Kickoff is rapidly approaching for the final — and biggest — professional football game of the year. This is one of the best Super Bowl matchups of all time because it’s between the two top-seeded playoff teams, a rarity over the past 20 years. The Denver Broncos are a three-point favorite over the Seattle Seahawks at Bovada with the total at 47.
Let’s take a look at what could make the difference.
Seahawks X-Factor: Golden Tate
Tate can change the game because he is capable of making the home run play as a kick returner or as a receiver. He’s not as consistent as teammate Doug Baldwin, but that’s precisely why he’s going to be more of a wild card. The Seahawks need to run the ball with Marshawn Lynch, but if Russell Wilson can’t throw the ball down the field for big plays or convert on long third-down situations, Seattle isn’t going anywhere. Tate is the player who needs to come up big for this team. Seattle won in the playoffs without wide receiver Percy Harvin. They probably won’t win if neither Harvin nor Tate contribute big plays.
Broncos X-Factor: Julius Thomas
He can change the game because he’s a big, strong pass-catcher who — in the Broncos’ spread sets — will not be going up against one of the Seahawks’ cornerbacks. Wes Welker, Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas are more likely to get attention from the Seattle corners. Thomas will be matched up against linebackers, so he might be Peyton Manning’s best and most attractive option in the passing game — at least in the first quarter. If Julius Thomas establishes himself, Seattle’s safeties might cheat a little bit to help the linebackers on him, which could in turn open up a combination route in which Decker or Demaryius Thomas can get open behind the Seahawks’ defense for a big play.
Best Broncos Prop Bet: First Score To Be Field Goal (+135)
A lot of factors could keep these teams out of the end zone in the early going. For starters, expect a little bit of rust as both teams have been off for a couple of weeks. Second, there’s the potential for nerves, as only four players between the teams — none on the Seahawks — have even played in a Super Bowl. Throw in the cold, frigid weather, and that’s the right concoction for a conservative start to this game. Four of the last six Super Bowls haven’t started with a touchdown, and there’s a good chance this one doesn’t, either.
Best Seahawks Prop Bet: Seahawks Lead at Halftime and Win Game (9-5)
There are several “outcome at the half” and “outcome at the end of the game” props. This is the one that stands out: The Seahawks lead at halftime and win. If the Seahawks win this game, it will probably be because they win the first half and then maintain their edge in the second half. If the Broncos’ offense gets ahead and forces Seattle away from the ground game, the Seahawks aren’t likely to win. They aren’t built for big comebacks — especially against good offensive teams.
For the Seahawks, slow and steady wins the race.
How the Weather Affects the Game
There’s about a 10 percent to 20 percent chance of precipitation at this point. The Seahawks are used to playing with rain, and that’s what they’d like in this game, because Manning would have to throw a wet ball — something he usually doesn’t have to deal with. A snow game won’t be too bad for Manning, given that he’d be throwing a drier ball. Winds are expected to be around 10 miles per hour, which would be tolerable for Denver, although Manning would like a completely still stadium environment as far as wind is concerned. The forecast is still a bit too far out to be seen as a guarantee of Sunday’s actual weather.