And suddenly we have what was a widely-predicted Superbowl matchup - the Broncos and Seahawks. And the trash talk already started with Richard Sherman's mouth and also Bill Belichick's oblique attack on his former player a cut-block hit that knocked out Aqib Talib. This coming Superbowl pits two teams that were former AFC West rivals in what historically has been a one-sided rivalry. The Seahawks have won only nineteen of 53 career meetings to date and very few meetings have produced memorable scores - 1979's 37-34 Denver win, 1995's 31-27 Seahawks upset at Denver, and 2000's 38-31 Denver win in which Terrell Davis' understudy Mike Anderson put up 195 of Denver's 301 rushing yards are the games that stand out in this rivalry.
Some random thoughts on the playoffs as we go through two weeks of hype -
Here are the keys to why the Broncos defeated the Patriots after the crushing meltdown at Foxboro back in November -
The Broncos never lost control of the line of scrimmage.
As a result, Peyton Manning was never really challenged to make decisions at times when he didn't want to make them.
Tom Brady could never get the Patriots offense going until it was too late.
There may be talk about Wes Welker's cut-block that knocked out Aqib Talib and whether it was dirty - John Fox's teams have never struck me as dirty; the Mike Shanahan-era Broncos were the ones who specialized in dirty play. Even so, the gross imbalance in penalties by Tony Corrente's crew in favor of the Broncos gave Welker the opportunity - he saw he could get away with it. And Bill Belichick does not bring up this kind of subject without ample justification.
There has been a lot of legacy talk with Manning and Brady, but it overlooks the differences between the two clubs - Manning once again inherited a roster poised to explode; Tom Brady had to rebuild the roster, and did so with the same aplomb Manning has never had to show as far as making his rosters better. There are depth issues the Patriots have to face down the road, notably in the defensive backfield, at the line of scrimmage, and in the continuing need for bookend deep threat receivers to go with the tight end-oriented attack. None of these issues are unfixable, and with Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins the Patriots have two promising youngsters for next season and beyond.
The real legacy for Manning is that for all his volume stats etc. he's never been as good as hyped. That it's taken this long to reach .500 as a playoff quarterback - with the prospect of facing a Seahawks team that's more powerful than any Seattle squad before - is anything but an endorsement of Manning's legacy.
The legacy talk extends to Pete Carroll as he continues to prove critics wrong. Disciplinary issues have been discussed in media but overall the Seahawks are showing how good a coach Carroll is, this after he was written off as a coach only capable of handling the college game because of ostensible failures in New York and New England. The reality is the front office structure in New England wasn't suitable for Carroll, because he was basically shut out of decision making on personnel. At the time of Carroll's tenure in New England it was a structure in place because Robert Kraft wanted his football people to work as a committee like his other businesses and the structure under Bill Parcells wasn't working (shown by his 21-27 record 1993-5 before personnel authority was given to Bobby Grier at the 1996 NFL Draft).
As VP of football operations Carroll has overhauled the Seahawks top to bottom and the result is three playoff appearences and two straight winning seasons. The best development for the league is if Carroll defeats Peyton Manning and also shows up Roger Goodell.