It’s early but some national media and major newspapers are picking New England to beat the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX on Feb. 1 in Glendale, Ariz.
Seven of the 13 early picks I found Friday night predicted a Patriots victory.
Makes sense. Most are saying this game is almost too close to call. Early odds had Seattle as a 3-point favorite. The game quickly became a pick ’em – where neither team is favored – after the Patriots crushing victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
Then came the whole DeflateGate scandal. No one knows if that will have any impact on the game, but so far the oddsmakers are holding steady.
Here is short roundup of early Super Bowl predictions. We’ll have more as they come out.
Five of eight pick the Patriots
Seahawks 27, Patriots 20: New England gave up over 100 yards on the ground in seven games during the regular season and went 3-4 in those games. When the Patriots didn’t give up 100 yards rushing, they went 9-0. If Beast Mode goes Beast Mode, not even deflated footballs will be able to help the Patriots.
On New England’s end, the trick is going to be to get Rob Gronkowski involved. That might seem obvious, but if the Patriots are going to win, they’re going to have give the Seahawks A Gronking to Remember.
If Brady can get Gronk the ball, that will open up the rest of the Patriots offense, which is important because the Patriots aren’t going to have an easy time running against a Seahawks defense that was third against the run in the NFL this season.
If Brady can’t get Gronk the ball, that means he’ll be throwing to guys like Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell, which isn’t a good thing when you consider how good Seattle’s secondary is.
Since Russell Wilson’s rookie year in 2012, the magic number to beat Seattle is 28. The Seahwks are 0-6 in the regular season and the playoffs when their opponent puts up 28 or more points. That’s bad.
The good news? the Seahawks are 10-0 against Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks. I can’t fight that stat.
One of two picked the Seahawks
1) Seattle’s passing game has no chance
The Patriots have the best man coverage in football. The Seahawks’ passing attack is heavy on isolation routes, and we just saw their receivers get stifled for 55 minutes by the Packers’ man-centric defense. Expect Darrelle Revis to shadow Doug Baldwin, eliminating Russell Wilson’s top target. The Seahawks might be able to occasionally work Baldwin open from the slot with short-area pick routes, stack releases, and their staple wheel routes, but Revis is phenomenal at working through traffic to defend those (see his interception in the AFC Championship Game). Most likely, Wilson will have to look elsewhere. But with two safeties in help coverage—a tactic the Patriots use often and will certainly employ against the mobile Wilson—do we really foresee Jermaine Kearse consistently separating from Brandon Browner? Or Ricardo Lockette shaking free from Kyle Arrington and a safety?
2) Russell Wilson’s legs
The quarterback’s mobility, along with Marshawn Lynch and the running game, will determine Seattle’s chances of hoisting a second straight Lombardi Trophy. Because receivers will have such trouble getting open, the passing attack will have to extend into sandlot mode late in downs. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell may actually welcome this. Wilson has quickly evolved into the most dangerous sandlot player in the league. There’s a structure to his movement; unlike most quarterbacks, when Wilson gets out of the pocket, he has a plan. …
And the winner is …
New England 23, Seattle 17
This is a nerve-racking pick; it’s hard to overcome visions of Russell Wilson running around and making spectacular out-of-structure plays. But the Patriots’ advantage in man coverage is so distinct that the responsible prediction is to go with New England. The Patriots will have to be patient in the running game. You beat Seattle’s defense not with big plays but with long drives fueled by the rushing attack. The Patriots, with their six-man O-lines and short-area passing game, are equipped to play that way.
Seattle is the No. 1 opponent-adjusted defense in the NFL, preventing 5.77 NEP per game that a league-average defense would allow. The Seahawks are so dominant because of their balanced defense, which ranks No. 3 and No. 4 in passing and rushing defense respectively across the league.
We should not sleep on New England, though. The Patriots posted -2.41 NEP per game defensively—meaning they allow almost a field goal less per game than a league-average defense. Those numbers are No. 6 in the NFL and the Patriots specialize in defending the pass; they rank fourth in passing defense, just behind Seattle.
The big matchup will come between the Seahawks’ prolific rushing attack and the Patriots’ mediocre run defense. The Patriots were No. 17 stopping the run, and they allow an additional point above expectation for every eight rushing attempts they face.
In a game that is listed as a pick ’em almost everywhere, our projection is no different. We give the Seahawks the slight edge, and a 52.3% chance to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
Predicted outcome: Seahawks 24, Patriots 23
Patriots 27, Seahawks 24: If Blount finds a rhythm, Brady and the Patriots will be able to seal the victory. Look for Blount to walk away as Super Bowl MVP just a few weeks removed from being released by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
This year’s Super Bowl might be one of the most difficult to predict in the game’s 49-year history. One day after the Seahawks and Patriots advanced, the betting line is a pick’em at multiple Las Vegas casinos.
Before nearly losing to the Packers, the Seahawks had been the best team in the NFL. Seattle ended the 2014 regular season with six consecutive victories, all coming by at least 10 points, and they topped the Carolina Panthers by 14 points in the divisional round of the playoffs. The 22 points scored by Green Bay were the most Seattle allowed in a game since Week 11.
Led by the “Legion of Boom,” the Seahawks’ defense has been the most dominant unit in all of football. They surrendered the fewest total points in the regular season, and limited Aaron Rodgers, the likely MVP, to a 55.8 passer rating. Seattle’s red-zone defense kept them in Sunday’s game, forcing Green Bay to kick two field goals inside the 20-yard line.
The Patriots’ offense was one of the best in the regular season, ranking fourth with 29.3 points per game. The unit has been even better in the playoffs, totaling 80 points in two games. New England scored 35 points on the Baltimore Ravens, who ranked sixth in points allowed. In Week 12, the Patriots scored 34 points against the Detroit Lions, who trailed only Seattle in scoring defense, during the regular season.
Despite their success on the offensive end, New England might find it very difficult to score against Seattle. They’ve totaled 30 points or more in 10 of 18 games, but the Seahawks haven’t allowed more than 30 points in a single game.
Seattle’s defense has a few health concerns, heading into the Super Bowl. Cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas both suffered injuries in the NFC Championship Game, including a dislocated shoulder for Thomas. With two weeks to rest, both players stated that they will play in the Super Bowl.
If their defense is at full strength, the Seahawks might have a slight edge over the Patriots. If the unit can limit New England, Wilson should be able to do enough to help give Seattle the win.
The Seahawks beat the Packers, even though their quarterback had the worst game of his career, and Wilson will almost certainly play much better in the Super Bowl. His four interceptions against Green Bay were more than half the number of picks he threw in the previous 17 games.
Dave Choate, Falcoholic: Seahawks 27, Patriots 21 – In the end, the Seahawks’ unreal defensive talent should tip the scales in their favor. The Patriots will deflate, to borrow a timely and hilarious joke.
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