Aside from balls being checked more thoroughly than at a gentleman’s yearly physical, what can we expect from this weekend’s Super Bowl game between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks?
The odds makers are predicting a close game, with the Patriots currently projected to be a two-point favorite. To get here, the Patriots dismantled the Colts 45-7 to win the AFC, while the Seahawks had one of the most remarkable fourth quarter comebacks to tie the Packers in a last second scramble. A quick overtime score against the Green Bay Packers gave the NFC title to the Seahawks. Both teams are coming off of memorable wins and carrying that momentum into Super Bowl week.
As the defending Super Bowl champions, the Seahawks seemingly should be commanding much more positive pre–game buzz than they are; instead there’s a “heavy is the head who wears the crown” feeling surrounding the Seahawks. On the other hand, the non-stop debate as to whether or not the Patriots somehow cheated their way to victory with underinflated balls has failed to sidetrack the Patriots. Rather than being distracted by the flap, they appear to be thriving on the controversy, so expect that “DeflateGate” will inspire the Pats to prove their mettle.
Keep your eyes on the sidelines. The two coaches at the helm have a strong undercurrent of competition and each has a personal compelling reason to put a victory in the books. Bill Belichick has lost the last two times his Patriots were at the Super Bowl, and he is nearing the end of the Brady era: the moment to grab one last Super Bowl victory with Brady is now. Meanwhile, Pete Carroll is out to prove that last year’s Super Bowl victory was not a fluke, and that his quarterback, Russell Wilson, is indeed the heir apparent for quarterback stardom. Winning back to back Super Bowls will put his coaching career on par with the last man to do that: Belichick. Expect Pete Carroll to pull out all the stops to defeat the man who replaced him in New England.
The keys to the game lie in each team’s strength. The Patriots have had one of the best offenses this season, led by the indefatigable Tom Brady. After a bumpy start, the Pats average 35 points per game for most of the season; the improvement coincidentally occurred about the same time Rob Gronkowski kicked back into full “Gronk” mode. If Gronk and Julian Edelman both have big games, and if LaGarrette Blount and Jonas Gray can outmaneuver the Seahawks defense, the Pats could score against the usually impenetrable Seattle line.
But there’s the rub: the high octane, aggressive Seahawks defense has held teams to under twelve points for the last 10 games of the season. Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman have severely curtailed most teams’ offensive ability this season, although their recent injuries raise questions about the effectiveness of the Seahawks’ secondary, especially against Tom Brady’s big game experience. If Seattle’s stellar run defense, which is the third best in the league, can impede the incredible postseason effort Blount has had in the past few years for the Patriots, it could be very challenging for New England’s offense to put up their standard numbers.
Presuming both teams play successfully to their strengths, and the old adage that defense wins football games holds true, the Seahawks have the edge. Count on this game being one of the closest games in recent history.
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Prediction: Seahawks over Patriots 27-24. And Katy Perry will not have a wardrobe malfunction, but perhaps will kiss a girl, and like it; certainly there will be fireworks.
*Matty Tighe contributed to the Seahawks portion of this article.