Super Bowl XLIX Preview by Frank Ross

This Sunday the big game is finally here, to give football fans one final enjoyable game before the dreaded offseason approaches.  The matchup for this year’s Super Bowl may not be as thrilling or as flashy as last years historic offense vs historic defense, but it’s still intriguing.
                

Each team has a very high DVOA % (the higher the DVOA % the better the team).  New England has a DVOA of 26.7%, and they have a weighted DVOA of 39.8%.  Seattle has a DVOA of 30.7% and a weighted DVOA of 38.8%.  Thus, by the statistical measurement of DVOA this seems to be a toss up.  A further look into the stats reveals that the Patriots have the 4th highest overall scoring offense with 29.2 points per game and the 8th highest scoring defense, allowing only 19.6 points per game.  Meanwhile, the Seahawks have the 10th highest scoring offense with 24.6 points, and of course the highest scoring defense in the league at 15.9 points per game.  Statistically, this means New England has a slight statistical advantage due to a higher point differential.  That being said, neither team has faced each other during the season so those stats may not reflect how the matchups come into play.

One thing important to talk about is the man coverage scheme that New England runs. This system has became a nightmare for opposing receivers due to the superb play of free agent acquisition Darrelle Revis.  Revis successfully shut down Ty Hilton, Jordy Nelson (minus the TD play), and most impressively, Calvin Johnson.  On top of that the second corner is a very respectable Brandon Browner, who knows a lot about the Seahawks and how they gameplan, as he was on the Seahawks last year.  Due to this, the Seahawks may have as tough of a time throwing the ball in the Super Bowl as they did in the NFC Championship game.  Seattle’s passing game, while efficient, isn’t as high volume as other teams, and I wouldn’t be surprised it if they didn’t do much passing at all because of Revis and Browner.

In regards to the other teams’ defense, a whole column can be written about how great the defense the Seahawks have.  Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor is the equivalent of having Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu on the same team circa 2010.  It just isn’t fair.  And on top of that you have another corner who is on the same level as Revis in Richard Sherman, who matches up very well with the receivers of the Patriots.  He has the ability to cover the receiver he lines up against, whether that be Amendola, LaFell or Edelman.  Sherman has a relatively favorable matchup, but it will be Kam Chancellor with the matchup for the ages against Rob Gronkowski.  Gronkowski is the best TE in the NFL and can still move the chains even if a guy or two is on him.  Gronkowski runs routes well, has the speed and is every quarterbacks dream.  If Kam Chancellor had a tough time going against Antonio Gates, Seahawks fans should worry about what Gronkowski can do.

Both teams as stated have fantastic secondaries.  Seattle boasts a better secondary overall, but Gronkowski’s savage strength can post a threat to Chancellor and the other members of that secondary moreso than any receiver or TE poses to the New England secondary.  Even though Wilson is Houdini and can scramble and get a gain, it’ll be tough for him to get a good pass to his favorite receiver Doug Baldwin with Revis around. Even Tom Brady will struggle when faced with the Legion of Boom, and escaping Seattle’s underrated pass rush will also be a challenge.  The running portions of each team’s game will make the difference.

Seattle’s run game is ridiculous.  They have Marshawn Lynch and when he isn’t out messing with the media, he’s helping lead the Seahawks to the highest ranked rushing offense in the league.  He’s one of the best running backs in the league, and may be the best in the league at getting a few more yards once it looks like he should be tackled.  He will have a tough time going right up the middle as Vince Wilfork will be there to tackle him, but if he can’t get his 100 yards his quarterback can help the rushing attack as well, as his scrambling ability is potent. Meanwhile, the Patriots are relatively one dimensional on offense, as they mainly rely on Tom Brady on every down. Their lead running back, the Lynch-esque LeGarrette Blount, had quite a turnaround after being cut by the Steelers, and thrashed the Colts in the AFC Title game.  As a whole, however, the rushing attack is still fairly mediocre, as it is only the 18th highest in terms of yardage. The Seahawks, however, have the highest rush defense overall.  That will make the difference in the game.

The Patriots can play at their best and still be in a close battle, like their loss to the Packers and Divisional Playoff win against the Ravens.  Meanwhile, Russell Wilson played the worst game of his life and the Seahawks still won.  Even at their worst, Seattle was able to beat a blue chip Packer team. Despite a great performance by Rob Gronkowski, I expect the Seahawks to win by a sliver mainly due to their rushing game and clutch QB play. With a second consecutive win, Seattle can entrench itself as the dynasty of the 2010s.

Final score 24 – 21 Seahawks.

Super Bowl MVP: Marshawn Lynch

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