Superbowl 49 – The New England Patriots v. The Seattle Seahawks – Sunday, February 1, 6:30 PM – University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ – NBC
The biggest week in the NFL season is upon us as the Superbowl is just days away. On Sunday, February 1 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, the New England Patriots will battle the Seattle Seahawks for the Lombardi trophy. The New England Patriots went 12-4 in the regular season. Although they got off to a slow start and were 2-2 after week 4 (featuring a 41-14 blowout loss to the Chiefs on Monday Night Football), the Patriots rebounded, going 4-2 in their division and winning key games against the likes of the Bengals, Broncos, Colts and Lions. They finished first in the AFC East and earned a first round bye to start off the postseason. In the divisional found they defeated the Baltimore Ravens 35-31, coming back from two separate 14 point deficits. In the AFC Championship game the Patriots blew out the Indianapolis Colts 45-7, and there was tons of controversy after the game ended. In the days after the game reports surfaced that the Patriots used footballs that were deflated by two pounds under the league standards. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have continued to shoot down the rumors and claim their innocence over the past two weeks, so all of us still do not know whether or not Brady or Belichick knew about this or not. Lots of people think these two are lying considering the trouble the Patriots have gotten into in the past, referencing Spygate as an example. Whether or not Brady or Belichick had anything to do with the deflated footballs, someone in the Patriots organization – Belichick, Brady, ball boys, equipment managers, Robert Kraft, etc – will be found guilty of this after the Superbowl and will have to face the consequences. Deflated footballs or not, the Patriots beat the Colts with convincing fashion and are clearly the team that deserves to compete for a championship this Sunday.
The Seattle Seahawks also finished 12-4 in the regular season. For awhile it looked like the Seahawks would not be in the playoffs, as they were 2-3 after week 5. The team also dealt offensive/special teams weapon Percy Harvin to the Jets after reports surfaced that Harvin was a problem in the locker room. Despite losing this weapon, the Seahawks offense seemed to get better as the season went on. The Seahawks would go 5-1 in their division and won their last six games of the regular season, earning the #1 seed and a first round bye. In the divisional round the Seahawks defeated the Carolina Panthers 31-17. They were not going to let a team that finished 7-8-1 in the regular season come into CenturyLink field and hand them a loss in the divisional round. The NFC Championship game was one of the craziest games in NFL playoff history, as the Seahawks overcame a 16 point deficit and 4 interceptions thrown by Russel Wilson to defeat the Green Bay Packers 28-22. Some may say that Seattle had luck on their side, but any team that has the resiliency and focus to overcome a deficit like that in a Championship game also deserves a shot at the Superbowl. And in this case, the Seahawks have a chance to become repeat champions, which has not been done since the Patriots won back-to-back Superbowls in 2004 and 2005. Last year, the Seahawks defeated the Broncos 43-8. Can they be that dominant again this year? Can they become repeat champions? We will find out this Sunday.
We know the teams in the Superbowl. We know the commercials will (hopefully) be great. We also know that Katy Perry will be performing at halftime, and she will sing “Dark Horse,” “Firework” among other hits. Let’s look at the game itself and try to determine a logical prediction for Sunday’s action.
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Matchup #1: The Patriots offense (#11 in total yards, #9 passing, #18 rushing) vs the Seahawks defense (#1 overall, #3 rushing, #1 passing) (espn.go.com)
After a rough start to the season, the Patriots rebounded and had one of the best offenses in the NFL (again) despite the lack of weapons at Tom Brady’s disposal. Including the postseason, Brady threw for 4,702 yards, 39 touchdowns and 11 interceptions (espn.go.com). In total QBR, he was the 4th ranked quarterback this season. New England’s run game is kind of unpredictable because they have so many bodies back there. The Patriots brought back running back LaGarrette Blount midseason after he was released by the Steelers, and he is a big body to bring down at 247 pounds. In the AFC Championship game against the Colts he rushed for 148 yards and 3 touchdowns. Running back Shane Vereen is used in the screen game and check-down routes. The Patriots also have running backs Brandon Bolden and Jonas Gray to give Blount a rest in rushing situations, but are both used very sparingly. New England’s offense has relied heavily on the passing game, and they will have to do that again this week against the #1 rushing defense. The most dangerous weapon in New England’s passing game is tight end Rob Gronkowski, who has caught 98 balls for 1260 yards and 14 touchdowns. Gronkowski is one of the hardest players in the entire NFL to cover and is also a great blocker. Seattle must make shutting him down the number 1 priority if they want to win this game. New England’s recieving core features Julian Edelman (109 receptions, 1144 yards and 4 touchdowns), Brandon LaFell (83 receptions, 1043 yards and 8 touchdowns) and Danny Amendola (33 receptions, 289 yards, 3 touchdowns). None of these receivers are true #1 targets, but Belichick’s coaching and Brady’s leadership make them all dangerous. Edelman and Amendola are used more in the slot and for short, intermediate routes, and LaFell poses a deep threat. Amendola missed most of the regular season due to injury, but has provided an extra spark on both offense and special teams. Look for the Patirots to use their normal pass heavy offense with many slant routes and over the middle passes. There will be no wind (retractable roof) so both teams should be able to use their passing attack to its fullest ability.
The Seahawks defense once again was the best in the league this season, dominating opposing offenses against both the run and the pass. Up front, Tony McDaniel and Jordan Hill are above average run stuffers, and Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett are two imposing pass rushers who combined for 14 sacks this season. In the middle, linebackers Bobby Wagner (73 tackles, 2 sacks), Bruce Irvin (24 tackles, 7.5 sacks) and K.J. Wright (77 tackles, 2 sacks) are able to provide more than ample run and pass defense, and Irivn even has 2 interceptions this season. In the secondary stands cornerbacks Richard Sherman (50 tackles, 6 interceptions) and Byron Maxwell (40 tackles, 3 interceptions) and safeties Kam Chancellor (73 tackles, 2 interceptions) and Earl Thomas (80 tackles, 1 interception), also known as “The Legion of Boom.” These 4 are perhaps the most intimidating unit in the entire NFL, and some teams have hesitated to throw in the direction of Sherman and Chancellor, who always seem to have big games on the biggest stages. If anyone is capable of shutting down the Patriots passing attack, it is these four right here. The key for the Seattle defense is to shut down Gronkowksi, which will make Brady uncomfortable. Brady is not known to scramble, so if Seattle can get pressure on Brady the Seahawks defense will win the matchup against the Patriots offense.
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Matchup #2: The Seahawks offense (#9 overall, #1 rushing, #27 passing) vs the Patriots defense (#13 overall, #9 rushing, #17 passing) (espn.go.com)
Seattle’s #1 offensive weapon is running back Marshawn Lynch, who has rushed for 1,522 yards and 14 touchdowns. Seattle has one of the most dangerous running games in the NFL, and it is crucial that they get the run game going early. If this does not happen, they could be in for a long night. Russell Wilson had another solid season in his third year (3952 yards, 24 touchdowns and 11 interceptions) but he struggled for 3 quarters of the NFC championship game, throwing 4 interceptions. He did rebound with the 2 game winning throws against Green Bay in overtime, but another slow start could cost Seattle the Lombardi Trophy. Seattle’s passing game is much like New England’s in that they do not have a true #1 wide receiver. Yes, Doug Baldwin (75 receptions, 969 yards, 4 touchdowns) and Jermaine Kearse (42 receptions, 731 yards, 3 touchdowns) are 2 solid wide receivers, but they are not true #1 receivers and will be shut down against a cornerback like Darrelle Revis. Tight end Luke Wilson (28 receptions, 441 yards, 4 touchdowns) is Seattle’s best tight end, but is still not considered a “big time” receiving threat. To conclude, the Seahawks absolutely need to run the ball effectively to have a shot at winning this game. Not only will this take pressure off Russell Wilson, but it will wear out New England’s front seven and give the passing game a better chance to succeed.
The Patriots 2014 defense is one of the better units of the last few years, with a solid front seven and an improved secondary. Up front, big man Vince Wilfork and Chris Jones are the run stuffers. On the outside are Chandler Jones (48 tackles, 6 sacks) and Rob Ninkovich ( 71 tackles, 8 sacks). In the middle are linebackers Jaime Collins (121 tackles, 4 sacks, 4 FF, 3 int), Malcolm Butler (16 tackles) and Dont’a Hightower (101 tackles, 6 sacks, 1 FF). The secondary features cornerbacks Darrelle Revis (49 tackles, 3 int), Brandon Browner (29 tackles, 1 int), safeties Patrick Chung (89 tackles, 1 int) and Devin McCourty (73 tackles, 3 int). This defense may not be as dominant as the Legion of Boom, but they are a great matchup against this Seattle offense. The key for them will be containing Marshawn Lynch to an extent and shutting down the Seahawks passing attack, which is very possible when you have Darrelle Revis manning one side of the field.
It’s time for the pick. I will state my pick and give a short explanation as to why I picked that team.
PICK: Patriots 27, Seahawks 21
I originally picked the Seahawks, but I am changing my mind and going with the Patriots. Yes, I know lots of people will hate this pick and trust me, I do not want to see the Patriots win. But looking at the matchups and all things considered, I think the Patriots will get it done on Sunday. These two rosters are the most talented rosters in the NFL. They both deserve to be there. Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks of all time, and the same can be said for Bill Belichick being the best coach of all time. Both teams have offenses that are very explosive, but also have their flaws. Both of these teams also have defenses that can completely shut down a team’s particular attack, whether it be rushing or passing. It really is a toss up. I think the difference here is the big game experience that Tom Brady has over Russell Wilson, and the coaching advantage Bill Belichick has over Pete Carroll. Say what you want about the New England Patriots and all their shenanigans, but they are winning the Superbowl on Sunday and Brady/Belichick will be 4 time champions. Deal with it.
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That about does it for me. I want to again thank you for reading my post, and I will be back here next week with a Superbowl recap. Also, I should be back on the air next week if not the next. I will have an official announcement up here when I know more details.
Thanks again for reading, enjoy the game Sunday!