Super Bowl XLIX Predictions.
And then there were two.
Here we are.
After 19 weeks of fun, we're here at the end.
We've seen 32 teams battle it out with hopes to make it here, the grandest stage of 'em all.
Week after week they fought, they coached, and tackled, and passed as far as they could...
And now there are two.
And what two we have!
In their 6th Super Bowl in 14 years, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have brought their Patriots back to the Super Bowl.
With a relentlessly effective passing games featuring unanimous All-Pro Rob Gronkowksi, as well as several adequate receivers, the Patriots strength undoubtedly lies with their 9th ranked passing attack.
The Patriots have made it this far by adjusting to exploit the weaknesses of teams they play.
Against the Ravens, they completely abandoned the run in the second half in favor of quick interior passes, knowing the Baltimore secondary wasn't healthy or talented enough to contain it. Then, against the Colts, they did the exact opposite, running the ball 40 times for 177 yards.
It's no question that ol' Bill and Tom are willing to do whatever it takes to win.
What does that mean for New England as they get ready for Seattle?
Well, it means a few things.
It means New England has to force their strengths on Seattle and try to dictate the pace of the game.
The Patriots have a strong offensive line, and it has to take the pass rush out of the game completely to help Brady beat the Legion of Boom, and they have to force the ball to Rob Gronkowski down the field whenever he's paired up with the smaller Earl Thomas.
The Patriots also have a very strong secondary, which pairs up well against Seattle's receivers... But the Seahawks don't throw the ball first.
A weird side-note, Brandon Browner is with the Patriots now, after spending the first four years of his career in Seattle, he even has a ring despite being suspended for the majority of last year. I want to say he'll provide some sort of insight to the way the L.O.B. plays... but Walter Thurmond also played with the Seahawks, and that didn't help him or the Giants when they lost to the Seahawks by 21 points earlier this year.
Less than a year after winning their first Super Bowl, the Seahawks are back in the Super Bowl.
With a stifling pass defense that has given up less than 9,000 yards over the last three years. it's no question that their top rated overall and passing defense is their biggest strength.
While quarterback Russell Wilson has had moments of brilliance as a passer, he is nowhere near good enough to enter a QB duel with Tom Brady. The Patriots won't be able to score every time they have the ball, and historically have struggled against the run (Like 2 weeks ago, when they gave up 129 yards to Justin Forsett or when they gave up 334 yards on the ground in two close wins over the Jets). So... It only makes sense that they'll try to keep the game between the tackles, and keep Tom Brady on the sideline.
If The Patriots can't score every time they have the ball, then you give them fewer opportunities.
This is where the Seahawks will have to really commit to their signature toughness.
Long drives featuring heavy doses of Marshawn Lynch with the occasional play-action pass will keep Tom off the field and score enough points for the Seahawks to win.
If the L.O.B. is healthy, they can press down on the mediocre New England receiving corps and alternate covering Rob Gronkowksi, forcing Tom Brady to take more risks, and potentially make more mistakes.
So... Who wins?
Honestly... Whoever executes their gameplan better will win.
If the Seahawks can run the ball in the same dominating fashion that made them #1 in rushing this year, the Patriots won't win.
I'm sorry, I don't care how dominant the Patriots are on offense, the Hawks will get a few stops on defense, and if they're limited in how long they hold the ball, they'll get choked out.
On the flipside, if the Patriots can stop the run, or the Hawks try to pass the ball too much, they won't be able to keep up. If the game becomes Brady vs. Wilson... It will end ugly for Wilson.
So, which am I banking on?
The conference championship games said it all.
Oh. So I'm picking the Patriots?
Let some air out of your sails, junior! I'm taking the HAWKS!
In the NFC championship game, the Hawks played terrible offense.
They couldn't sustain drives, they turned the ball over, and Wilson didn't show up until the game was almost over.
And yet, they still won.
They played a much more talented offense and practically shut them down.
The Packers were in the redzone 3 times and they only scored 1 touchdown.
The Patriots don't have anywhere near as many weapons as Green Bay did.
The Patriots don't have anything close to a Jordy Nelson or a Randall Colb.
The Patriots do have Brady and Gronkowksi, but there's only so much those two can do against such a talented secondary with so little time.
I'm counting on the Seahawks to run the ball relentlessly, limit Wilson's responsibility, and grind the win out.
Who did Fleegle pick?!
Well, after 20 weeks of head to head picks, the season long competition between Ryan and myself comes down to the Super Bowl! Who woulda thunk it?
Seattle vs. New England: I honestly don't know. There, I said it. A great offense of the Patriots against the best defense in football of the Seahawks, who needed a miracle to make it to Arizona. Will Seattle leave New England "deflated" after Sunday? Heh heh heh....I had to.
But anyhow.....Tom Brady is on the verge of joining legendary company if he can win his 4th Super Bowl. And, quite frankly, this might be his last chance to do so. He's getting older, the rest of the AFC is catching up, and who knows how long he can get away with not having elite playmakers around him? Plus, his defense has been better this year than in years past, but that hasn't necessarily been the norm.
As for Seattle? Potential back to back Super Bowl wins. It hasn't happened since....you guessed it....Brady and Company did it. I still don't know how the Seahawks came back last week. Green Bay had them for dead but then had a meltdown of epic proportions. Russell Wilson also might be playing for MILLIONSSSSSSS OF DOLLARSSSSSSSS in this game, and this could potentially be a last chance for Seattle too, once the salary cap makes it tough to keep the core intact.
As for my pick.....I think both teams will have difficulty moving the ball. Listen, Brady is as smart a quarterback as they come, but the Hawks defense has just been unreal since the middle of the year. And the Seahawks, they have games where they struggle to move the ball in the first place and rely on the defense to bail them out. I think we see much of the same on Sunday. Not to mention, Brady and Company will be looking to silence everyone who has been trashing their deflated balls all week long. I don't think it will be much of a distraction once the Media Day portions wrap up.
I honestly could lean either way with this pick. I really could. And trust me, I HATE HATE the Patriots. But when it's over.....Brady is a better quarterback than Russell Wilson, simple as that. I hate to say it.....Patriots 24, Seahawks 17.
There it is. Maybe the kiss of death? Maybe I beat Ryan? Maybe we wind up tied? Maybe he wins? Maybe we get 2 inches of snow? Maybe we get 9? Maybe it rains? Who knows. But, it should be a classic matchup on Sunday!