After being inundated with stories about deflated footballs for the last ten days, it's time to get down to the real task at hand- the Super Bowl. The Seahawks are attempting to be the first back-to-back champion since the 03-04 Patriots and New England is trying to win their fourth Super Bowl since 2001. This is the Patriots eighth Super Bowl appearance, tied with Dallas and Pittsburgh for the most in NFL history. The Seahawks will be playing in their third Super Bowl overall, all of which have occurred in the last ten years.
1. How will the Patriots move the ball?
Moving the ball on the Seattle defense is very difficult to do, as the Broncos found out in the Super Bowl last year. Seattle is first in points allowed (15.9), first in total yards allowed (267.1), first in pass yards allowed (185.6) and third in rushing yards allowed (81.5). They truly have no weaknesses defensively, so the only way to move the ball on them and score touchdowns is flawless execution. The hallmark of the Patriots offense is perfectly timed execution; again, there couldn’t be a better matchup.
New England will be tested when they get into the red zone because Seattle is a team that can slow down Gronkowski, so Josh McDaniels is going to have to be creative and use all his weapons. Tim Wright could end up being one of those random players who has a great Super Bowl, and Danny Amendola also has a chance to have a strong game. The Packers were able to run on Seattle last week, but it will be a tall task for the Patriots to run on Sunday. New England is going to do what they do- pass and use the run to set up the play action to again-pass, and they’ll live or die doing it. I get the feeling that Brady will make enough plays for the offense to have a strong day.
2. Can the Seahawks score against the New England defense?
This is the key question in Super Bowl XLIX because it’s pretty simple- if you can’t score, you can’t win. The Seahawks averaged 25 points per game this season, but it is clear they have issues in the passing game. Seattle was 27th in the NFL through the air, and facing Darrelle Revis and the strong Patriots secondary is going to be tough. Revis will be matched up with Doug Baldwin, a wide receiver that torched the Patriots in 2012.
The lack of receivers for Seattle is going to allow Patrick Chung to be more aggressive in the run game and help to slow down the best rushing attack in football. Jamie Collins will be in a spy role to keep Russell Wilson somewhat under control and the defensive line needs to have a strong game to keep Marshawn Lynch in check. When Lynch gets it going, the entire Seahawk team feeds off his energy and they are tough to beat. Belichick has done a great job taking away the opponents best weapon, and he’ll be tested again with trying stop Lynch. Ultimately, Seattle is going to have a tough time moving the ball and scoring touchdowns.
3. Who has the edge in the coaching match up?
Bill Belichick will matchup with his Patriots predecessor, Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll on Sunday for the first time since 2012 in Super Bowl XLIX. Belichick and Carroll came into the NFL around the same time and had some similarities in their careers, specifically the fact that they both rose to coaching stardom as defensive coordinators and each struggled in their first shot as NFL head coach. Carroll got the best of Belichick in their last meeting, stealing a victory away from the Patriots on a long touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to win 24-23. New England didn’t have nearly the same amount of talent in the secondary then as they do now, so big plays, the bread and butter of the Seattle passing game, won’t be nearly as easy to complete.
One of the keys to this game is how the Patriots defend Russell Wilson, and if Belichick figures out a way to do it, he wins the matchup and most likely the game. Pete Carroll and his physical secondary must slow down Gronkowski, and if Carroll can pull that off, he’ll win the matchup and again, probably the game. These two coaches are so close in their ability plus talent that they have on the field, it’s a total tossup. Belichick is going in with something to prove, so I’ll give him a SLIGHT advantage.
4. Will the Seahawks find a way to give Brady fits?
Getting a pass rush on Brady is essential if the Seahawks expect to win, because no matter how good the Seattle secondary is, they can only cover for so long. The Patriots have faced top defenses and scored on them in the past, so as much as they respect the Seahawks, they know they can make plays if they block for Brady. Seattle had 37 sacks in 2014, which isn’t bad (New England had 41) but it is down from their 43 in 2013. The Patriots dealt with a tough Ravens front seven and did a good enough job to score 35 points, and even though they made the Colts defense look awful, Indy had played well defensively all year, just not when they faced the New England.
Michael Bennett led the way for the Seahawks with seven sacks, so he has to be dealt with or he’ll give Brady fits. Defensive tackle Jordan Hill provides a strong interior presence, picking up five and a half sacks of his own. New England should have rookie starter Bryan Stork back after suffering a knee injury vs. Baltimore in the Divisional Playoffs. Stork allows Wendell to kick back over to guard and that is when the Patriots are at their best. Cliff Avril racked up five sacks from the end position and outside linebacker Bruce Irvin also chipped in six and a half. The overall sack numbers may be lower than expected, but there isn’t just one guy that stands out, which makes them harder to block. This game will truly test the New England offensive line, but they are definitely up to the task.
5. Who wins the game and why?
The Seahawks pulled off the miracle against Green Bay two weeks ago and won a game they never should have. Granted, they had to make plays to get back into the game, but Green Bay simply lost it from an aggression standpoint on both sides of the ball. New England isn't going to let their foot off the accelerator and will be smart enough to stay aggressive on both sides of the ball for four quarters because they learned how fast Seattle can make a comeback in 2012.
Seattle lost their top two weapons in the passing game (Tate, Harvin) and although they found a way around it so far, it's going to haunt them Sunday when Revis takes Baldwin away and the Patriots can focus more on stopping Lynch and Wilson. The Seahawks defense is going to find themselves on the field more than usual and the Patriots will eventually wear them down and start scoring points. If the protection for Brady is there, which we discussed earlier, the Patriots are going to make plays and win their fourth Super Bowl in team history, which is what I predict will happen on Sunday night in Glendale.
Predicted Score: Patriots 27, Seahawks 16
Statistics Provided by www.pro-football-reference.com