while the over/under is set at 48 1/2.

Look for Manning to control this game, as usual, at the line of scrimmage by getting Seattle’s defense to tip its hand early. And he’ll take advantage and put the ball in the right places.

Take Denver, 24-20

Overall record: 113-133-8 ATS; 165-86-1 Straight up

F. Dale Lolley can be reached at dlolley@observer-reporter.com.

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