This Sunday, the Seahawks of Seattle and the Broncos of Denver meet in Super Bowl XLVIII. Not real seahawks or real broncos, just men in costumes with those animals painted on them. Nevertheless, a good and important question is raised: Who would win if it was actual broncos and actual seahawks?

This is actually two questions: One, if the two animals fought, which species would win; two, if the two animals played football in teams of 11, which would win? Last year, when the Baltimore Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers, we asked the same thing. (Our analysis gave the edge to the 49er, though expert opinion argued for the raven.)

But this matchup is different. After seven years of Super Bowls featuring at least one team with a human mascot, we finally are looking at two animals. (The last such contest was 2007's Indianapolis Colts-Chicago Bears Super Bowl, which the football colts won. One imagines that real life bears might have had better luck.)


PhotoWho Would Win if Real Broncos Played Football Against Real Seahawks?Who Would Win if Real Broncos Played Football Against Real Seahawks?
Also Known AsAn untrained horseAn osprey
Weight840 to 1,210 lb2 - 4 lbBronco
Height4'8" - 5'4"2'2"Bronco
Sharp TalonsNoYesSeahawk
Power of FlightNoYesSeahawk
Potentially has cognitive ability to follow the rules of footballNoNoDraw
Final Tally22Draw

Surprisingly, or unsurprisingly, our head-to-head matchup results in a draw. The broncos have the size and musculature, but the seahawks have the weaponry and the wings. Let's turn to the experts as a tiebreak.

The Experts

To better answer the question, we emailed several experts: in the history of the American west and equine sciences in Colorado, and in ornithology and the environment in Washington. We asked them to consider both questions—which species would have the upper hand in a fight to the death, and which would be favored in a football match.

Professor P. Dee Boersma, the Wadsworth Endowed Chair in Conservation Science at the University of Washington, speculates:

It might be a draw as I doubt there would be much of a reason for a real bronco to fight a real sea hawk. If they did fight my money would be on sea hawk as I'm sure the talons in the back of the bronco would get the bronco on his way. Could be what happens this Sunday!

Julia K. Parrish, Associate Dean, Academic Affairs and Diversity for the College of the Environment at the University of Washington, considers the matchup:

hmmm. now there's an image. broncos might be larger and have a swift kick, but seahawks are definitely more agile. flying really helps. were a team of broncos playing a team of seahawks in football one could image that the ground game would be controlled by the former, and the passing game by the latter. how does a horse catch a football, anyway? an osprey, on the other hand, simply swoops in and naps the ball out of the air. end of story.

And that's it. None of the Colorado experts responded to our queries (only Washington state's academic establishment treated this question with the seriousness it deserves), which should tell you something right there.

So: talons, beaks, flight, and the full support of the scientific establishment of their home state? We're prepared to call it: Seahawks.

[Image by Jim Cooke, photos via Shutterstock]