It was yet another thrilling football season here at The Sports Geek. From the unfortunate rash of off-field incidents and the questionable handling from the commissioner’s office, to the crazy drama of Championship weekend in Seattle, to the DeflateGate drama in New England; it was just a wild NFL season and we still aren’t done yet.
The grandest game of them all unfolds Sunday evening from University of Phoenix Stadium as the Seattle Seahawks look to pull off the tough task of repeating as champions. Standing in their way will be one of the top dynasties of this generation, the New England Patriots. With Belichick and Brady calling the shots, the Pats always have a shot and arguably enter as the hottest team in football. It promises to be a thrilling affair between two excellent football teams. As always, read on below for a full analysis of Super Bowl XLIX and my official prediction for this big game.
Patriots vs. Seahawks Super Bowl XLIX Betting Odds:
New England Patriots -2 (-110)
vs. Seattle Seahawks +2 (-110)
Over 47.5 (-110)
Under 47.5 (-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv (as of 1/31 at 4:00 PM EST)
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Patriots vs. Seahawks Super Bowl XLIX Pick:
What a match-up this should be. Two great teams squaring off, both featuring world-class coaching and quarterbacks. It really promises to be a special encounter. Initially I thought the whole DeflateGate scandal going on around New England would have them riled up and ready to prove the rest of the world wrong once again. But it’s truly taken on a life of its own and is simply becoming a ridiculous, unnecessary distraction for Brady and his Patriots teammates. While it won’t cost them this game, this whole saga cannot possibly help the Pats.
Looking at these two teams, despite both of their similar reputations as elite football clubs, Seattle and New England took very different paths to Arizona. The Seahawks looked to be all but eliminated two weeks ago, but a miraculous comeback victory against the Packers propelled them into this game. Were they lucky? Yes, very. But this is a gritty group that enters as battle-tested and has faced a ton of recent adversity. For the Patriots, though they did face a challenge against Baltimore, that is now three weeks ago. When we last saw New England, they had possibly the easiest post-season game ever against a punchless Colts squad. Games like that don’t traditionally prepare teams all that well for a Super Bowl, especially with the additional rest involved. Again, the ball deflation episode and the fact that the Pats had a pretty easy road to get here may not mean all that much, but I don’t think it will enhance their chances in this contest.
Both these teams don’t have many weak spots, and truthfully aren’t constructed to beat each other’s styles. This will not be last year, this will be a close game. That said, the Seahawks live on exploiting even the most minor of issues and that’s exactly what I think they’ll be able to do to New England come Sunday evening. Beginning with them on offense, the one thing Seattle does better than any other team in football, is run the ball. They enter as the best team in the league in that regard and they remain one of the few run-heavy offenses still in the NFL. With horses like Marshawn Lynch, and even Russell Wilson under centre, the Seahawks have the ability to collect first downs with their legs on virtually every play. Unfortunately for New England, even though they’ve been better at limiting the run of late, they have a history of being a porous run defense. Old habits do seem to have creeped in this post-season as well, as the Ravens and Colts both had solid rushing numbers vs. the Pats. In those two contests, New England conceded 4.79 yards per carry, something that does not bode well for their defense in this game. Additionally, the Seahawks style of rushing attack is well suited to exploit the weaknesses of New England’s run defense. Seattle is best when they run toward the middle or right, exactly where New England has proven to be most susceptible this season. You also have to wonder if Russell Wilson will finally unleash the legs in his last game of the season. Has he been holding off to avoid injury? Those concerns aren’t as glaring in a Super Bowl. Something to keep in mind if Wilson gets his running game going.
And while we’re all aware of the deficiencies the Seahawks have in their passing game, it won’t need to be all that spectacular to move the chains on Sunday. Their run game will be that strong. But still it is important to mention that Seattle’s aerial attack actually improved since the departure of Percy Harvin and no team in football completed a higher percentage of their deep balls (44.4%). And while the Seahawks’ wideouts may be tightly covered by an impressive New England secondary, the Pats cannot defend tight ends, ranking 30th in the NFL in that area. Canadian Luke Wilson has enjoyed a nice breakout campaign as Seattle’s TE and has been particularly hot of late. The youngster is in line for yet another big game on Sunday.
On the other side of the ball, when Brady and the Pats are on the field the Seahawks defense has a right to be concerned. Despite getting up there in age, Brady looks to be playing some of the best football of his career, regardless of the PSI of his footballs. Still, going against the Seahawks defense in a do-or-die situation has to be a scary proposition given their lack of weaknesses. For starters, it’s highly uncertain that New England’s very questionable offensive line can protect Brady and keep him upright. The Seahawks are more than capable of applying a ton of pressure, and Brady traditionally fares poorly when the opposing defense can put heat on him with just four defenders. It’s the recipe the Seahawks used to frustrate Manning last year, and can be effective again this Super Bowl. One of the most important players for Seattle will be defensive lineman Michael Bennett. Bennett will be vital at disposing of New England’s O-Line and applying heavy pressure on Brady. If he’s a big name on Sunday, it’ll be bad news for New England. The best method to alleviate concerns of Seattle’s rush would be a steady and consistent running game, but I doubt the Pats will be that effective doing that against this Seattle defense. This isn’t the Indianapolis Colts. The Seahawks simply stuff the run and have been very consistent in doing this all season long. And without key lineman Bryan Stork, it’ll make everything far more difficult. Stork is listed as questionable and the Pats have really struggled when he’s been out of the lineup this year. Don’t look for another heroic outing from LeGarrette Blount in this one.
Seattle’s top talents on defense aren’t entering at full strength though. Stud corner Richard Sherman has torn ligaments in his elbow, although that shouldn’t really impact his ability to stay with key receivers. Earl Thomas also enters banged up, but this is the Super Bowl and both Legion of Boom members will be amped up for Sunday. Besides it’s not as if the Pats possess legitimate deep threat receivers to be concerned about. The only real threat as far as Seattle’s concerned is the Brady to Gronkowski connection. Gronk can be a beast, much like Lynch on Seattle, and if they can limit the big tight-end, the Seahawks have a great shot at being successful in this game. But this is all easier said than done. Look for coverage safety Kam Chancellor to match up vs. Gronkowski and he is capable enough to be effective in limiting him. Chancellor is coming off yet another great season, was dominant last week vs. the Packers, and if anybody can shut down the beastly Gronkowski, it’s one of the biggest safeties in the game in Kam Chancellor. While Gronkowski cannot ever be completely shut down, the Seahawks defense will do enough to win this battle.
I’ve gone through a variety of thought processes in the lead-up to Super Bowl XLIX – a lot of that likely has to do with the extra week of rest and all the hype this match-up offers. But after looking closely at the numbers and situation, both point heavily to the Seahawks emerging victorious in this game. It will be hard fought and I think defenses for the most part will win out in a low-scoring affair, but the Seahawks should emerge victorious. They are slightly better in most key matchups against the Pats and should be able to expose the minor flaws that New England possesses. That Patriots’ O-line is worrisome and look for Seattle’s Michael Bennett’s name to get called a ton by the broadcast crew. He’ll be wreaking havoc on Brady for all four quarters. Seattle is also good enough to force Brady to be one-dimensional by taking away a weak run game. Brady passing into the Seahawks defense is risky given that talent in the secondary, especially when you consider that Gronkowski and Chancellor can be an even match-up. The lack of a deep threat, and the Pats’ inability to neutralize Marshawn Lynch will ultimately be their downfall. Seattle will control the tempo with long, sustained drives off of Lynch’s legs en route to back-to-back Super Bowl titles. This team chirps as much as anybody but they’ll prove Sunday they can back it up with their performance. Expect a back-and-forth affair with the Seahawks emerging victorious in Arizona. 23-17 Seahawks.
PICK = Seahawks +2 (-110)