Beyond the Bison: Sports News Across the Nation-Boys of Summer

Julian Dorey, Senior Writer

When the 32 NFL teams descended upon their humid, yearly training camp sites this past summer, the talk around the water cooler seemed to center on a league ruled by the Broncos in the AFC and either the Seahawks or the 49ers in the NFC (as in, whoever would end up winning that division). With the Super Bowl now set, the preseason pundits appear to be right for the first time in a long time.

The Broncos rolled through the AFC without many problems this year, and the Seahawks had to get by those 49ers one last time in a down-to-the-wire NFC championship game.

Now the stage is set: the Broncos number-one, high-powered offense versus the Seahawks number-one, smash-mouth defense. The unstoppable force will inevitably meet the immovable object. Just about every applicable law of science tells us that one must prevail. On Feb. 2, just outside the greatest city in the world, we’ll get our answer. But until then, we can all sit around and break out the water cooler talk, just as we did in the preseason.

The chess match that will likely be the highlight of them all will be first-ballot, Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning versus the Seahawks enormous Transformer-like secondary. Headed by Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, the Seahawks flaunt perhaps the best cornerback and the best safety in football. Thomas, at the safety position, is ironically the smallest of the bunch. But his 5-foot-10-inch size does not stop him from exploding into the largest bodies opposing offenses have to offer.

And Sherman? In addition to having the quickest and largest mouth in the game, the 6-foot-3-inch stud cornerback is the definition of a shut-down defender. Week-in and week-out quarterbacks stop even looking in Sherman’s direction early on in the game—and when those with weaker self-restraint get impatient, Sherman has eight interceptions to show for their grave mistakes.

But in this game, Sherman isn’t facing just any quarterback. To his credit, in the hours after the thrilling win over the 49ers, the feisty star acknowledged it. “You can’t get in Peyton’s head. If you get in his head, you’ll get lost,” he said. In other words, Peyton is not everyone else, and Sherman has decided Manning is one of the few players he will choose not to trash-talk.

Manning comes into this game with an already tremendous legacy to padlock. While many recognize him as the greatest quarterback to ever play the game, many others do not because of his lone Super Bowl victory. This will be Peyton’s third trip to the big game in his 16-year career, while some of his “greatest-of-all-time” conversational counterparts have more or as many wins as he has appearances. Tom Brady has three wins, Joe Montana has four, and even Peyton’s own brother, Eli, has more rings (two) than Peyton. Talk about an elephant in the room.

But two is a big number in this case. If Peyton can pull off the big one once more, his legacy of seasonal excellence and post-season inconsistency should be dead for good. Two Super Bowls in two cities (his first victory was with the Colts in 2007) should be good enough for Manning to sleep well for the rest of his life after he rides off into the sunset sometime soon in Denver.

But the Seahawks sure as hell won’t give it to him–he’ll have to earn every bit of this one. In the end, Peyton’s personal chess match with the Seahawks’ secondary is the most important one of them all, and it will decide the outcome of the game. And yes, you can quote me on that one.

The teams that served as the eagerly-anticipated appetizer to the season, and the premier entrée of the season are now slated to be the killer dessert and all of our mouths are frothing.

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