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Seattle vs. New England Super Bowl XLIX Prediction
Some bonus stuff before I begin with the pick: On Saturday, Seth Myers will host the 2015 NFL Honors which recognizes and congratulates players and coaches on the stellar job they have done this past season. Some awards include NFL.com Fantasy Player of the Year, Associated Press Coach of the Year, AP Comeback Player of the Year and AP Most Valuable Player.
There will be disagreement for the most part on who gets voted MVP and Coach of the Year. Some candidates are more deserving than others while you can go either/or for other awards. In short, here are my predictions on some of these awards.
AP Coach of the Year: Jim Caldwell (Lions), McCarthy (Packers), Jason Garret (Cowboys), Mike Zimmer (Vikings), Mike Pettine (Browns), Bill O'Brien (Texans), and Bruce Arians (Cardinals) are, or at least should be, candidates for this award. Any one of these coaches are deserving for this award. Compared to last year, coaches like Zimmer, Garret, O'Brien, and Caldwell took their respective team and improved on their record and/or made the playoffs.
If I had a vote, I would surely give it to Bill O'Brien. My reason is because Houston was a two-win team in 2013. The Texans finished the 2014 campaign with nine wins along with a close opportunity to get to the playoffs. They also achieved these nine wins with three different quarterbacks starting (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, Ryan Mallett).
The popular pick would be Bruce Arians of Arizona Cardinals and I do think he will win the award. They were a 10-win team last year in a very competitive NFC West and missed the playoffs only to come back in 2014 and win 11 games and get in to the postseason as a wildcard. Three different quarterbacks started as well (Drew Stanton, Carson Palmer, and Ryan Lindley), only because of injuries to the first two quarterbacks mentioned. That is impressive. My only arguments is that they only won two games of their last seven games including playoffs and that the NFC West wasn't nearly as competitive as we had thought before the season started. He is a good choice nonetheless to win Coach of the Year.
AP Comeback Player of the Year: Rob Gronkowski (Patriots), Rolando McClain (Cowboys), Julio Jones (Falcons), and Justin Forsett (Ravens) are all deserving candidates for this award. It might be tough to select who wins based on what you are looking at: Jones and Gronkowski missed most of last year due to injury and have come back strong for 2014, or McClain and Forsett, who were released/out of the league only to make a positive impact to their respective team.
Rolando McClain of the Dallas Cowboys will get my vote for Comeback Player of the Year. My reason is because he was drafted eighth overall in the 2010 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders, was released after three years and then retired with Baltimore after not playing a down in 2013. After the unfortunate season ending injury to Sean Lee in May of 2014, the Cowboys traded for McClain two months later in which he rejuvenated his career.
McCLain's season is probably the best story in the NFL this season after all the negative headlines we've dealt with for the most part. Rob Gronkowski will probably win the award however due to what his health means to the Patriots.
AP Defensive Rookie of the Year: Aaron Donald, Khalil Mack, C.J. Mosley, and Chris Borland. Some good players here who we hope to see continue on with the success they've had in their rookie year for the next 15 years.
Hard for me to decide on this one but I would give my vote to Ravens linebacker, C.J. Mosley. To me, I think he has had a bigger impact with the Ravens giving them something at the middle linebacker position that they lacked last year after Ray Lewis departed.
AP Offensive Rookie of the Year: The clear favorite is Giants receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. He was probably the most exciting player to watch ever since the one-handed touchdown grab against Dallas in November. In only 12 games, Beckham racked up 1305 yards and 12 touchdowns. Other players like Bengals' Jeremy Hill and Vikings Teddy Bridgewater are deserving of this award, but I would give my vote to the Giants rookie.
AP Defensive Player of the Year: Much like the above award, there is a clear favorite. J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans had probably one of the best years a defensive player could have. Watt would certainly get my vote.
Justin Houston of the Kansas City Chiefs nearly broke Michael Strahan's sack record and should get some consideration as well for DPOY. Houston was a bright spot for the Chiefs on defense after suffering the losses of Derrick Johnson and Eric Berry.
AP Offensive Player of the Year: Already selected but I did think Aaron Rodgers would win the award. DeMarco Murray of the Dallas Cowboys won the award instead and he is well deserving having the most rushing yards in the 2014 season.
AP Most Valuable Player: Aaron Rodgers is the recipient of the MVP and he is well deserving of it. Without him, the Green Bay Packers would not have had the season they had, though you could say the same for players like Rob Gronkowski, Tony Romo, Tom Brady, and J.J. Watt. I would have given my vote to Gronkowski, however because, he is a big part of the Patriots offense.
I don't think you have to make the playoffs to win MVP, but you do have to have an impact on the game. J.J. Watt showed that every play, but it was pretty hard going up against two quarterbacks who turned their season around after a bad start to the season.
Finally, the Super Bowl.
Seattle Seahawks vs. New England Patriots: This will be the third time in six seasons where both number one seeded teams face off in the Super Bowl (2009-New Orleans vs. Indianapolis, 2013-Denver vs. Seattle). Seattle will try to be eighth team to repeat as Super Bowl Champions and they will face Tom Brady and the Patriots who happened to accomplish that feat a decade ago.
We saw two heavyweights last year, the number one offensive power Broncos versus the number one defensive minded Seattle Seahawks giving us a lopsided win for Russell Wilson and the Legion of Boom. Hopefully we've all forgotten that game. Well, this is probably the closest Super Bowl we have come across before it is to be played. This should be a different game though as compared to last year.
I'm thinking it will be a close game because Seattle's defense isn't much of a force as last year. We saw Green Bay, most recently, drive down the field at times against them in the conference championship game. We also saw Denver do it on a key drive early in the season to force overtime. So New England does have a chance offensively. Will we see heavy doses of LeGarrette Blount like when they played the Colts two weeks ago? He is their slight version of Marshawn Lynch so I would think he gets some carries to keep Seattle's linebackers honest.
The statistic that Seattle has given up 11 touchdowns to tight ends during the season has been mentioned a bit during the week. Whose to say that Rob Gronkowski will catch a 35-yard pass, but he will be a focus for Seattle that may dictate how the Seahawks will defend him and line up. Another thing to look at is the amount of time and protection Tom Brady will get. Seattle ranked 20th in the league in sacks but as long as they pressure Brady into uncomfortable situations, the Seahawks got this. Execution in blitz-pickups for New England will be huge.
Defensively, New England will focus on Russell Wilson by not letting him get out of the pocket to make plays. Jaime Collins has been mentioned as the most athletic player the Patriots have so spying on Wilson could be his responsibility. Dealing with Marshawn Lynch will be a task, but I think they will be fine letting him get his touches. Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin will be a handful on one-on-one matchups due to his route running ability, so I would think he would attract another defender for slants and crossing routes.
With that in the bag, this will be a very entertaining game and will be close for four quarters. The amount of pressure that Wilson felt two weeks ago, causing him to throw errant passes, will just be what the Patriots dial up. Their defense will prove the difference with the two corners they acquired last offseason and playing smart football which is what Bill Belichick is all about.