Can Seattle’s Secondary Shut Down Denver’s WR core?

Posted: 01/30/2014 by levcohen in Football

I think you’ve heard it. Heck, I think most of the world has heard it. This Super Bowl, between by far the best offense in the league and by far the best defense is going to be epic. It’s a great clash of styles, RICHARD SHERMAN, PEYTON MANNING, etc. But people aren’t really analysing what’s important: the actual matchups between the receivers in that high powered offense and that shutdown secondary. I’m assuming that the Seahawks will play man-to-man on Denver’s receivers, because “Seattle plays more man-to-man defense than any other NFL team,” according to Mike McLauhglin of the Aspen Times. So let’s take it from the top:

Demaryius Thomas vs. Richard Sherman:
These guys are going to be matched up a lot. Thomas is a 6 foot 3 athletic specimen. He’s fast, he’s big, he’s strong, he runs good routes, and his hands are good. He finished fourth in the league in yards in the regular season and second in touchdowns. His 633 yards after catch were best among receivers, proving his speed. So yeah, Thomas is amazing. But so is Richard Sherman. Sherman, unlike many cornerbacks, has height. He is also 6 foot 3, and, while he is not as fast as Thomas, he is just as physical. He will push Thomas around near the line of scrimmage, and probably will risk getting penalized with a few big hits. For Sherman, the risk of Thomas becoming of unsure of himself of shaken up is worth the cost of a possible 15 yard penalty. Thomas is the ideal red zone target on a fade route because of his size. Sherman, as he emphatically showed against Michael Crabtree, is better than anyone else at defending the fade. He also led the league in interceptions, was near the top in passes defended, and held quarterbacks to a league low 47.3 passer rating when passes were thrown his way. So: who has the edge? I think Sherman does. I think Manning will attempt to take Sherman out of the game, and to do that he might have to sacrifice Thomas’s impact as well. He might just try to make it a 10 on 10 game and just let those two guys duke it out.

Predicted stats for Thomas: 3 catches, 50 yards
Sherman will have 1 penalty called against him

Eric Decker vs. Byron Maxwell:This, unlike the Thomas-Sherman matchup, has not been getting much attention. But it’s just as intriguing. Decker, at 6’3″, is just as tall as Thomas is. He’s also no slouch, although he hasn’t made a huge impact in the playoffs. He finished 12th in football in receiving yards, 11th in catches, 8th in touchdowns, and 9th in catches for first downs. Maxwell, on the other hand, didn’t even start the season as a starting cornerback. That job belonged to Brandon Browner. But Browner was suspended due to drugs, and he was a repeat offender so was suspended for the season. Maxwell just might be better than Browner anyway. He’s another tall corner (6’1″) and he’s also big, weighing 207 pounds. Maxwell is also faster than Decker, and can stay with him on “fly” routes. Maxwell is well equipped to stop Decker, but Decker runs great routes, so he should be able to catch some passes. On the flip side, Decker has been dropping some passes recently, so watch out for a drop or two from him. Oh and by the way, Maxwell has allowed a 47.8 opponent quarterback rating, second only to his teammate.

Predicted stats for Decker: Most targeted Bronco
5 catches, 53 yards

Wes Welker vs. Walter Thurmond:
This is probably the most unpredictable one. Welker has 299 yards receiving TOTAL since the Broncos’ week 9 BYE. Granted, he missed three of those games, but he has averaged just 43 yards receiving in the seven games he has played since the BYE to go along with two touchdowns. He had 555 yards and nine touchdowns in his first eight games. That’s quite a contrast. It’s plausible that Welker will bounce back. He had an extra week to recuperate, and has a lot more big game experience than the other receivers, which might count for something. But I wouldn’t count on it. Walter Thurmond has already started jawing with Welker by saying his hit on Aqib Talib in the AFC Championship Game was “uncalled for“. Thurmond is 5’11” and 190 pounds, so he is smaller than the other cornerbacks, but Welker is also small. He’s 5’9″ and 185 pounds (if that). Thurmond has been exposed (to an extent; no Seahawk cornerback has really been exposed this year) by speedy slot receivers, but Welker isn’t very fast. This seems like another good matchup for the defense.

Predicted stats for Welker: 3 catches, 20 yards

Julius Thomas vs. Kam Chancellor:
I think this is the matchup the Broncos can, and will try to, exploit. Thomas is an incredibly athlete, and he blossomed this season. He’s 6’5″ and 250 pounds. He had 12 touchdown catches during the season, and has been good in the playoffs. He’s probably the Broncos’ best bet to catch a touchdown. Kam Chancellor is one of the best defensive backs in football. He is a big hitter and is also 6’3″ and 232 pounds. He won’t be able to stop Thomas, but he can slow him down. But if Thomas is matched up one on one with Chancellor with no help over the middle, Thomas will win.

Predicted stats for Thomas: 7 catches, 65 yards, 1 touchdown.

Overall, I see the Broncos receivers catching 18 passes for 188 yards and a touchdown. I consider it a win for the Seahawks.

By the way, I went through the entire Seahawks secondary with the exception of one guy: Earl Thomas. Thomas will provide deep help against any deep routes and also helps to stop the run. He might be the most important player in the Seahawks secondary and is indisputably the quarterback of the defense.

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