The big day draws nigh. On Sunday, Feb.1, 2015, the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots will square off in Super Bowl XLIX to be played at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. PT. These two teams took vastly different paths to arrive here.
In the AFC Championship game, the New England Patriots had an easy time of it, as they rolled over the Indianapolis Colts by a score of 45-7 to punch their ticket to the big dance.
In the NFC Championship game, the Seattle Seahawks had a difficult time. The defending Super Bowl champs fell behind 16-0 at halftime, before storming back for a dramatic 28-22 victory in overtime against the Green Bay Packers.
After all the drama, it has come down to this. 12 teams began the hunt, and it has been whittled down to these final two. Starting with the quarterbacks for each team, there is plenty on the line aside from the prestige of winning the championship.
For Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady, this will be his sixth Super Bowl appearance. Brady has three championship rings, and one more would tie him with Hall of Fame quarterbacks Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana, both of whom have four rings, which is the most in NFL history.
For Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, this potentially means a difference of millions of dollars. Wilson is in the last year of his entry level contract, and currently makes less than $1million per season. If Wilson is able to go into offseason contract negotiations with a second Super Bowl ring, it will give him great leverage at the bargaining table.
Wilson’s teammate, running back Marshawn Lynch a.k.a. ‘Beastmode’, is in a similar situation. Lynch will be entering into contract negotiations soon as well. If Lynch is able to significantly help Seattle win this game, and maybe even earn MVP honors, his market value will increase significantly.
Patriots’ running back LeGarrette Blount is also going to be looking for a new conract. Blount was picked up by the Patriots after having been cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers after Week 11 of the 2014 season. In the biggest game of the season, his new team is facing the NFL’s top-ranked defense. A big day against the Seahawks, could mean a big payday for Blount.
As for the game itself, this is the classic matchup of a team with a sophisticated offense, against a team with a great defense. New England has the great offense, and a slightly underrated defense, while Seattle has a great defense, and a slightly underrated offense.
The Patriots have different ways to effectively move the ball on offense. It could be Brady doing it through the air by throwing to All-World tight end Rob Gronkowski, or they could elect to keep the ball on the ground, and pound away with 6’0″, 250 lb LeGarrette Blount.
On defense, the Seahawks have an unparalleled defensive backfield. Anchored by Richard Sherman, along with dynamic safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, they are capable of shutting down any team’s air attack.
The NFL defensive rule changes made in 2014, were supposed to eliminate what were perceived advantages for the defense. The changes were specifically targeted to affect physical defenses like Seattle’s. In reality, the changes did little to slow down the vaunted “Legion of Boom” defense.
This game will come down to the narrowest of margins, and which team can find something to exploit during crucial situations. It may even come down to which team wins the battle of special teams.
The Seattle defense gets a lot of ink, but the New England defense which has big Vince Wilfork on the defensive line, with Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner in the defensive backfield, cannot be taken lightly. As far as offense, it is the reverse. Seattle’s receiving corps led by Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse and Luke Wilson, does not get a lot of praise, but have a flair for the dramatic.
The keys to victory will be the Patriots abilty to stop Marshawn Lynch, and Seattle’s ability to stop LeGarrette Blount. Whichever team firmly establishes the run, will have passing options open up, and ultimately should win the game. Another battle to watch, is the physicality of Seattle safety Kam Chancellor against the physicality of tight end Rob Gronkowski.
When all is said and done, this should be one of the most memorable Super Bowls ever. It should also end with Seattle becoming the first NFL team to win back to back Super Bowls since New England did it in Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX. Prediction: Seattle wins.