Here it is. My Super Bowl XLIX prediction.
After months of hard-fought games and tough calls, we simultaneously crown a champion and say good-bye for football until next August. Bittersweet.
Two weeks ago, I was 2-0 in my Conference Championship picks. I’m looking to keep the good times rolling into the Super Bowl. Let’s just hope we aren’t looking at another forgettable Super Bowl like last season’s blowout.
So we have Seattle and New England. We all sort of thought these teams would be here (I guess I didn’t…), but it’s sort of weird when it actually works out. Now we get the matchup we hoped for with storylines aplenty. Seattle is looking for a repeat with a young nucleus of players who could realistically turn a second Championship into a dynasty. New England, for as good as they have been, haven’t won a title since Feb. 6, 2005, having lost to the New York Giants twice since that time. Tom Brady is looking to cement his legacy and the Patriots are trying to forget the whole “Deflategate” thing that everyone loves to talk about.
My gif is, fittingly, the most defining play from Seattle’s dramatic comeback win over Green Bay. It’s a shame for the Green Bay player in questions, Brandon Bostick, because while his blunder is the most focused on element of Seattle’s win, he isn’t singlehandedly to blame for the outcome. If he had caught it, the game would have likely ended in the Packers favor, but it’s still rough to place all blame on him. Green Bay couldn’t turn turnovers into touchdowns in the first half and Green Bay’s offense completely stalled in the second half, yet Bostick is the one who gets the attention for losing the game. It’s a cruel game, particularly for a player who would remain out of the public eye for much of his career if not for this one terrible mistake. It’s a tough way to be remembered by a fan base that is so loyal to it’s Packers.
Sunday, 2/1 – 6:30 pm ET
New England Patriots 12-4 @ Seattle Seahawks 12-4
Prediction: Seattle Seahawks, 27-21
Yes, I am predicting a repeat for the Seahawks. Contrary to last year’s Super Bowl, I expect this game to be a tight one to the very end, but I still like the Seahawks to win this one over the Patriots en route to another Super Bowl title.
Let’s begin with the Patriots…
This game, in my eyes, comes down to tight end Rob Gronkowski. It’s as simple as that. I expect Gronkowski to play well in this one (say 6-8 receptions for 80-100 receiving yards and a touchdown), but I think Gronkowski’s effectiveness from the opening kickoff decides this game. The Patriots field an explosive offense and an attack that finds success by, often times, scheming around their opponent’s weaknesses. Heck, in the Divisional round they attacked a weak Baltimore secondary through the air, avoiding their tough rush defense. In the AFC Conference Championship against the Colts, New England pounded the ball on the ground and dared Indianapolis to stop them.
The problem here is that Seattle’s defense doesn’t have many, if any, weaknesses. Their pass defense is the “Legion of Boom”. You don’t get a nickname without deserving it in this league. Seattle’s rush defense is stingy and better than Baltimore’s. The only potential weakness is with Gronkowski. The 6’6″ tight end is a matchup nightmare for anyone in the league and I expect him to play heavily into the Patriots gameplan. I don’t believe the New England receivers matchup particularly well with the Seattle corners and the New England run game will be effective, but nothing significant enough to carry New England. It comes down to Gronk.
That’s were I think Seattle wins this game. Kam Chancellor is one of the few defenders in the league who can, in theory, matchup with Gronkowski. At 6’3″, Chancellor has the physicality and the athleticism to matchup. While I expect Gronkowski to still contribute to the Patriots gameplan, I think Seattle will win this matchup early on, setting the Patriots back in a hole they won’t be able to climb out of. Now, if the Seahawks do devote Chancellor to Gronkowski in the early going, that will open things up for the Patriots receivers a bit, spearheading the New England comeback attempt. Trust me, it all comes down to Gronkowski.
Seattle, offensively, will have a similar reliance. However, their’s will be on Marshawn Lynch. New England’s defense is very good in their own right, although they don’t have the same fanfare surrounding them as Seattle’s does. New England has actually done all they could to replicate Seattle’s defensive success, finding Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner to man their cornerback positions, both possessing the same size and physicality that the Seattle Seahawks have spent years finding and developing in their secondary. My point is, New England’s defense isn’t far behind from a pure talent level. So, we bring ourselves back to Lynch.
Lynch will decide this game. Because of the New England corners, I don’t expect the Seattle receivers to win those one-on-one matchups too often for quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson will need the run game to establish itself to open up opportunities in the passing game and Lynch will find that success. With Lynch creating balance for the Seahawks offensively, Wilson will be able to find receivers in favorable situations downfield and he will capitalize from time to time. Wilson may only need 220 to 250 yards passing to win this game because of Lynch’s presence, but those yards will be during key moments throughout the game, particularly early on. Don’t expect Wilson’s poor showing against Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game to have him rattled during this one. He will look like a different player than the one who threw three interceptions at home two weeks ago.
Here’s how this game will play out…
– Seattle will start fast defensively. Look for New England to try and establish some semblance of a run game, but the Patriots offense will come out flat, unable to get the ball to Gronkowski early.
– Seattle will lean heavily on Lynch offensively, moving the ball consistently, if not unspectacularly, down the field, turning a couple early possessions into points. I expect Seattle to have the lead heading into halftime.
– New England will make adjustments in the second quarter and into the second half, finding creative ways to exploit the Seattle secondary with Gronkowski covered up. This adjustments will also lead to New England’s defense limiting Seattle’s effectiveness offensively and opening the door for a New England comeback. When Brady and company find a rhythm moving the ball through the air with their receivers, that’s when Seattle will make adjustments opening the field for Gronkowski to become a bigger factor.
– Ultimately, the comeback attempt by the Patriots is too little too late with Seattle earning the win behind some key throws by Wilson late in the game when Seattle really needs first downs. As a bonus, the key moments will make Wilson your Super Bowl MVP and as an additional bonus, Richard Sherman’s baby will be born after the Super Bowl concludes, allowing him to be there for his child’s birth and setting this entire Seattle season up for a heck of an ESPN 30 for 30.