The Denver Broncos will beat the Seattle Seahawks, 30-24, to win Super Bowl XLVIII this Sunday in New Jersey's MetLife Stadium.
Rather than focus on future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning's solid performance, let's take a look at three "sleeper" heroes that will help the Denver Broncos win the game. And, in the spirit of equal time, we should watch three Seattle Seahawks who will make solid contributions though they were not prime-time fantasy football performers during the 2013 NFL football season.
The Other Talented Wisconsin Player on the Field
The Seattle Seahawks have earned high praise for using their third round pick in 2012 to draft starting quarterback Russell Wilson, but look out for his former Wisconsin teammate, Montee Ball. Starting Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno has had a solid season, but he's also been battling injuries and Ball has proven to be a solid No. 2 back.
Ball has 22 carries for 95 yards and three catches for 13 yards in two playoff games. During the regular season, he ran for four touchdowns and 559 yards. He is just as capable as Moreno in advancing the football whether he carries it or runs it after catching a pass tossed by Peyton Manning.
Percy, where have you been?
The plan was for Percy Harvin to come over from the Minnesota Vikings and continue his success as a multi-dimensional offensive playmaker. A hip injury kept him out of games during the regular season and he suffered a concussion when he returned to play against New Orleans in the playoffs.
Harvin, listed as a wide receiver, can also serve as a running back and kick returner. How much he will play in the Super Bowl depend on his stamina, the offensive game plan and how the game is going for Seattle. Having seen Harvin perform as a Viking while covering the fantasy exploits of the Detroit Lions, he could be the difference maker that Seattle needs in this game.
Eric Decker - Punt Returner
Is it because the two Thomases (Demaryius and Julius) and Wes Welker have caught more passes than Eric Decker in the playoffs? Or is it the two concussions that have kept Wes Welker on the sidelines in punt return situations?
Regardless of what motivated the move, the installation of Decker as Denver's punt returner has produced positive results. He has returned three punts for 66 yards in the playoffs.
Decker had a crucial 47-yard return against the San Diego Chargers in an AFC divisional playoff game that would have been a touchdown if he hadn't stumbled on the home-field grass. Maybe the turf in New Jersey will be more suitable for another long return for Mr. Decker?
Kearse fills in nicely as a target for Russell Wilson
After the Seashawks lost Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin due to injuires, they turned to Jermaine Kearse to be the No. 3 wide receiver. He provides a reliable alternative to starters Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin.
Kearse has three catches for 69 yards and one touchdown in the playoffs. A 35-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Kearse midway through the 4th quarter gave Seattle the lead in their 23-17 conference championship win over the San Francisco 49ers.
Terrance Knighton may corral Marshawn
One of the best moves for the Broncos was to add defensive tackle Terrance Knighton to their roster. Knighton stuffed any thoughts New England had of running the football against Denver in the AFC Championship game.
He is a 6'3", 335-pound force in the middle of the Broncos defensive line. If Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch has a tough day rushing the football, it will be because Knighton and his teammates have successfully clogged up the running lanes.
Kam Chancellor is a punishing tackler
Cornerback Richard Sherman may grab the headlines, but strong safety Kam Chancellor is the most feared tackler in the Seattle secondary. He hits like a linebacker and runs stride for stride with opposing receivers in pass coverage situations.
Chancellor intercepted a Colin Kaepernick pass in Seattle's win over San Francisco. He also leads the team with 25 tackles in two playoff games.
And one more thing . . .
The attached slideshow provides pictures and statistics for each player featured in this article.
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