DETROIT – Like most sports enthusiasts, several players in the Red Wings’ locker room have an interest in Sunday’s Super Bowl with the majority of them leaning toward the Denver Broncos and their near-flawless offensive leader.
“I think Peyton (Manning) just has the moxie about him and comes through in the big games,” said Justin Abdelkader, a former varsity quarterback at Mona Shores High School in Muskegon, Mich. “I think Denver’s kind of been the favorite all year and I don’t think it’ll be any different on Sunday. I think they’re going to come through with the win.”
The Broncos, who finished with an AFC best 13-3 record in the regular season, are 2 ½ point favorites in the NFL’s first outdoor game in a cold-weather climate. The game will be played at the 82,500-seat MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
Manning and Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman have been the talk of Super Bowl week, and that’s no different in Detroit’s locker room among the Wings’ players, who have their own important game Sunday afternoon in Washington. The team should be back in Detroit in time for the 6:30 p.m. kick off.
Both Manning and Sherman led the league in their perspective offensive and defensive units, respectively. Manning led the league with 5,477 passing yards and established an all-time record for single-season touchdown passes (55), while Sherman had a league-best eight interceptions during the regular season.
“I enjoy offense, I enjoy Peyton, how he orchestrates offense, how he switches calls all the time at the line,” Abdelkader said. “He’s such a smart quarterback, he reads defenses and finds the weakness of the defense and exploit it.”
But Wings defenseman Brendan Smith begs to differ.
“All this stuff about Sherman, he’s an unbelievable player,” Smith said. “I think he’s the best this year, he was almost the best last year. (Earl) Thomas, (Kam) Chancellor, I mean, their back seven is unbelievable. They’re mean, they’re tough, they’ve got a good make-up so they can do it. I think it comes down to, Can you stop Peyton? And will Marshawn Lynch’s running game be effective? I think that will be the whole game.”
Besides Abdelkader, Riley Sheahan, Henrik Zetterberg, Brian Lashoff, Kyle Quincey and Luke Glendening are siding with the AFC champs. Meanwhile, Smith and goalie Jimmy Howard, a noted Buffalo Bills’ fan, like the Seahawks’ chances.
“I like the way the Seahawks play,” Howard said. “I like their defense, how they’re in the receivers’ faces. I just think they’re a fun team to watch.”
Quincey will be rooting for the Broncos for personal reasons. The Wings’ defenseman knows Denver’s Orlando Franklin, a 320-pound starting right offensive tackle.
“I got a good buddy on the offensive line, cheering for him all year,” Quincey said. “Hopefully they do it. My girlfriend manages the house he’s living in and she’s his real estate agent.”
History can be made with a Broncos’ win as Manning would become the first quarterback to lead two different teams to Super Bowl titles. Manning guided the Indianapolis Colts to a championship in Super Bowl XLI.
“I think he has got great character and he’s kind of hard not to cheer for,” Sheahan said.
Lashoff added: “I have to go with Denver, just because of Peyton. Seattle’s good defensively. They got a good team. Denver’s got the best offense. Peyton’s been here, he’s won it, so I’m going to go with him.”
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
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