After a long five months of drama, games and action, the end of the 2014 NFL season concludes for Super Bowl Sunday. In one corner, we have the New England Patriots who were AFC Champions and the other is the NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks.
The Patriots began this season with high expectations, with Tom Brady another year older and with a consistent stranglehold on the AFC East division. They started out with a 2-2 record, including a close win against the Oakland Raiders as well as an embarrassing loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. New England would go on to win seven straight games with six of them having a margin of at least 15 points.
They would lose Stevan Ridley for the seaon, but LeGarrette Blount has been solid as their starting running back. Defensively, the Patriots secondary bought a major upgrade in free agency with Darrelle Revis signing a one year deal and it paid off. They also added Brandon Browner as a cornerback while Devin McCourty remained as a great safety. Their defense is respectable with a great secondary and a strong front-seven which includes Vince Wilfork. New England was able to cruise to sixth straight division title and 11th in their last 12 years.
In the playoffs, New England survived a scare against the Baltimore Ravens before cruising to an easy victory over the Indianapolis Colts. This is their sixth Super Bowl appearance in the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady era.
On the NFC side, the Seattle Seahawks got off to a slow start beginning the season at 3-3. They began the season with injuries to their defense, with Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Bobby Wagner missing significant time. Even CB Byron Maxwell was out for three games with a calf injury.
Seattle’s defense would have its holes and some began to write them off after a 24-20 loss to Kansas City in Week 11. However, Wagner was able to return the following week and Seattle’s defense helped them win the final six games of the regular season en route to their second straight NFC West division title. They were able to hold their opponents to 14 points or less in those last six games, holding the San Francisco 49ers to 10 points in two of them.
Russell Wilson has been more than a game manager this season even though the box score may not show it. He had his struggles at times, including the NFC Championship game where he threw four interceptions. However, he has shown the ability to make plays where it counts as he threw the game-winning touchdown against the Green Bay Packers in overtime. Marshawn Lynch has been their catalyst offensively, creating opportunities elsewhere.
For the Super Bowl, I predicted both of these teams to play in the Super Bowl since August. In this matchup, I’m going to stick with my preseason prediction of the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl with the first repeat since the Patriots did it in 2003-2004.
What stands out is the “Legion of Boom” in the Seattle secondary because it’s one of the most unique in the league. With the two best safeties in the NFL combined with an elite CB, the Patriots will need to establish a running game with Blount if they want any chance in this game.
Seattle’s physical defense will cause problems for New England. The Patriots defense must force turnovers in order to hang around. This has the makings to be a close game through three quarters if both defenses live up to hype, but the fourth quarter favors Seattle if they can keep their offense on the field.
I believe Seattle will pull away in the fourth quarter after a low scoring affair, wearing out the Patriots’ defense in the process. They should be able to pound the ball on the ground with Lynch, which will open up the passing game. This will not be a repeat of last year’s Super Bowl blowout from start to finish, but the scoreboard at the end could be deceiving if the Seahawks take control late.
Seattle Seahawks: 27, New England Patriots: 10
I had the San Francisco 49ers as a 10 or 11 win team at the most. Did not agree with what they did in the 2014 NFL Draft, thinking that the non-drafting of a primary CB or WR in the first few rounds would come back to haunt them. Full analysis of the 49ers’ drafts from 2011-2014 will come throughout the week after the Super Bowl.