SUPER BOWL XLIX – Feb. 1, 6:30 PM EST
Prediction: NE 23, SEA 27 (Line: NE by 1)
Normally a match-up such as this would be a great thing. West Coast versus East Coast is always better than say the Jets playing the Giants. But the cost of a Super Bowl ticket actually started to drop when it became apparent that the Patriots were going to beat the Colts and advance to the Super Bowl yet again. The Seahawks just won it last year and now return to face the other team that has the most AFC championships in the last decade. Throwing in the “Deflategate” scandal makes this more interesting since otherwise it is just two well known top teams playing each other. No Cinderella story this year. No “underdog” in this game to make it interesting.
Defense wins championships is most often true. The Seahawks obliterated the Broncos in 2014. The Patriots went in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2012. This game is really just a “pick ’em” that could go either way and surprise no one. The DeflateGate could be a distraction but could just as easily be a source of motivation for the Patriots. For NFL fans outside of Seattle and Boston, it may be hard to pick a team to back this year since both are proven winners and realistically not the most popular teams outside their respective fan bases.
The tilting for me is the Patriots being better against the pass than the run since the Seahawks don’t throw all that much. There is no superstar for Darrelle Revis to cover. And they have not faced a quarterback as mobile as Russell Wilson. But the Patriots look as good as they have in a long time and Tom Brady knows the clock is ticking. These are well matched teams and coaching will have a lot to do with the outcome. That and fully-inflated footballs.
|News | Statistics | Roster|
|NE vs BAL||Rush||Catch||Pass|
|PK||S. Gronkowski||3 FG||2 XP||–|
Pregame Notes: The firestorm about the deflated footballs has taken over the entire media focus and even though Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have both issued their “What?” statements. Both say they are not going to discuss the situation until the NFL rules on it which will be, most conveniently, after the Super Bowl. And yet we all know every reporter will broach the subject as if nothing had ever been asked. The Patriots destroyed the Colts last week and was riding high coming off such a big win. How much “DeflateGate” impacts the game cannot be known since it comes without precedent. But most likely it won’t be a factor in whatever happens. This could easily be Tom Brady’s final chance for a fourth Super Bowl ring since he turns 38 years old next August.
QUARTERBACK : Tom Brady has been much better in the playoffs than he was in the regular season. His final seven games of the regular season had him never scoring more than twice in any game and yet both playoff matchups ended with him tossing three touchdowns in each. He totaled 367 yards against the Ravens and only 226 yards versus the Colts because the rushing effort was plenty to win that game. What is at least of some concern here is that his performance away from home has been notably less productive than when he can drive to Gillette Stadium.
Brady averaged 300 yards and three scores in home games excluding the week 17 game when he only had a cameo. On the road, he averaged just 240 yards and two touchdowns per game and that was without facing any of the top passing defenses. This week he faces the best pass defense in the league.
RUNNING BACK : LeGarrette Blount rolled up 148 yards and three scores against the visiting Colts but was held to only seven yards on three runs against the Ravens the previous week when they faced the #1 rush defense. Shane Vereen continues to be a non-factor with only around 40 receiving yards in both playoff games and yet nearly no rushing yards. He’s scored only once since the season opener. Facing the best pass defense in the NFL would suggest that Blount will become a big part of the game plan this week but the oddity here is that he’s only played in two road games with the Patriots this year and was held to around 60 rush yards in both San Diego and Green Bay.
WIDE RECEIVER : Julian Edelman presents a problem since he has the most targets and catches in most games though he lacks the yardage and certainly the scores that Gronkowski produces. Edelman’s role has grown during this season and he’s caught at least eight passes in both playoff games though his yards per catch remains low and he only scored four touchdowns this year. Brandon LaFell has never been more than a moderate option and his usage declined in the second half of the season. He scored once against the Ravens (5-62) but only turned in 28 yards on four catches versus the Colts. He’s no difference maker but remains at least a minor factor in every game. Danny Amendola is a bit of a wildcard that usually is a nonfactor but showed up against the Ravens with 81 yards and two scores on five catches. He only had one score on the entire regular season and usually ended up with fewer than 20 yards in most games.
TIGHT END : The Pats will lean on Rob Gronkowski because they do that every week with great success. Unlike others in the offense, Gronkowski’s role and production don’t really change depending on road or away games. Versus the Ravens, Gronkowski turned in seven catches for 108 yards and one score. He’s scored in each of the last five games. He’ll be the main focus of the Seahawk’s secondary just as he is the main focus of any defense he faces.
MATCH TO THE DEFENSE: The Seahawks are the #1 defense against both quarterbacks and wide receivers and only allowed six passing touchdowns over the last ten games. Even on the road, their last five opponents only combined for two scores and both went to Mark Sanchez who only threw for 96 yards in that game. Tight ends have been the most successful against them but that comes mainly from Byron Maxwell and Richard Sherman playing so well against the two starting wide receivers that teams default to their tight ends. Still, no tight end gained more than the 58 yards that Greg Olsen totaled since week two of the season. In week three they held Julius Thomas to only three catches for 17 yards. With the corners controlling LaFell and Edelman, the defense can otherwise focus on Gronkowski as it knows it must. They will not stop him but must at least limit him from taking over the game. Richard Sherman is reported to have torn ligaments in his elbow but has attended all practices and is expected to play.
The Seahawks have been very good against the run as well and were only hurt by DeMarco Murray and Jamaal Charles. Blount is not their quality and as mentioned, he’s not been very successful in a road game against much weaker defenses. There is no doubt the Patriots will look at what the Packers did that nearly beat the Seahawks but that game was impacted by the big win in the season opener over the Packers that seemed to have let the Seahawks to underestimate their opponent.
Brady and Gronkowski should still manage decent stats and there is always the chance that Amendola suddenly shows up again. But Blount, LaFell and even Edelman should be held to moderate production. Timothy Wright has been absent in the playoffs but could show up once again.
|RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST)||TEAM||QB||RB||WR||TE||PK||DEF|
|Gaining Fantasy Points||NE||9||13||18||1||1||10|
|Preventing Fantasy Points||SEA||1||8||1||16||2||5|
|News | Statistics | Roster|
|SEA vs CAR||Rush||Catch||Pass|
|PK||S. Hauschka||2 FG||3 XP||–|
Pregame Notes: The Seahawks pulled off an improbable overtime win over the Packers after trailing 16-0 at the half and being manhandled until the third quarter. It was a perfect showing of how the Seahawks win – in all kinds of ways and never in an easily defended manner. It appeared that the 36-16 win over the Packers in the season opener went to their heads and they seemed surprisingly overmatched by a motivated Packers. But last year it was the Seahawks that were the underdog and yet they played their best game of the year in week 21. The Patriots will not go willingly if at all and the Seahawks offense will again have to produce to remain in the game. Like last week, this game will probably be very different in the first half compared to the second half. It will take time to figure out what the Pats are doing and how to counteract it but this defense should keep the game within reach at all times. Then again, that was true two weeks ago and nearly became a humbling home loss.
QUARTERBACK : Against the Packers, Russell Wilson threw four interceptions and was a liability to the team until the third quarter. He still ended with 209 yards and one very important touchdown pass and rushed in a touchdown as well. Wilson scored in every road game this year and notched at least two scores in all but two. His rushing yardage always tended to be higher away from home since the running game was less effective and Wilson needed to take a bigger role to get the win. Wilson posted a season high three touchdowns and 268 yards against the Panthers in the Divisional Round. With the Pats weaker against the run than the pass, Wilson should be a lock for decent rushing yardage this week.
RUNNING BACK : Marshawn Lynch ran better on the road than he did at home but he only rushed in two touchdowns in a road game and both came in week 16 against the Falcons. He did turn in three of his four receiving scores while on the road. Lynch took over the Packers game in the second half and overtime periods and ended with 157 yards and one score on 25 runs along with one catch for 26 yards. He was held to only 59 rushing yards by the Panthers though. In a game where the Seahawks gain a sizable lead, Robert Turbin will factor in but in important, close-fought matches almost all the running back touches go to Lynch.
WIDE RECEIVER : The Seahawks are one of the worst teams in using their wide receivers. Doug Baldwin remains the primary and comes off 106 yards on six catches versus the Packers but he only scored four times this year. Oddly his best games came on the road against the better defenses of the Rams and Cardinals. Jermaine Kearse caught the game winner in overtime versus the Packers but it was his only catch in the game and he had missed all five of his targets to that point. Kearse has scored in each of the playoff wins but only once during the regular season. Kearse rarely had more than 40 yards in any game and would naturally match on Darrelle Revis this week. Ricardo Lockette has never had more than two catches in any game and has never been a factor.
TIGHT END : Luke Wilson has never had more than four catches in any game and normally ends up with only one or two for short yardage. But he came up with four receptions for68 yards and one score versus the Panthers. He was held to only 11 yards on two catches by the Packers. Wilson only scored in three games and two were matches with the Panthers. He also had a career best 139 yards and two scores on three catches against the Cardinals back in week 16.
MATCH TO THE DEFENSE: Who will Revis cover and does it matter? There is no primary receiver really and he would match on Kearse who wouldn’t likely be a factor regardless. Baldwin rarely does much and has never been the key to any game so the pass defense of the Patriots is not likely to be as advantageous this week. The Pats have always allowed at least one score in every road game and has allowed high yardage at times but only once had more than two scores thrown on their defense. Have to like Wilson a little more this week since the wideouts should be limited but even if he catches a score like the seven other tight ends who faced the Pats did, it would come with no better than moderate yardage if that.
The Patriots are weaker against the run and have allowed 14 touchdowns to running backs along with five runners topping 100 rush yards against them. Lynch will play a big factor again this week and Wilson faces a defense that has never faced any running quarterback other than Geno Smith who gained 37 yards on seven runs against them. Look for Wilson to be the wild card here and run more often than he has in recent games. He adds a new feature for the defense to worry about and play action with a fake to Lynch is bound to happen five to seven times if not more often.
|RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST)||TEAM||QB||RB||WR||TE||PK||DEF|
|Gaining Fantasy Points||SEA||5||10||30||21||7||25|
|Preventing Fantasy Points||NE||12||16||3||25||19||3|