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Focus on: Coby Fleener
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NEWARK, N.J. – Coby Fleener saw the Seahawks and Denver Broncos from an angle only one team did this season. And that would be the win column.
The second-year tight end is a member of the Indianapolis Colts, the only team in the NFL to beat the two teams that have advanced to Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. So who better than Fleener to discuss the merits of the teams that won their respective conferences with 13-3 records?
So Coby, who wins the big game?
“Ooh, that’s tough,” Fleener said at Media Day on Tuesday, when he was working as a media representative for SI.com’s “Monday Morning Quarterback.”
“Obviously both teams are very good teams. They both really deserve to be here. But there are a lot of quarterbacks in this league where you just can’t bet against them, and I think Peyton Manning is that guy.”
And Fleener plays with the QB who replaced Manning in Indianapolis – Andrew Luck, also his teammate at Stanford.
“Obviously it’s a team game,” he said. “But to bet against Peyton Manning I just don’t think is a smart decision.”
Now that smarts, especially for Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman and big-play wide receiver Doug Baldwin – also teammates of Fleener’s at Stanford. But just because Fleener likes Manning and the Broncos on Sunday doesn’t stop him from also liking a lot of things about the Seahawks.
Asked for his impressions of the Seattle secondary from the Colts’ rally-from-behind 34-28 victory in Indianapolis in Week 5 – the Seahawks’ only loss in their first 12 games – Fleener offered, “I was very impressed. I think they have thunder and lightning with the two safeties. Kam Chancellor does an awesome job going down in the box, getting real physical. Earl Thomas is one of the best ball hawks in the league. And then the guys outside are solid.”
Fleener knows Sherman from both sides, as Sherman switched from wide receiver to cornerback for his senior season with the Cardinal.
“I played with Richard, so I know how talented he is,” Fleener said. “And so I’m real happy with his success.”
Has Sherman’s emergence as the best cornerback in the NFL surprised Fleener because it happened so quickly, and after playing the position for only one season in college?
“No,” he said. “Looking back on it, you understand he’s an amazing athlete. And from there, playing the position longer is just going to make him better. So while everybody else had a jumpstart on him – playing three, four, five years in college – his one year as he picked up Year Two and Year Three, he’s just kind of grown and really understood the position better.
“So it’s not surprising.”
Just as it won’t be surprising if Manning versus Sherman decides who wins Sunday’s game.