With the big game right around the corner, we have the best person possible to get down to the nitty-gritty. Brian Billick has had the pleasure of receiving a Gatorade bath after a Super Bowl victory, so he knows what it takes to win on the grandest stage. FOX's own head coach gives us five players to watch on Sunday.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY SportsMatthew Emmons
How teams prepare to face Peyton Manning is very similar to what teams tried to do when they would prepare for Barry Sanders. When I was with the Minnesota Vikings, we used to draw up plays for our scout backs and tell them where to cut and reverse field, but you could never simulate the true speed and instincts of a player like Sanders. Much is the same for Manning. You can’t truly simulate the checks and pre-snap alignments he will pull his team into when reading your defense. The Seahawks, even with the best defense in the NFL, aren’t going to be fully prepared for what Manning throws at them, because no one ever is.
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY SportsSteven Bisig
Seattle has been remolding the way defenses look in the NFL for the past couple of seasons and winning the Super Bowl would just be the icing on the cake. Seattle uses long and physical players in the back half that aren't necessarily true burners when it comes to straight-line speed. Three of the four starters are at least six feet tall -- Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor are each 6-foot-3. Another interesting note: Sherman and Chancellor were fifth-round draft picks with Byron Maxwell being a sixth-rounder. Teams may adopt a similar draft strategy using high picks on safeties that can roam the middle of the field and use long-armed, physical guys to bump and hold receivers up at the line of scrimmage.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY SportsRon Chenoy
Denver's wide receivers
The Seahawks corners are excellent at getting their hands up and pressing receivers, both on the outside and in the slot. But they haven't played as big or physical receivers as what the Broncos will throw at them. Demaryius Thomas and Erick Decker are both a solid 6-foot-3 and Julius Thomas is an inch taller. Not only are they big, they use good technique to get off the line by not allowing defenders to get their hands into their chest. As good as they are, the Seahawks haven't been tested in this capacity all season and that's not even mentioning Wes Welker. This will be a fun battle to isolate and watch.
Getty ImagesRonald Martinez
Seattle's defensive front four
Seattle has an entire roster full of good pass rushers that can come with power and speed from both the inside and the edges, but the Seahawks will be facing the quarterback who was sacked the least all season long. Peyton Manning can read blitz packages and get the ball out quicker than any other quarterback in the league, and that can be discouraging to a pass rush when they beat their man but the ball is out before they can even turn the corner. Seattle’s front four will need to stay focused and keep gap integrity rather than trying to ad-lib to find an extra second to get to Manning one step sooner, or else they will be vulnerable to chunks of yards in the running game.
Getty ImagesScott Cunningham
Terrance "Pot Roast" Knighton has gotten a lot of attention for his play in the postseason and will need to put up another great game for the Broncos defense to be successful Sunday. The rush from the interior of the defense is becoming increasingly more valuable than a great edge rusher. A push up the middle can force a quarterback off his spot and make him run to one side, therefore cutting the field in half. Jack Del Rio will look to get that pressure from Pot Roast, but use a picket fence type of approach to not leave Russell Wilson any rushing lanes when he does want to pull it down. This will be a much more effective strategy than trying to spy a quarterback with a larger defensive lineman or even a linebacker. The Broncos' defense will need to fill all the gaps and tackle well in order to slow down Marshawn Lynch, but he too will surely have at least one big run. It will be how they respond after those runs that will be the difference.