The Patriots are slight Super Bowl favorites right now, with both teams evenly matched on paper. Forget paper. The Seahawks have all the intangibles going for them. They played their worst game in months against the Packers, and still sucked out a win. Sure they're banged up in the secondary. But they've had time to recover emotionally and physically from a historic win. Meanwhile, the Patriots have allowed their coach and QB to get sucked into -- and distracted by -- the biggest non-story on "cheating" in NFL history. They're going to run into a team that reminds me of the Steelers teams of the mid-‘70s. Dynasty talk starts Sunday night after the Seahawks paste the Pats. The only underinflated balls in this game will be in Belichick's sack. He'll get out-coached and his team will get outplayed.
Final score: Seahawks 29, Patriots 17
Flash back to a year ago. We had a Super Bowl that featured one of the greatest offenses of all time against one of the greatest defenses. The Broncos finished the 2013 regular season ranked 1st in total yards and points. The Seahawks led the league in yards and points allowed. Denver settled as a 1-point favorite in Super 48 and got smoked 43-8.
Super Bowl 49 looks eerily similar. The Patriots are the offensive juggernaut; the Seahawks again the defensive stalwart. And wouldn’t ya know – the offense is again favored by 1 point.
But this Patriots offense isn’t nearly as good as the 2013 Broncos. New England finished the regular season ranked 11th in yards and 4th in points. They gained nearly 100 fewer yards per game than Denver and scored about 8.5 fewer points.
Meanwhile, this Seattle defense, at least statistically, is very similar to last year’s bunch. Both units finished 1st in points and yards allowed. The 2013 Seahawks allowed 1.5 fewer points per game but 6.5 more yards. Both units ranked #1 against the pass, but the 2014 Seahawks are better vs. the run. They allowed just 81.5 rushing yards per game (3rd in the league), while the 2013 ‘Hawks allowed 101.6 (7th).
I don’t think this Super Bowl turns into a blowout like last year’s. The Patriots won’t give the ball away 4 times like the Broncos did. But I do think Seattle’s defense outplays New England’s offense, Marshawn Lynch has a big day and Russell Wilson makes enough plays to hoist his 2nd straight Lombardi Trophy.
Final Score: Seahawks 23, Patriots 20
This one's close. But you already knew that.
Well, pretty much all NFL matchups are probably a lot closer than you think. That's why it often comes down to turnovers.
When ColdHardFootballFacts.com posted this in October 2013, teams that finished games with more takeaways than giveaways had gone 810-220-2 (.786) over the previous 5 years. The early weeks of the 2013 season had added another 72-17 to that record, making it 882-237-2 (.788).
I don't have the numbers for all the games since, but I'm gonna go ahead and assume that trend hasn’t flipped. What I do know is that 39 teams have won the turnover battle in the Super Bowl, and 36 of those teams also won the game. The past 7 Super Bowl competitors that finished with more takeaways than giveaways won their games. (The Giants and Patriots tied at 1 turnover apiece in Super Bowl XLII.)
This year, New England finished the season tied for 2nd best in the league in turnover differential. Seattle checked in 4th. Nine of the 14 teams that have lost to the Seahawks (including the playoffs) turned the ball over 2+ times, and Seattle did so just 5 times. The Pats, meanwhile, have turned it over 2+ times in just 4 games all year. Eight of the 14 teams they beat turned it over 2+ times.
Still pretty close. But combine New England's edge in the turnover fight with the edge in big-game experience (at least for coach and QB), the injury to Seattle turnover-maker Earl Thomas and the Pats' ability to play the "disrespected" card in light of the soft-balls controversy ... I'm putting my money with them.
Final score: Patriots 24, Seahawks 18
Tom Brady. Russell Wilson. Richard Sherman. Darrelle Revis. They’re all major players in Super Bowl 49, and there’s no doubting their influence on the outcome. But there’s one guy who could quietly prove difference-making.
That’s Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner, who might be going unnoticed because he missed 5 games with turf toe. That came early in the season, though. Since he returned in Week 12, Seattle has surrendered just 9.8 points per game – fewest league-wide.
Wagner really makes his presence felt in run D. Aided by just 3 missed tackles all year, he finished 2nd against the rush in Pro Football Focus’ rankings. Wagner’s run-stuffing prowess will really come in handy against bruising RB LeGarrette Blount. The 6’0, 250-pounder averaged the 2nd most yards after contact per attempt in 2014.
Ultimately, I look for a low-scoring, grind-it-out type of game with Seattle’s strong rush attack leading to another SB victory.
Final score: Seahawks 17, Patriots 13
John Updike said, “Suspect each moment, for it is a thief, tiptoeing away with more than it brings.” Super Bowl winners often pay a great price, and that bill often comes due when a team tries to repeat.
Last year’s version of the Super Bowl winning offense had Golden Tate and the threat to defenses presented by Percy Harvin. With Marshawn Lynch toting the rock, this offense had enough balance to be dangerous as they crushed the Broncos. On the other side of the ball, the interior of the D-line is no longer dominant and will be functioning with backups, as Brandon Mebane and Jordan Hill are on IR. They also lost run-stopper DE Red Bryant to free agency. This is hardly the D-line that was an impenetrable force just 12 months ago. In addition, the Seahawks will be playing with injured stars, Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman. On the other sideline, the Patriots have arguably their best defensive squad since they were winning Super Bowls in the early-2000s along with a balanced offense.
In terms of matchups, when Seattle has the ball, they will face a coach in Bill Belichick who always takes away the one thing an offense does best. This approach has had mixed results over the years, as offenses have been able to take advantage of what was given to them. It’s fair to assume that the Pats will take away Marshawn Lynch, and at the same time, they should be able to keep Russell Wilson in the pocket, where he is not at his best. Expect them to assign a spy, likely Jamie Collins, to keep Wilson honest. So, that means New England is likely willing to give the WRs primarily single coverage. The problem with that is Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner have an unbelievable advantage over Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse. If talent alone isn’t enough, don’t forget that Browner was a former Seahawk and knows these receivers well. However, Luke Willson does have an advantage against a defense that struggles against TEs and could be in line for a solid game. Expect the Seattle offense to struggle sustaining long drives.
When the Patriots are on offense they will be able to have a fair amount of success because they have the type of offense that will be able to attack the weaknesses in the Seattle defense. The Seahawks are vulnerable to teams that are balanced, but can run the ball up the middle. Generally, when Seattle faced one-dimensional running teams, the LBs pick up the slack and shut down opposing rushing attacks. The balanced Pats should be able to get LeGarrette Blount enough space to be effective. In addition, WRs that operate in the middle of the field have been able to find production against this unit, which bodes well for Julian Edelman and possibly Danny Amendola or TE Tim Wright.
Now, let’s add the biggest wild card to this contest. The brash Seahawks of last year could shoot their mouths off and routinely cash those checks on the field. Jeremy Lane made a critical mistake by calling out Rob Gronkowski. Not only have the Seahawks given up 11 TDs to opposing TEs this year, but they just ticked off one of the baddest men on the planet. If Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas thought they were hurting now, wait until Gronk runs them over a few times. And don’t be shocked if you see Gronk split out wide against the injured Sherman on occasion. The Patriots will have enough success to score into the 20s.
I initially predicted the Patriots to win 19-13, but that was before Lane shot his mouth off. I have to think that will turn one of the New England FGs into a TD.
Final score: Patriots 23, Seahawks 13
Super Bowl XLIX has all the makings of a legendary game. It will certainly be tighter than last year’s slaughter. These are some of the keys that’ll make the biggest impact on the Big Game:
Seattle’s bread and butter on offense clearly is the running game, and we know New England will stack the box to slow down Marshawn Lynch. But something to pay attention to? Seattle’s O-Line is the healthiest they’ve been all year, so LBs Jamie Collins and Rob Ninkovich are going to have to be monsters for the Patriots defense.
Darrelle Revis is flat out dominant, and will continue to be so in this game. Brandon Browner also has a chip on his shoulder playing against his former team. These two CBs completely overmatch any WR combo Seattle can put out there, so there’s a good chance we see Revis Island on one side and Browner on the other. WRs Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse are going to need to make a play or two if Seattle wants to keep the middle open, but I don’t expect much out of either of them.
Advantage: New England
Russell Wilson vs. Tom Brady—Both are athletic in their own way, but Wilson will make more of an impact on the game. Brady has been here 5 times, but hasn’t won it since 2004. Wilson played by far the worst game of his career in the NFC Championship Game and still willed them to the improbable victory. Brady has been dealing lately, and he’s got a chip on his shoulder dealing with “Deflategate.” I give the slight edge to Wilson for what he can provide with his legs in the open field, although both QBs might struggle to find rhythm.
New England’s WRs can have some success against the ultra-aggressive Seahawks secondary—and the fact Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas are a little banged up helps their cause. WR Julian Edelman will run free for at least 9 catches in the intermediate range. Brandon LaFell might get 4-5 catches, but don’t count on it. They will be held out of the end zone, and most likely not play a major role in the outcome of the game.
Rob Gronkowski may be the toughest man to guard in the entire league, and Seattle has allowed far too many big plays to opposing TEs. The middle of the field is usually open against the Hawks, but Gronk will take it to the next level. Also, don’t be surprised if the Patriots spread him out wide against Sherman. That will be a great matchup to watch. Expect Gronk to get at least 1 TD.
Advantage: New England
Patriots Defense vs. Seattle Defense—Seattle isn’t the same defense we saw dominate the Broncos last year, but now they’re healthy and playing at an extremely high level. Their biggest hang-up is the penalties. The Pats aren’t a team you want to give 2nd chances to, so penalties will be something to keep an eye on. The Pats like to throw exotic coverages at offenses and put pressure on the QB. Wilson’s agility will make it tough to get to him, but they will see some success. Seattle wins the turnover battle with 3 turnovers to New England’s 2.
Special Teams are both outstanding, but the edge goes to New England. Edelman will help in the field-position battle, and Stephen Gostkowski will be a difference maker. He hits 3 FGs to keep the game close.
Advantage: New England
Neither team is primed for a blowout, but the advantage is in favor of the Seahawks. They are the World Champs and have the swagger to go with it.
Final Score: Seahawks 27, Patriots 23