Prime Cuts

Slices of great NFL content from around the web

Burke: Tougher schedule suggests Seahawks are somewhat better team

Super Bowl Prediction: Slight Edge to Seahawks
www.nytimes.com

If we could theoretically have each team play a notionally average opponent at a neutral site, each would win about 70 percent of the time. The hidden difference between the two teams is their résumés. Seattle has achieved its numbers along a tougher road than Denver…Accounting for strength of schedule, Seattle is the slightly stronger team and should be favored to win Super Bowl XLVIII with an edge of 52 percent to 48 percent.

Remember - this doesn't mean Burke's data predicts a close game, or that the Seahawks will win. Rather, it suggests that Seattle might have a tiny edge in a 100-game series, all else equal.

Wasn’t so long ago that the 12th Man wanted to give Wilson the hook

Seahawks fans wanted Russell Wilson benched in early 2012
www.cbssports.com

Another 27 percent of respondents believed that starting Wilson was the right choice at the beginning of the season, but because he was struggling, they thought Pete Carroll should move on to Flynn. That means 60 percent of the voters in the poll [wanted] Flynn to start in Week 5.

It's a good thing (for Seattle) that the 12th Man never reached the billboard stage of things.

Corry: Broncos will hold all the cards with Champ in offseason

Agent's Take: Future HOF Champ Bailey's options: Less cash, retire
www.cbssports.com

The Broncos have leverage in a renegotiation with Bailey. His scheduled salary doesn’t reflect the market for older defensive backs…The Broncos have established a salary range for one-year deals with cornerbacks expected to make significant contributions. Tracy Porter signed a fully guaranteed one-year, $4 million deal in 2012 to start opposite Bailey. Rodgers-Cromartie has replaced Porter with his fully-guaranteed, one-year, $5 million contract.

We've been discussing this throughout the year; Champ and the Broncos will soon face a very difficult choice. Perhaps there will be a ring on his hand to soften the blow a bit...

Belichick: Facing Peyton isn’t actually ‘fun’

Super Bowl XLVIII will ride on Peyton Manning and Bill Belichick knows that's hard for an opposing coach
www.nydailynews.com

“With (Manning) it is every ... single … thing. It’s cadence. It’s formations. It’s little adjustments he’ll have guys make in pass routes. A protection on an inside-the-20-yard-line play. The changes he’ll make on third down, or with play action. But it’s all within the context of their offense. And it’s not 50 different things. Maybe there’ll be five plays in a game that you’ll think, ‘I haven’t seen that before.’ Or: ‘I haven’t seen that in several weeks.’ But you know you’ve seen all the rest of it before, and somehow he’s still making it work.

When he's not busy distracting us by taking on the sore loser role, you won't find much better insight than what comes from Bill Belichick's mouth.

Eli: I thought Peyton was done after first neck surgery

Eli Manning feared neck surgeries would end Peyton Manning's career
www.nydailynews.com

“I saw him after that first surgery, this neck surgery, and I was pretty much convinced that he was done,” Eli Manning said on NFL Network Wednesday. “There was no way he could come back and play football. That first time he went and we were just throwing it in the backyard of our house. We’re throwing 15 yards away, and it was a lob. He couldn’t throw 15 yards on a line. It had no pop.”

Of course, some think Peyton's throws still have no pop. But he says he's proud of his ducks, and why shouldn't he be?

PFF: Don’t sleep on Robert Ayers

Pre-Super Bowl Fun Facts
www.profootballfocus.com

But Knighton isn’t the only one bringing heat from the right side. The AFC Championship was the sixth game in a row that RE Robert Ayers (+13.3) has graded out in the green. He had four quarterback hurries and a stop against New England and beat Patriots LT Nate Solder (+28.6) for a sack.

Over those six games, PFF has Ayers down for three sacks, two QB hits, 20 hurries (17 of them in the last three games!), nine tackles, two assists, and 10 stops.

First-round bust? Nah. How about peaking at just the right time?

Cosell: Expect to see Broncos run WR screen in scoring area

Greg Cosell’s Super Bowl Preview: Breaking down Denver’s screen pass to Demaryius Thomas
sports.yahoo.com

Screens can be stopped when the defense can press, but because of the bunch alignment of Decker and Welker, that option is eliminated. For the defense it’s all about rallying to the football once the catch is made. You’re not preventing the completion. You’re trying to make this a 6-yard play instead of a touchdown.

According to PFF, Demaryius Thomas led all wideouts with 697 yards after the catch, with five of his 14 regular season touchdowns including 15 or more YAC.

Monson: Welker may be key against Seattle’s single-high coverage

Analysis Notebook, SBXLVIII: Where Denver Attacks
www.profootballfocus.com

Welker in particular has caught all six passes thrown his way when he has been targeted on those intermediate depth crossing routes and will be a real danger against this formation. The interesting matchup here is whether Earl Thomas will key on this route from his center-field position and use his closing speed to lay a big hit on the smaller receiver at some point.

Let's just hope Welker doesn't get to test his claim that he'd play through a concussion in the Super Bowl.

PFF: Denver can exploit weakness in Seattle’s run defense

Setting the Edge: Denver Offense vs. Seattle Defense
www.profootballfocus.com

One run concept that has caused the Seahawks some trouble in the regular season has been when teams pull an offensive lineman from the playside to lead a run to the outside (5.8 yards per carry allowed). Whether with a pitch or a handoff, the Seahawks haven’t fared well against a concept that the Broncos run often (29.2% of outside carries) and to good effect themselves (5.5 yards per carry).

Calling Zane Beadles...

Benoit: A snowy Sunday wouldn’t necessarily favor Seattle

When the Talent Levels Are So Close, You Have to Spread the Field
mmqb.si.com

The Broncos offensive line is among the best in the league with point-of-attack double-teams, particularly inside where guards Louis Vasquez and Zane Beadles work with drastically improved center Manny Ramirez. A snowy forecast wouldn’t be ideal for Manning, but it could spell a big day for Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball.

Of course, for more on Denver's double teams, see articles like this one.

Accuweather is currently calling for 38 degrees and a 19% chance of precipitation on Sunday evening, while Weather Underground calls for the same temperature but half the likelihood of snowfall.