Friday, January 30, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX Preview

It's time for Super Bowl XLIX (49) this Sunday evening as the New England Patriots face the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks in Arizona.
The Patriots routed the Indianapolis Colts, 45-7 two weeks ago to win the AFC and advance while the Seahawks rallied back from a 16-0 deficit to topple the Green Bay Packers, 28-22 in overtime to get back to the Super Bowl and defend their crown.
The Patriots feature future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Tom Brady (4,109 yards passing regular season with 33 touchdowns and nine interceptions) and his favorite target, tight end Rob Gronkowski, who made 82 receptions for 1,124 yards and twelve touchdowns.
Along with "The Gronk" are wide receivers Julian Edelman (92, 972, four TD), Brandon Lafell (74, 953, seven TD) and Danny Amendola, who had just 27 receptions this season, but has been stellar in the post-season.
The running game has been running back by committee this year, although LeGarrette Blount has been the featured back since coming back to the Pats from the Pittsburgh Steelers in mid-November.
The defense for New England has been better this year than in season's past, especially in the secondary where Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner (a former Seahawks player) have been near lock down corners in recent games. The Patriots had 16 interceptions this season to go with 39 quarterback sacks.
New England's defense allowed an average of 344 yards per game this season, giving up 104 yards per game on the ground and 240 passing yards per game.
As for Seattle, they thrive on the running game, especially when top running back Marshawn Lynch is in "Beast Mode" having gone for 1,306 yards this season with a 4.7 ypc average and 13 rushing touchdowns. Lynch also made 37 receptions for 367 yards and four more scores.
Quarterback Russell Wilson is a dual threat as he can beat teams with his arm or his legs, having rushed for 849 yards this past season (7.2 ypc average) and scored six rushing touchdowns. His passing went for 3,475 yards with 20 touchdowns and just seven interceptions.
However, in the NFC title game, Wilson threw four picks but was bailed out by the defense getting three turnovers and a timely onside kickoff recovery which led to the dramatic comeback win over Green Bay.
The Seattle wide receivers are the "Rodney Dangerfields" of the NFL, getting no respect from anyone, but they are an integral part of the Seahawks offensive attack.
Doug Baldwin (66 receptions for 825 yards and three TD) is the team's leading receiver. Also in the fold are Jermaine Kearse (38 receptions for 537 yards) and Ricardo Lockette,  who averaged 17.7 yards per grab with two scores in limited playing time this season. The tight ends are Luke Willson (22, 362, three TD) and Tony Moeaki.
When it comes to defense, the Seahawks are second to none in the NFL, having allowed a league lowest of 267 yards per game, including 82 yards rushing per game and just 185 yards passing each week.
The secondary is known as the "Legion of Boom" featuring corners Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell along with safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. The 'Hawks intercepted 13 passes this season and registered 37 QB sacks.
Both teams feature solid place kickers as well. The Patriots have Stephen Gostkowski, who made 35 of 37 field goal attempts this year while scoring 156 points. Seattle kicker Steven Hauschka was 31 of 37 on field goal tries and racked up 134 points.
Both teams were penalized quite a bit in the 2014 regular season, with Seattle being flagged 130 times for 1,009 yards while the Patriots were penalized 120 times for 1,080 yards.

This game could come down to a late turnover deciding the outcome with the ability by both teams to get the critical turnover when they need it most. Seattle is especially opportunistic at this and they have have intercepted four passes in their two playoff wins.
Brady and company have been denied in their last two Super Bowl appearances (both losses to the New York Giants) and Seattle certainly has a better defense than the Giants teams that beat New England in those games.
If the Patriots can get out to a comfortable lead (10 or more points) it may be difficult for the Seahawks to catch up as they did against Green Bay because the Pats have a better defense than Green Bay.
Like Seattle, New England can stiffen in the red zone and hold teams to field goals rather than touchdowns and that always makes a big difference.
If the Seahawks get out to a sizable lead, they can make life miserable for Brady and his offense with their tenacious defense.
Look for a closer game in Super Bowl 49 as opposed to the blowout the Seahawks dealt to the Denver Broncos last year. It could come down to which team has the ball last.


   Seattle Seahawks 24, New England Patriots 20   

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