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SUPER BOWL: Profiles of key players

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)

Projected starters and key players for the Super Bowl:

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

OFFENSE

Russell Wilson, QB (3), 5-11, 206, 2nd season, Wisconsin

Holds NFL record for wins at start of career with 24 ... Third-round draftee who immediately seized starting job and led Seattle to 2012 playoffs ... Dynamic runner who excels throwing on the run ... Poised in the pocket, very dangerous outside of it ... Played at North Carolina State, then one year at Wisconsin as grad student.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, (24) 5-11, 215, 7th season, California

''Beast Mode'' with a penchant for Skittles ... Powerful back with a burst, broke 40-yard TD run in NFC title game ... Rushed for 1,257 yards and 12 TDs this season ... Also a threat as receiver out of backfield.

Michael Robinson, FB (26), 6-1, 240, 8th season, Penn State

Former college QB who made transition to RB and now fullback ... Cut in preseason after three years with Seahawks, then re-signed in October ... Also has excelled on special teams.

Doug Baldwin, WR (89), 5-10, 189, 3rd season, Stanford

Undrafted out of college, plays with an attitude about it ... Can get deep but is not a speed demon ... Versatile, made a 69-yard kickoff return in NFC title game ... Wilson looks for him in key situations.

Golden Tate, WR (81), 5-10, 202, 4th season, Notre Dame

Makes some spectacular catches and is a deep threat ... Second-round pick in 2010 who also plays doesn't back down ... Led team with 64 catches, 898 yards and had five TDs this season ... Made infamous TD catch vs. Green Bay in 2013 that was last call by replacement officials.

Jermaine Kearse, WR (15), 6-1, 209, 2nd season, Washington

Caught winning TD pass in NFC title game for 35 yards on fourth down in final quarter ... Undrafted in 2012, played in seven games as rookie with only three receptions. Took over third receiving spot with injuries to Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice, had 15.7-yard average on 22 catches four TDs.

Zach Miller, TE (86), 6-5, 255, 7th season, Arizona State

Signed away from Oakland as free agent in 2011, has not been as productive with Seahawks ... Had 33 receptions for 387 yards and five TDs in 2013 ... Good target in red zone and over the middle.

Russell Okung, LT (76), 6-5, 310, 4th season, Oklahoma State

First-round pick 2010 (sixth overall) who has developed into Pro Bowl-level blocker ... Injuries have set him back at times, but a road-grader when healthy ... Missed half of this season with toe injury, was placed on IR designated to return and came back on Nov. 17.

James Carpenter, LG (67), 6-5, 321, 3rd season, Alabama

A surprise first-round selection in 2011 who has been inconsistent ... Has been in and out of lineup in throughout career, was inactive for Saints playoff game, then started in NFC championship.

Max Unger, C (60), 6-5, 205, 5th season, Oregon

Among the best centers in the game ... Intelligent, strong, really gets off the ball after he snaps it ... A 2012 All-Pro who missed three games this season with arm injury ... His matchups with NT Terrance Knighton will be a key component in Super Bowl.

J.R. Sweezy, RG (64), 6-5, 298, 2nd season, North Carolina State

A backup as a rookie who blossomed in his second year and started 15 times ... Missed Seahawks' only home loss of season, to Arizona, with concussion, and Wilson was often overwhelmed by pass rush.

Breno Giacomini, RT (68), 6-7, 318, 6th season, Louisville

Yet another O-lineman who missed time in 2013 ... Knee problems cost him four games in midseason ... Highly competitive, huge and more maneuverable than might be expected ... Lynch often runs behind him.

DEFENSE

Red Bryant, DE (79), 6-4, 323, 6th season, Texas A&M

Versatile player who can go inside, has the bulk and the movement to be an end or a tackle ... Leader of the defensive line ... Not a big sacks guy, but takes up blockers to free up teammates.

Tony McDaniel, DT (99), 6-7, 305, 8th season, Tennessee

One of many members of rotation in the trenches, also has played for Jacksonville and Miami ... Joined Seattle this season as free agent, had 52 tackles and two sacks.

Brandon Mebane, DT (92), 6-1, 311, 7th season, California

Strongest player up front for Seahawks, clogs running lanes effectively ... Was in on 45 tackles this season, high for the role he plays ... Has started every game he appeared in since 2008.

Chris Clemons, DE (91), 6-3, 254, 10th season, Georgia

Accomplished pass rusher with 58 career sacks ... Had huge 2012 season, then tore knee ligament in playoff win over Washington, missing loss to Atlanta ... Acquired in trade with Eagles in 2010, also played for Redskins ... Sacked Ben Roethlisberger in Clemons' first career start in 2004.

Cliff Avril, DE (56), 6-3, 260, 6th season, Purdue

Signed as free agent away from Detroit, added burst off the edge in pass rush ... Had sack of Colin Kaepernick and forced fumble in fourth quarter last week ... Had eight sacks among his 34 tackles as rotation player ... Has 47 1-2 career sacks.

Michael Bennett, DE (72), 6-4, 274, 5th season, Texas A&M

Signed away from Tampa Bay as free agent and has been major contributor on league's top defense ... Recovered fumble in NFC championship game ... Led team with 8 1-2 sacks among his 31 tackles.

Bruce Irvin, OLB (51), 6-3, 248, 2nd season, West Virginia

First-round pick who had decent rookie year, then was suspended for first four games of 2013 for using banned substance ... Still raw, but can rush the passer ... At some point needs to show he can handle pass coverages, too, and this would be good time to do so.

Bobby Wagner, MLB (54), 6-0, 241, 2nd season, Utah State

One of the league's most unnoticed stars ... A do-everything LB who stays on the field ... Had 119 tackles this season and 140 as a rookie ... Also had five sacks in 2013 ... Coach Pete Carroll never misses chance to praise Wagner's toughness and versatility.

Malcolm Smith, OLB (53), 6-0, 226, 3rd season, Southern California

Caught Richard Sherman's deflection for interception to clinch NFC championship and trip to Super Bowl ... Was recruited by Carroll to USC ... Seventh-rounder who has improved each season ... Became more of a regular on defense in second half of 2013 schedule. Also plays special teams.

Richard Sherman, CB (25), 6-3, 195, 3rd season, Stanford

Forget the post-game diatribe against Michael Crabtree after NFC title game, this is best cornerback in football ... Will play press coverage or lay back and is equally adept ... Hits hard, too ... Led NFL in interceptions with eight, even though man he is covering isn't target as much as other receivers.

Byron Maxwell, CB (41), 6-1, 207, 3rd season, Clemson

Stepped in when Brandon Browner was suspended and has been just as good ... Finds the football and has good hands ... A sixth-round pick who has flourished ... Mostly played special teams before this season.

Earl Thomas, S (29), 5-10, 202, 4th season, Texas

Despite lack of size, Thomas is one of league's most rugged safeties ... Versatile, active and smart, gets to the right place nearly all the time ... Sherman calls him leader of the league's top defense ... Two-time All-Pro who was first-round pick in 2010.

Kam Chancellor, S (31), 6-3, 232, 4th season, Virginia Tech

Monster hits mark his game ... Tall and rangy ... Has 278 tackles in past three seasons, and seven interceptions ... Could face off with Julius Thomas in one of the juicier Super Bowl matchups ... Yet another low draft choice (fifth-round in 2010).

SPECIAL TEAMS

Steven Hauschka, PK (4), 6-4, 210, 6th season, North Carolina State

Also has kicked for Baltimore and, yes, Denver ... Caught on with Seattle in 2011 and has been very strong ... Has made 82 of 92 field goal tries for Seahawks and is particularly solid from distance ... Made six FGs against Jacksonville and five vs. Minnesota this season.

Jon Ryan, P (9), 6-0, 217, 8th season, Regina (Canada)

A rare exploit from Canadian college ball, Ryan has been a defensive weapon for the Seahawks ... Began career with Green Bay, has been with Seahawks since 2008 ... Put 28 punts inside the 20 and excels at getting them inside the 10, too.

Golden Tate, PR (81), 5-10, 202, 4th season, Notre Dame

Will gamble a bit too much on punt runbacks, but also has skills to break them ... Averaged 11.5 yards a return, ninth in league.

Percy Harvin, KR (11), 5-11, 184, 5th season, Florida

Has been injured for most of the season after being signed as free agent away from Vikings ... Comes off concussion sustained in playoff game vs. Saints, when he had three receptions ... Had 58-yard kick return against former team in only regular-season game in 2013.

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DENVER BRONCOS

OFFENSE

Peyton Manning, QB (18), 6-5, 230, 16th season, Tennessee

One of the all-time greats, will play in third Super Bowl ... Won 2006 NFL title with Indianapolis, lost in 2009 season ... Ironman streak of starting every game (227) from 1998-2010 ended in `11 after neck surgeries sidelined him for year ... Joined Broncos as free agent and has gone 28-7 with them ... Shattered NFL marks with 55 TD passes and 5,477 yards ... First overall draft choice in 1998.

Knowshon Moreno, RB (27), 5-11, 220, 5th season, Georgia

First-rounder in 2009 whose career seemed to be waning until Manning arrived ... Rushed for 1,038 yards and 10 TDs this season ... Can gain yardage inside or out, and picks up blitzers well ... Also caught 60 balls and scored three times ... Has become a producer in the clutch.

Montee Ball, RB (28), 5-10, 215, 1st season, Wisconsin

Second-round choice after record-setting NCAA career ... If he protects the ball, he can be dynamic ... Had 559 yards rushing, 20 receptions, scored four times ... Broncos like to avoid overworking Moreno and Ball is the ace reliever.

Demaryius Thomas, WR (88), 6-3, 229, 4th season, Georgia Tech

Big target with smooth running style who can make some spectacular catches ... Manning's main guy among many receivers, Thomas has 92 catches, 1,430 yards and 14 TDs ... Will be interesting confrontation for him with Seahawks DBs who believe they can handle anyone in man coverage.

Eric Decker, WR (87), 6-3, 214, 4th season, Minnesota

Another versatile, smart route-runner who has meshed well with Manning ... Made 87 catches for 1,288 yards and 11 scores ... Deceptively quick, though won't win foot races with DBs ... Decker combined with Demaryius Thomas for the most prolific receiving tandem (2,718 yards) in the league.

Wes Welker, WR (83), 5-9, 185, 10th season, Texas Tech

Was just slightly less productive with Manning as he was in New England with Tom Brady ... Signed before season as free agent, worked mostly out of slot to gain 778 yards on 73 catches and score 10 times ... Undrafted out of college, played for San Diego and Miami before joining Patriots.

Julius Thomas, TE (80), 6-5, 250, 3rd season, Portland State

A breakout player, thanks greatly to Manning ... Went from obscure to star with 65 catches for 788 yards and 12 TDs ... Excellent target in red zone, also can break tackles for long gains ... Former college basketball player.

Chris Clark, LT (75), 6-5, 305, 5th season, Southern Mississippi

First season as full-time starter ... Not drafted, spend time on several practice squads ... Replaced star tackle Ryan Clady (foot), made 14 starts.

Zane Beadles, LG (68), 6-4, 305, 4th season, Utah

Second-rounder in 2010 who has started all but two of 64 games ... Very solid, Moreno gains lots of yards behind his blocks.

Manny Ramirez, C (66), 6-3, 320, 7th season, Texas Tech

Stepped in when injuries depleted position, first time snapping for full season since high school ... Helped Broncos yield league-low 17 sacks ... Manning calls him ''awesome.''

Louis Vasquez, RG (65), 6-5, 335, 5th season, Texas Tech

All-Pro this season after joining Broncos as free agent ... Equally skilled at run blocking and pass protection ... Best blocker on a terrific line.

Orlando Franklin, RT (74), 6-7, 320, 3rd season, Miami, Fla.

Massive second-round pick in 2011 who has held down job since being drafted ... Tough to see around, let alone get around into backfield ... Allowed only 3 1-2 sacks in 2012, fewest for position.

DEFENSE

Malik Jackson, DE (97), 6-5, 293, 2nd season, Tennessee

Fifth-rounder in 2012, had 42 tackles in five starts and impressive six sacks ... Has nice burst off the snap, but is not consistent yet ... Also played at Southern Cal before going to Tennessee.

Sylvester Williams, DT (92), 6-2, 313, 1st season, North Carolina

First-round choice last April who earned more playing time late in regular season ... Benefits from Terrance Knighton being so active next to him ... Must show he can penetrate Seattle's solid inside blockers.

Terrance Knighton, DT (94), 6-3, 335, 5th season, Temple

An under-the-radar force who has had a terrific postseason ... A rare NFL regular from Temple, Knighton was signed away from Jacksonville as free agent ... Has 31 tackles and three sacks.

Shaun Phillips, DE (90), 6-3, 255, 10th season, Purdue

Signed away from division rival San Diego as free agent ... Uses moves and smarts to get into backfield, made 10 sacks this season ... Has 79 1-2 sacks for career ... Should be Seattle's primary concern in protection.

Robert Ayers, DE (91), 6-3, 274, 5th season, Tennessee

Spotty player who has come on recently ... First-round pick in 2009 who never has lived up to billing ... Had 5 1-2 sacks, but only one in final 11 regular-season games.

Nate Irving, OLB (56), 6-1, 245, 3rd season, North Carolina State

Third-rounder in 2011 has been in and out of lineup ... With star LB Von Miller suspended or hurt, Irving got more playing time ... Seattle will go after him.

Wesley Woodyard, MLB (52), 6-0, 233, 6th season, Kentucky

Truly broke out in 2012 with 117 tackles, 5 1-2 sacks ... Had another solid season in 2013, but missed two games (neck) ... Made his mark with excellent special teams work.

Danny Trevathan, OLB (59), 6-1, 240, 2nd season, Kentucky

By far the best defender in Denver this season ... Active, aggressive, versatile ... Sixth-rounder who went from no starts to 16, made 129 tackles, had three picks, and was inspiration to teammates.

Champ Bailey, CB (24), 6-0, 192, 15th season, Georgia

Getting Bailey to Super Bowl for first time was a rallying cry for defense ... Not nearly the All-Pro defender he once was, but has had solid playoffs ... Has 52 career interceptions, tops among active players.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB (45), 6-2, 193, 6th season, Tennessee State

Signed away from Philadelphia as free agent ... Wound up as team's top cornerback after injuries or so-so play by others ... Broke up team-high 15 passes this season ... Also played for Arizona.

Tony Carter, CB (32), 5-9, 175, 5th season, Florida State

Journeyman who had minor role this season, but has played important minutes in playoffs ... Has only started three games in career ... Seattle will try to get him matched up with Baldwin or Tate.

Duke Ihenacho, S (33), 6-1, 207, 2nd season, San Jose State

Undrafted free agent who has made his mark after being on practice squad for part of 2012 ... Hits hard, not so great in coverage, but not a real liability ... Had 73 tackles in 2013.

Mike Adams, S (20), 5-11, 200, 10th season, Delaware

Another journeyman who has plugged a hole in secondary ... Also has played for San Francisco and Cleveland ... Has nine career fumble recoveries.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Matt Prater, PK (5), 5-10, 195, 7th season, Central Florida

Set NFL record with 64-yard field goal this season ... Won't be bothered by playing outdoors in Super Bowl in cold weather ... Very strong leg, had 81 touchbacks on 114 kickoffs ... Missed only one FG, from 52 yards.

Britton Colquitt, P (4), 6-3, 205, 5th season, Tennessee

With Denver's offense clicking, Colquitt has punted just once in playoffs ... Member of kicking family, brother Dustin is with Chiefs, father Craig Colquitt and uncle Jimmy also were NFL punters.

Trindon Holliday, PR-KR (11), 5-5, 170, 4th season, LSU

Had all kinds of breakaway potential, and also can drop the ball ... Had 81-yard punt return and 105-yard kickoff runback for TDs this season ... NFL's shortest player.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Tagged: Broncos, 49ers, Seahawks, Steelers, Peyton Manning, Champ Bailey, Chris Clemons, Ben Roethlisberger, Wes Welker, Michael Robinson, Jon Ryan, Ryan Clady, Red Bryant, Terrance Knighton, Michael Crabtree, Knowshon Moreno, Robert Ayers, Percy Harvin, Michael Bennett, Britton Colquitt, Demaryius Thomas, Earl Thomas, Golden Tate, Nate Irving, Richard Sherman, Julius Thomas, Bruce Irvin, Russell Wilson, Malik Jackson

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