Jason’s record on his final NFL picks for 2013-14, up to January 27 inclusive:
1-1 ML (+0.71 units)
Is anyone taking Pete Carroll seriously? Here’s a man who took the USC Trojans to the National Championship in college, and is now enjoying his redemption at the NFL level, bringing the Seattle Seahawks all the way to Super Bowl XLVIII (6:25 p.m. ET, FOX) at the New Meadowlands. But he’s still the joker in this deck as far as the NFL betting public is concerned. Carroll’s buoyant personality just doesn’t mesh with either of the two templates people have accepted: the Vince Lombardi and the Tom Landry.
Then again, most people don’t plan. So when they bet on the Super Bowl, they’ll be betting on Peyton Manning’s reputation, or (less likely) on Seattle’s poster-ready Legion of Boom defense. Let’s try looking at Seattle’s game plan instead, and see if we can gain some insight into what might happen on Super Bowl Sunday.
The secret to Carroll’s success is how well he understands the secondary – from both sides of the ball. He played three positions in high school: defensive back, wide receiver and even quarterback. Then Carroll played free safety in college for the University of the Pacific in 1971 and 1972, and that’s where he got his start as a coach, working as an assistant with both the wide receivers and the secondary. Carroll has been honing his craft ever since. Which is why CB Richard Sherman got his 15 seconds with Erin Andrews.
The Broncos offense is one of the best ever assembled, but it’s not perfect. The rushing attack ranked No. 10 in the league during the regular season, and RB Knowshon Moreno (4.3 yards per carry) suffered bruised ribs during the AFC title game. Denver will presumably use Moreno to attack Seattle’s weak point on the right side of the defensive line, especially if the weather turns out lousy, but the Seahawks can adapt their 4-3 defense to match the formations it sees from the Broncos side.
Meanwhile, if you’re not already familiar with the Cover 3, you soon will be after Super Bowl Sunday. It’s a fairly common scheme at the high school level, with the two corners and the free safety dropping deep in zone coverage. It’s too vanilla by itself to stop any NFL-level quarterback, let alone Manning, but Carroll’s version of the Cover 3 allows the cornerbacks to switch to press coverage if the receivers burst downfield. This also frees up strong safety Kam Chancellor (or sometimes FS Earl Thomas) to play closer to the line and provide support if Moreno happens to bust loose.
If the Denver offense and Seattle defense cancel each other out, then Seattle can win the Super Bowl by taking advantage of the injury-riddled Broncos defense, which lost CB Chris Harris in the Divisional Round. WR/PK Percy Harvin will be in action after he got his bell rung the same week; we’ve barely seen him at all this season, but Harvin made the 2009 Pro Bowl as a rookie with the Minnesota Vikings, and he was Seattle’s signature acquisition before tearing a hip labrum during the offseason.
We all know about RB Marshawn Lynch (4.2 yards per carry) and his power attack, and Lynch will still get his touches against a Broncos defensive line that ranked No. 3 in run blocking this year. But it’s Harvin and the rest of the Seahawks receivers who will be called upon to provide targets for Russell Wilson as he scrambles to avoid contact. Carroll can also help his quarterback out by adding Alvin Bailey as a sixth offensive lineman, which worked brilliantly against San Francisco. It’s all about flexibility, folks.
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