After two weeks of hype and anticipation, Super Bowl XLIX is but a day away. All other foes have been vanquished. Only two teams remain. But which of them has the edge?
The Seattle Seahawks stormed back both late in the season and late in the NFC Championship Game. Now they have the chance to become the first back-to-back champions since the New England Patriots accomplished the feat a decade ago. They exude confidence and intensity, and they show no mercy.
The New England Patriots also struggled early on this season; but ever since they lost handily to Kansas City Chiefs, they have found their game and have been running though opponents with a relative ease that hasn’t been seen since they went undefeated (in the regular season) in the 2007 season. They have a quiet professionalism about them, and an us-against-the-world mentality.
This begs the question as to who has the advantage. Both teams were the top overall seed in their respective conference. Below, we break down the different phases of the game and who has the advantage in each. Then, we make a prediction as to who we believe will earn the right to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
The Patriots and Seahawks have very different approaches when they have the ball. Seattle, relies on a dual-threat rushing attack that primarily depends on Marshawn Lynch pounding the rock. As silent as he is with the press, his powerful running style speaks plenty loudly. For Russell Wilson, the key is the “threat” of running. He picks his spots well on the ground, and is able to make timely plays through the air.
The Patriots are a chameleon. Whether it be Tom Brady throwing the ball 40 times, any of their many running backs taking over or the team tricking opponents with a little tomfoolery; the Patriots are willing to play any style. They take what you give them, then shove it back down your throat.
The two x-factors on offense are turnovers and Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots do not commit the former. The Seahawks do not have a weapon that even comes close to matching what “Gronk” brings to an offense, as he may be the single most difficult player to tackle in the NFL.
Like as is the case on offense, both teams are proficient on this side of the ball; but take different approaches. With the Seahawks, what you see is what you get. And what you see is terrifying. They line up and dare you to beat them. They are also willing to concede short passes, knowing that their closing speed and tackling prowess is unmatched.
For the Patriots, the key to their game is adjustments. They focus in on taking their oppositions’ biggest threat and doing everything they can to eliminate it; forcing opponents to find a different way to beat them. Against the Seahawks, they will likely stack the box and try to force Wilson to look deep to beat them.
Though it’s banged up, the “Legion of Boom” is still the best secondary in the league. They also have the best cover linebackers. They will face a tall task against the Pats, but if anybody is up to it, it is this unit.
In this category, the teams each of their respective strengths. Stephen Gostkowski clearly takes the cake when it comes to field goals, as he may be the league’s top kicker. With punting and kickoffs, the edge goes to Seattle; as they excel at pinning teams deep in their own zone (with their superior tackling again playing a part). The return game is the only place that the Seahawks miss Percy Harvin; as the edge in that category clearly goes to the Patriots.
Just like in the rankings above, the Patriots are better at the offensive aspects of special teams; while the Seahawks are better defensively. Thanks to the talent of the Pats’ offense, field position will matter a little less in this contest than in most. Even if it’s settling for three, the ability to score points always matters.
Comparing Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll to each other is like comparing apples to oranges. Both are successful, but for different reasons.
Belichick and his staff are master technicians. They run a tight ship and expect everybody to do what is asked of them. The Patriots are innovative in their game plan, perhaps more so than any team in the league.
While Carroll is far from stupid when it comes to X’s and O’s; that is not what sets him apart. Where he is elite is as a motivator. He gets just as amped up about games as his players, maybe even more so. His attitude is infectious, and his players would follow him to the ends of the earth.
Of the two, Belichick will probably come up with the better game plan. That being said, Carroll may have the Seahawks’ players more ready to play from a mentality standpoint. Which approach is better remains to be seen.
This year, the Super Bowl will again be played at a stadium neither team calls home. That being said, it may still feel like a home game for one side. The “12th man” is alive and well in Arizona. While Patriots fans are undoubtedly passionate, Seattle’s are in a league of their own. Cheering is not something the “12’s” do for fun. For them, it is an obligation. Even if the split is 50/50, the Seattle fans should drown out those cheering for New England. That was the case last year; and for anybody that thinks it didn’t make a difference, just ask Peyton Manning how quickly the Broncos were forced to switch to a silent count.
For those expecting a blowout like last year, think again. With the way the team’s have been playing recently, this game looks like a matchup between an unstoppable force and an immovable object. The Seahawks might be able to minimize the damage done by the Patriots’ offense, but they will probably not be able to stall it completely.
A lot of responsibility will fall on Russell Wilson. He cannot afford to turn the ball over as frequently as he did in the NFC Championship Game (if at all). The Patriots will capitalize on mistakes.
That being said, defense wins championships. Again, the proof is in last year’s game. As long as Seattle does not shoot themselves in the foot, they looked primed for a repeat. Their defense may be better than last year’s and while their offense shouldn’t be asked to do too much, it has the capability to do enough to get the win.
Final Score: The Seattle Seahawks defeat the New England Patriots 23-16