Super Bowl Preview/Prediction

The “Big Game” is finally upon us. I was listening to a podcast that said they thought this was going to be the highest rated Super Bowl ever. First off let me say that saying something like that is not really going out on a limb. Nearly every year the game seems to get bigger and bigger. It’s become an event that nearly everyone watches. How many of you have no interest in watching?  How many of you know someone who has no interest in watching?  I can’t say I know anyone who simply doesn’t care at all. While I may not be amazingly excited about the game, I’ll certainly watch it all.

Many people have asked me who I’m rooting for or who I think is going to win. My answer to both of those questions seems to change on a daily basis. The truth is that I don’t have much or a rooting interest in either team. I don’t dislike the Patriots like so many do. What they’ve been able to do in the last decade and a half is amazing. To go to six Super Bowls is truly remarkable. And Seattle is quite amazing themselves. They’ve been the best team in the league for two solid years. That’s hard to do too. I respect both teams and won’t be too upset regardless of who wins.

Who do I think is going to win?  Ask me ten minutes from now and my answer might change. There are so many factors that will impact the final outcome. Will the deflategate rattle the Patriots at all?  Will Marshawn’s antics have any impact on his play?  Will the injuries to Sherman and Thomas hurt the defense of the Seahawks?  Will Belichick come up with a game plan to stop Wilson from running? These are all questions that will come into play.

Let’s start with the Patriots. This team started the season very slowly. Many people wrote them off and said the dynasty was over. Brady was too old. Belichick wasn’t the mastermind anymore. Funny how quickly things change when you win a few games. Brady played out of his mind in the middle part of the year. The Pats found a running game with Blount. The defense started playing at a championship level. I don’t think all the controversy will be a distraction for them this week.  If they didn’t have Brady and Belichick I might feel differently. But those guys aren’t going to let anything negatively impact this team right now.

In terms of simply football, the Patriots fall a bit short of the Seahawks. I think Brady will struggle a bit. Gronkowski is a huge weapon and should find some success. But their WRs simply aren’t good enough to be big time players, assuming Seattle is healthy. Blount has been special for the Pats, but he’s going to find a lot tougher sledding against the Seahawks. The Patriots offense will struggle overall and certainly can’t afford turnovers.

On defense the Pats should have a good bit of success though. The Seahawks aren’t explosive at WR at all. If you can slow Lynch down and limit Wilson’s scrambling, you have a great shot to beat the Seahawks. Belichick isn’t going to sit back and get run over. He will develop a scheme to slow down the running of the Seahawks and force them to be able to pass the ball.  It’s not that Wilson can’t beat you with his arm, but he’d prefer to beat you with both.  That may not be an option against New England.

The Seattle defense will be interesting to watch early in the game.  We should know pretty quickly if all their key parts are healthy.  I’d expect New England to try and pick on Sherman and/or Thomas to see if they are ready to go.  The Patriots have to try and challenge those guys early.  Maybe they’re fine, but maybe they’re not.  And there’s only one way to find out.  Assuming those guys are all truly healthy, I’d suspect the Seahawks D will hold up very well.  As I mentioned before, Gronk could become an issue.  But I just can’t see anyone else really giving Seattle trouble.  Seattle has only been average at pass rush and that’s the one area where the Patriots need to be strong.  If Seattle generates a pass rush, the Patriots have no chance.

Offensively the Seahawks continue to amaze me.  Marshawn is an absolute monster.  And Wilson is fantastic.  But, other than that, they don’t have a tremendous amount of talent.  They simply have a great scheme and they find the open man.  Even if Lynch isn’t a monster, they still find a way to move the ball.  Look at the game against Carolina in the Divisional Round.  Lynch only managed 59 yards, yet they still scored 31 points.  They find a way to get it done.  The Patriots have been average against the pass all year.  I expect the Seahawks to try and exploit that.

At the end of the day, I just don’t see the Patriots having quite enough to win.  I am anticipating a lower scoring game.  I would take the under right now.  I expect Wilson to make a few plays with his legs that are the difference in the game.  He won’t be able to break free and run for tons of yards, but he’ll break a run or two for a first down.  And while I don’t think Lynch will have a ton of success, I do think it will open up the play-action a bit.  Look for Baldin and Kearse to make a few big plays in the passing game.  Brady will also have his moments, but the Seahawks just have too much on defense.

Prediction: Seattle 20 New England 13.

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