1. Time of possession a battle worth watching. Even though they run a no-huddle attack, the Broncos’ offense controls the clock. Denver has gone three-and-out only once in two playoff games, and held the ball 11 minutes more than its opponent in each game. In two of the three games Denver lost this season, they had less possession time than their opponent. The Seahawks’ offense, led by running back Marshawn Lynch, will have to stay on the field and keep Denver quarterback Peyton Manning on the sideline. Seattle can’t match points with the Broncos. Lynch is averaging 5.2 yards per carry in the postseason. It will be on Terrence “Pot Roast” Knighton and the Denver front seven to clog Lynch’s running lanes. The Broncos’ held both the Charger and Patriots to 65 yards or less in their first two postseason games.
2. Percy Harvin: How much of a factor will he be? Harvin, the Seahawks’ big acquisition in the offseason, has played in only two games this season because of hip surgery. But he’s expected to be full go today, and his presence could open things up for the Seahawks’ offense. Harvin, who usually lines up in the slot, is a threat as a runner, receiver and kick returner. He will have to be accounted for by the Denver secondary – possibly by veteran cornerback Champ Bailey. Harvin’s presence alone could open things up for Lynch.
3. Turn Turnover Thursday into Turnover Sunday. No team in the NFL was better at creating turnovers this season than Seattle, which took the ball away 39 times. The Seahawks set the tone by practicing “Turnover Thursday,” when the defense does anything it can to pry the ball away from the offense. The Broncos turned the ball over eight times in their three losses, and haven’t held onto the ball well, losing 16 fumbles – including six by Manning in the 10 times he put the ball on the ground.
4. Bringing down Peyton a tall task. Manning was sacked only 18 times this season, and hasn’t been sacked in Denver’s two postseason games. His best defense is his quick release of the ball. Seattle, meanwhile, registered 44 sacks during the regular season, with four players having at least five. The Seahawks may try overloading the right side of their defense to test Denver left tackle Chris Clark, a backup who took over after Ryan Clady was hurt early in the season. The Seahawks don’t have to worry about Manning running, which might mean they’re more willing to blitz.
5. Can Julius Thomas succeed where others have failed? The Seahawks face a third straight tight end with big numbers today against the Broncos’ Julius Thomas. He finished the regular season with 65 catches for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns. He’s got 14 receptions for 161 yards in two postseason games. He gives Manning a fourth reliable receiving option behind receivers Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker. Seattle has limited New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham and San Francisco’s Vernon Davis to one catch for 8 yards and two catches for 16 yards, respectively, in its first two postseason games.
Outlook: A classic matchup of a No. 1 offense against a No. 1 defense goes the way of the Broncos, as Manning adds to his legacy with a second Super Bowl title.
Prediction: Denver 27, Seattle 20