January 31, 2015

The Super Bowl XLIX pick

by Dan Bilicki In: Football, Picks

It’s a shame that a lot of the lead up to this excellent Super Bowl matchup has been focused on something as stupid as deflated footballs.

What we have here is a game that will be historic no matter which side wins.

If the Patriots win it, Tom Brady will win his fourth rings, putting him on the level with legends Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw. It’s also his sixth start in the big game – the most by any QB.

If the Seahawks take it, they’ll be the first repeat champion since the Patriots did it 10 years ago. A feat that’s nearly impossible in the salary-cap era.

That’s what’s at stake on Sunday in Arizona.

One of the big talking points going around is how New England is going to be fired up for this game and in FU mode after feeling slighted by Deflate-gate. I’ve got news for you: If you need any reason other than “It’s the Super Bowl” to be fired up for the big game, there’s something wrong with your competitive spirit.

If anything, this only caused a distraction for the coaching staff preparing for this monumental task.

While the Seahawks did have it easy down the stretch and weren’t great in their two playoff games, this is a team that knows how to win – even if it takes some luck like what happened against Green Bay.

Their defence is punishing and will be able to pressure Brady and press the receivers, taking away his favourite short passing routes.

With a hard-hitting safety like Kam Chancellor and a corps of versatile linebackers, Seattle will have a shot at both limiting Rob Gronkowski’s impact and stifling the running game.

On offence, Seattle is going to need Russell Wilson to be a lot better than he was against Green Bay – but frankly, he can’t get much worse.

His receivers are going to be in tough against Darrelle Revis and the Pats secondarry and will have a tough time finding open space. Wilson is going to have to buy time with his legs and make up a lot of those yards himself.

Both the read-option game with Wilson and the power rushing game with Marshawn Lynch are going to be key. If the Seahawks can routinely pick up some nice chunks on the ground against the Pats front seven, it could be an easy road to success.

And that is where Seattle’s big advantage lies. New England hasn’t been good against the run -  especially teams that use a zone-blocking scheme. Baltimore’s Justin Forsett had a big day on the ground two weeks ago, Indy wasn’t terrible on the ground and even the Jets’ Chris Ivory looked like a stud against the Pats earlier this season. It should be Belichick’s biggest concern heading in.

This should also be a game of quarters, with the first and third played evenly, but the second and fourth being the keys. New England owns the second quarter while there’s nobody better in the final frame than Seattle.

The way that I see this game playing out is the Seahawks scoring first, the Patriots coming back in the second to take a lead into halftime, build on that in the third and then the Seahawks will trump New England on the late field goal.

Of course, this would go against my little heartbreaker theory – in which the team that was the benefactor of a tough loss the round before, loses the next game – but I don’t think that karma carries over for two weeks.

The pick: Seattle 26, New England 23

The MVP: Russell Wilson.

Playoffs: 5-5

This season: 141-111-4

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