By Steve Silverman
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Despite the cold, rain, snow or sleet that the Seattle Seahawks are going to encounter next week, there is little that’s going to stop them when they get to MetLife Stadium a week from Sunday to take on Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
The Broncos are the betting favorite and they are going to get a lot of support. Manning will take all the help he can get from brother Eli, and it would be a great capper to his remarkable season if he could somehow come away with a win in Super Bowl XLVIII.
(Forget all the boobs who talked about last week’s AFC Championship Game as a battle for legacy between Manning and Tom Brady. Neither man had anything to worry about. They are both all-time greats who deserve to walk with John Unitas and Joe Montana as the greatest of all time.)
But Manning is going to get his comeuppance against one of the most vicious defenses of his generation. The Seahawks are a marauding group that plays the game the way few defenses have in the past decade or more.
They probably aren’t in the same class with the 1985 Chicago Bears, 1986 New York Giants or 2000 Baltimore Ravens, but they are just a half-step behind.
As the Broncos put in their game plan this week, they have seen for themselves that the Seahawks have a defense like no other NFL team. The Niners and the Panthers were good, but not quite as devastating as Seattle.
Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn put together a unit that has the depth up front to come after Manning in waves, and the skill in the back end to stay with and defeat the Broncos’ stellar receivers.
This could be embarrassing.
Not just for the Broncos, either.
Try the New York Giants, who should have been the Seahawks’ prime competitor when it came to NFC superiority this season.
I’m not too proud to point out that I had the Giants facing the Seahawks for the NFC Championship in my preseason predictions, with the Giants going out to Seattle and forcing the Seahawks to dig deep before losing.
I thought the Giants had more than enough on defense to surge in the second half and beat teams like Green Bay and San Francisco, but Seattle would have been too much for them.
But the Giants didn’t have any kind of defense in the early part of the year, and while their year-end rankings weren’t awful (eighth overall, 11th against the pass), they did not have the kind of depth, athleticism or know-how to match the Seahawks.
A look at the Seattle roster shows a number of castoffs, undrafted free agents and low-round draft picks in key positions. Richard Sherman, K.J. Wright, Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner, Red Bryant, Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril all are key performers who did not come in the first round of the NFL Draft. Earl Thomas did, but the blueprint for the Seattle defense shows that Carroll and general manager John Schneider were able to find vicious and effective players in the non-glamorous rounds of the draft and through free agency.
The Giants don’t have that kind of personnel. When they won the Super Bowl two years ago against the New England Patriots, they had the kind of defense that made big plays at key moments and competed for 60 minutes.
There were too many games this year when the defense was not interested in playing. Just go back to that six-game losing streak at the start of the season. They gave up 31 or more points in their first five games and 27 in the sixth.
No team could have overcome that kind of start, and no matter what Tom Coughlin did, his team was simply not good enough. Outside of strong safety Antrel Rolle and middle linebacker Jon Beason, there wasn’t much to feel good about on defense.
Giants general manager Jerry Reese has been pretty good about protecting the Mara family’s money, but where’s the talent that the Giants need to get back into the playoffs and compete for the championship?
The Seahawks have proven that you don’t need first-round pedigrees to get to the top of the mountain. They have done it by building, working hard and doing it with a relentless attitude.
The Giants used to do it that way. They don’t anymore.
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