I’ve done okay with a 6-4 record this postseason. Two of those losses were mainly due to me underestimating the impact of the injuries to LeVeon Bell and Peyton Manning and the other two losses were a 1 point loss with the Packers -6 at home against Dallas and the beat-down the Pats gave the Colts two weeks ago. I thought the Colts were ready to step up on the big stage as they had beaten a very good Broncos team the week before, but I was so, so wrong.
We’ve got one more game to get our money up, so let’s get into it.
Seattle Seahawks vs. New England Patriots, Pick Em; 47 o/u
This is a match-up between two teams that have taken different approaches to roster construction, but have created their own model that has proven to produce Super Bowls. The Seahawks are old school with the best rushing attack and defense in the NFL, while the Patriots are new school with a top veteran gunslinger. What makes them such great organizations is something we’ve gone over time and time again here in that they know what they want to do and they continually find players who fit these roles. It doesn’t matter if the guy is a big name player, in fact, many times for these teams; it’s about finding undervalued guys who fit exactly what they want to do.
The reason both these teams are here is because they know who they are, they know what they do well and, because of this, they’ve found value where others couldn’t. The Seahawks with Wilson, Sherman, Chancellor, Baldwin, Kearse and others as late round picks and Lynch when Buffalo didn’t want him anymore. The Patriots being built off of the 199th pick of the 2000 draft, Tom Brady and finding undervalued free agents like Brandon Lafell.
Just how good are these teams at finding value where others don’t? This will be the first Super Bowl in NFL history that neither team has a first-round pick that they drafted at one of their offensive skill positions. On top of that, Rob Gronkowski is the only second-round pick starting at one of the offensive skill positions as well.
The Seahawks have been the best defense since Bobby Wagner returned to play MLB and the Patriots have arguably been the best offense since Gronkowski returned to form.
The Seahawks gave up a mere 39 points in six games after Wagner returned from a turf toe injury Week 12, less than a touchdown per game at 6.5 points per game. Once Gronk hit his stride in Week 5, the Pats turned their offense around. During the first four games, the Pats averaged 20 points per with Gronk only having 36.75 yards per. In Week 5 in a beat down of the Bengals, Gronk returned to form with six catches for 100 yards and one touchdown and the rest of the season they averaged a staggering 34.5 points per game (excluding a meaningless Week 17 game against Buffalo). In those 11 games, Gronk averaged 88.8 yards per game and had nine of his 12 touchdowns.
With the defense of the Seahawks and the offense of the Patriots being the big match-up of the game, these two are going to be major x-factors on Super Bowl Sunday.
Speaking to that, here are the two main things that each team needs to do to win. The Seahawks need to follow the Giants blueprint that helped them win the last two Super Bowls the Patriots played. Considering that the Seahawks have such a strong defense, they’re built to play this way with guys like Michael Bennett, Bruce Irvin, Cliff Avril, Kevin Williams, KJ Wright, Wagner and O’Brien Schofield rushing the passer. Since Week 11, only the Giants have had a higher sack per passing attempt percentage than the Seahawks, so they’re in a good position to replicate that game plan.
Gronkowski is going to have to have a huge game for the Patriots to win because the one weakness in the Seahawks defense is defending the tight end. When throwing to wide receivers, the opposing quarterback’s QBR was 62.7, but when throwing to tight ends, their QBR was 87.2. When throwing to tight ends, opposing QBs had 11 touchdowns to only two interceptions, but while throwing to running backs and wide receivers they only had six touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
For all those daily fantasy football league players, we all know that the only position that you even thought of playing against the Seahawks this year was the tight end as they were near the bottom of the league in defending tight ends in fantasy football.
Simply put, that all sums up that the Patriots are going to have to attack the Seahawks in the middle of the field and the Seahawks have got to hope that their defense is ready for the task. Apparently, they’re going to take a team approach to defending him. In the middle of the field, Kam Chancellor and KJ Wright will be the guys covering Gronk, but if he goes out, Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell will be covering him depending on which side of the field he lines up on. Apparently, Wagner might cover him as well, but overall, you get the gist, it’s not going to be a one-man job.
If I was the Pats, I would use Gronk all over the field like they do, of course mainly focusing on the middle of the field where the Seahawks have had so many defensive issues. He’s also become such a threat as an outside receiver because he’s so much bigger than the cornerbacks he’s up against. I could see him having some success on the left side, outside against Byron Maxwell in the redzone, which is something I’ve seen the Pats do with success during the season.
An interesting fact about the four games the Seahawks lost this season is that the winning team ran the ball 25 times or more. The Packers almost got the win last week running the ball 30 times and averaging 4.5 yards per carry, so there might be a correlation there. But, considering that the Pats were so horrendous against the Ravens in the Divisional Round, with 14 yards on 13 carries, I don’t think they’ll be able to get anything going on the ground against the best rush defense in the NFL.
Also, I think that Marshawn Lynch will be able to run all over a defense that gave up 129 yards to Forsett at 5.4 yards per carry. Even Dan Herron had 51 yards on only 10 carries in the AFC Championship Game. Even though the Patriots were ranked ninth in the NFL against the rush, I don’t think they’ll be good enough to stop Lynch and Wilson on his QB runs.
One thing about Belichick, Brady and the Patriots is that they consistently attack teams at their weakness and the Seahawks defense has only one weakness, their tight end defense. As good as Gronkowski is, I don’t see him being enough to beat the best defense in the NFL. The Seahawks ground game will be the difference in this one.
I am a little biased due to my desire to see the Patriots lose as a New Jerseyan (or New Jerseyite?) who went to school in New England, but the Seahawks will repeat.
A note on something outside the salary cap, both of these teams are here because they have the two best coaches in the NFL, the two most innovative, the two who must comprehend who their teams are and how to built them. It’s going to be a fantastic match-up between the only two coaches Robert Kraft has ever hired: Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick.
MY PICK: Seahawks