Super Bowl: Does defense win championships?
That old maxim about defenses winning championships was being spread on pretty heavily during Super Bowl week.
By the Broncos, of all teams.
Yes, the very same AFC champions who tore up the league with a record 606 points, 55 touchdowns coming off Peyton Manning's arm, have been touting how strong their defense has become.
Measure it against Seattle's unit, which allowed a very miserly 231 points and ranked first against the pass and in overall D, and the Broncos would seem to be whistling a hollow tune.
But linebacker Danny Trevathan, a breakout player in his second NFL season, sees plenty of greatness in his defense, too.
''Oh yeah. You are supposed to have that attitude,'' Trevathan said. ''On defense you're not supposed to let guys push you over. You are supposed to be the aggressor on defense and you are supposed to have that attitude. I think that is what makes playing defense so passionate to me.
''I think this game was meant for tough guys. You can't be soft out here.''
No one is soft on either of these teams, of course. On the contrary, it's only the second time in 20 years that the top seed in each conference got this far.
It's also that classic matchup that so excites fans, media and, yes, players. The Seahawks can't wait for the chance to test themselves against Manning, seeking his second ring in an almost-certain Hall of Fame career.
''It's going to be a great challenge,'' middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. ''They're talented all across the board. They protect Peyton well and they run the ball well. He's definitely passed the ball well. It's up to us to do our jobs and make sure that we come ready to play.''
Expect both sides to be very ready. Denver (15-3, No. 2 in the AP Pro32) is a 2 1-2-point favorite over Seattle (also 15-3, but top-ranked in the AP Pro32).
The main reason for that spread: In the points-crazed NFL, fans who bet early dive headfirst into the offense. With their wallets open.
Plus, the biggest star in this game, and pretty much any time he is in uniform, is Manning. That draws more support for the Broncos.
But not here.
Pro Picks sees the Seahawks' quick, relentless and heady defense putting more pressure on Manning than he has seen all season. Yes, he's been sacked only 20 times, and he might not go down a whole bunch in the Jersey Meadowlands on Sunday. But he will be forced to throw before he wants to or before his four outstanding receivers - Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker and tight end Julius Thomas - shake free from the tight coverage of the NFL's best secondary led by All-Pros Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas.
Seattle also brings the heat with the deepest rotation of linemen in the league, and some savvy, versatile linebackers. The Seahawks don't take their foot off the gas, either.
For the Broncos to prosper, they'll need a huge contribution from Knowshon Moreno and the running game. It could happen, particularly if the Seahawks are overly protective of not letting Manning get on track.
But hardly anyone dominates on the ground against Seattle.
For those who believe the Seahawks will need to light up the scoreboard to beat the Broncos, we think a couple of touchdowns and a few field goals will do the job. Silent man Marshawn Lynch running the ball in Beast Mode, and some improvisation from quarterback Russell Wilson - along with the best defense since the 2000 Ravens - will be enough.
2013 RECORD: Against spread: 0-2 (118-127-7). Straight up: 1-1 (164-99-1).
Best Bet: 10-10 against spread, 16-4 straight up.
Upset special: 8-11 against spread, 5-14 straight up.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org