GLENDALE – With the biggest sporting event in the United States set to kick off in less than 24 hours, it is time for this writer’s final prediction for Super Bowl XLIX.
New England 31, Seattle 28.
Right after the NFC Championship Game, where the defending champions would knock off the upset-minded Green Bay Packers, 28-22 in overtime, Seattle played like they were willing to give the conference title game away to a gimpy Aaron Rodgers-led Packers team. If not for a successful fake field goal touchdown pass and a botched onside kick recovery by tight end Brandon Bostick, this may be an entirely different blog.
Bottom line was that despite all that, I posted on my own Facebook that in my #WayTooEarly pick, that I had them, 34-21. So what changed, might you ask?
I call it having that chip on your shoulder.
Shortly after the Pats demolished the hapless Indianapolis Colts, 45-7 in the AFC Championship Game, media reports would come out shortly afterwards of New England deflating the balls, and just like that, New England was once again called “cheaters” by bitter rival fans, the vindictive media, and the entire country outside Foxboro as a whole.
Mind you, I’am a LONG suffering—and still suffering—Cleveland Browns fan that has no allegiance to either team, even though I have had a soft spot for the Seahawks, dating back to the days of Steve Largent, Jim Zorn, Cortez Kennedy and Brian Bosworth, that being said, the entire media and “new media journalists”—i.e; bloggers—jumped all over the “New England is cheating” narrative like blood-thirsty sharks in a feeding frenzy before all the facts came out.
Regardless of what your team allegiance is, even you have to admit that hearing the terms “Deflategate”, “deflated balls” and “p.s.i.” has gotten to the point of sheer annoyance, while giving late night talk show hosts easy material to use for years to come right?
Thanks to this latest Patriots controversy, there have been calls for them to have an asterisk permanently placed by their three titles, or worse, have them taken from them entirely. Again, I’m no fan of New England, as my own Browns were infamously robbed in Foxboro on a questionable pass interference call on Joe Haden, but that’s a blog for another day.
The point I’m trying to convey is that it is SO easy to hate the most successful NFL franchise over the last 15 years in terms of regular-season wins, post-season wins and Super Bowl appearances that win or lose, New England will be hated by all.
If New England wins, they will be called “cheaters’, if they lose, then you’ll hear that they needed to cheat to win.
Which is why, once again I’m picking the Patriots, because like my beloved Ohio State Buckeyes, they want to shut up all the naysayers and critics. If there is one thing I have learned in my lifetime is to never bet against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and for the last two weeks, they have openly admitted no wrongdoing in deflating balls, and have grown tired and annoyed in answering questions about it. Some may—and will call them both liars and cheaters, but let me ask you this, what advantage would have been gained in deflating a football?
And do you have any definitive proof that points directly towards them? I’ll wait.
In reference to the game itself I picked Seattle to repeat after their opening-day win over the Packers here, a majority of the attention has been directed towards the media’s new obsession of getting the ever-so-engaging Marshawn Lynch to talk to the media, which is fine for a team such as New England who has appeared in four Super Bowls in the last ten-plus years, so this is not their first rodeo. While Seattle is seeking to become the first team to win back-to-back titles since—you guessed it, New England—they don’t have that same Richard Sherman-like swagger from last year.
For all the talk of the much-vaunted “Legion of Boom” the Patriots have the perfect form of kryptonite to attack them in tight end Rob Gronkowski.
During the 2014-15 season, Seattle had a hard time in defending opposing tight ends in giving up 11 touchdowns—three of them to Antonio Gates in a 30-21 Week 2 loss to the San Diego Chargers, and one in a rare home 30-23 loss to Jason Witten and the Dallas Cowboys.
And last time I check, Gronk is widely considered the top tight end in the NFL today, who is now fully healthy and gives Brady a deadly weapon in the middle of the field. Another area which I feel that the Patriots could win is in effectively running the ball with THAT other running back in LeGarrette Blount—who is no slouch, last time I check—and is just as bruising and physical as Lynch.
If New England is able to keep the fast and aggressive Seahawks defense honestly by running Blount and Shane Vareen, it will open up the play-action that Brady loves to use in attacking downfield. If Brady is able to get time to set up and plant, he should be able to attack a dinged-up Sherman and earl Thomas with ease with Gronk down the middle and hit Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola out of the slot and Brandon LaFell for big plays.
I just don’t see or trust Seattle’s secondary this year, as opposed to last year, and Brady is a much different animal than Peyton Manning. If Seattle is able to get pressure on Brady—like the New York Giants—then they will easily beat New England, but this year’s Seahawks defense feels different from last year’s dominating unit, which I sense will be the difference.
While Seattle still has Wilson and Lynch, trading Percy Harvin could come back to haunt them, as they don’t have that dynamic playmaker for the Patriots to worry about, and if Wilson continues his pedestrian play on the biggest stage against the greatest quarterback of this generation in Brady, there will be no repeat, as Brady and Gronkowski will win handily and earn some of their glory back in the process.