Forget about deflated footballs, forget about Marshawn Lynch’s unorthodox press conferences, forget about any other storyline, because this is Super Bowl XLIX between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots and it’s the biggest game of the NFL season (6.30pm ET, Sunday, Feb 1, live on NBC).
Fortunately for fans it is between two teams, in the Patriots with the NFL’s best offense, and the Seahawks, with the NFL’s best defense, who have no shortage of reasons why they deserve to be playing in this game at the neutral venue of University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale.
Patriots: You Don’t Need to Spend 1st Round Draft Picks on Offense
When looking at the numbers New England put up on offense this year, it might be a surprise that they did it without a single first round draft pick at a skill position (QB, WR, RB, TE).
Tom Brady (pictured), easily the league’s greatest ever “from the bottom to the top” kind of story, was drafted back in 2000 in the sixth round, pick #199 to be exact. Six quarterbacks were drafted ahead of him, none of whom amounted to the level of success Brady has had. The three-time winning Super Bowl QB has even surpassed all of the first rounders picked ahead of him that year and undoubtedly was the steal of the draft.
Brady’s best weapon at wide receiver is Julian Edelman, a seventh round (#232) pick out of Kent State. He finished the season with 92 receptions which was top-8 in the league. Brandon LaFell, Brady’s second best option, was just a third round draft choice himself (#78 by CAR). The undrafted Danny Amendola was the third highest wide receiver on the team with 27 receptions. Brady’s top running back, LeGarrette Blount was also undrafted but has downright killed it so far in the postseason.
The highest ranked draft pick of the skill players is Rob Gronkowski (82 REC, 1,124 YDS, 12 TD in 2014) a man who needs no introduction and who has been well worth his value at pick #42 (2nd round).
So where exactly did those first round picks go that weren’t being spent on Brady and co?
Since 2000, the Patriots have traded away four of their picks, spent two on skill positions, two on the offensive line and the other seven on defense. Investing in protecting Brady behind G Logan Mankins, a six-time Pro Bowler and OT Nate Solder, who has been instrumental in keeping the QB off the ground in his four full seasons in the league, has been key to New England’s success. Brady has been sacked just an average of 24 times a year with that number even less over the past few seasons.
On defense, the two picks that stand out are CB Devin McCourty, who has recorded 17 interceptions and seven forced fumbles in his five-year career and of course DT Vince Wilfork, 5x Pro-Bowler, 4x AFC champion.
Seattle Seahawks are the Ultimate Team
One of the biggest compliments Russell Wilson has gotten is that in his three-year career, he is a perfect 10-0 against Super Bowl winning quarterbacks defeating the likes of Aaron Rodgers (3x), Drew Brees (2x), Eli Manning (2x), Peyton Manning (2x) and even Tom Brady once.
Well, that’s all fine and good especially for Wilson’s supporters, but the real winners of those games were the Seattle defense, to another degree, Marshawn Lynch and of course the 12th Man.
In those 10 contests, Wilson threw for 2,078 yards, 16 TD/ 8 INT and his opponents for 2,463 yards, 10 TD/13 INT. Of course, that makes sense when you consider who those quarterbacks were throwing to. Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas. All Seattle defensive backs, all interceptors of passes.
In Wilson’s 10 wins, the self-proclaimed Legion of Boom and the NFL’s best defense has 11 of the 13 interceptions thrown by the opposing QBs. Meanwhile, Wilson’s interceptions have come against less than stellar defenses including the league-worst Saints and low-end ranking Giants.
In addition to the clear edge at defense, the Seahawks also had another X-factor by the nickname of Beast Mode.
In the 10 wins, Lynch has rushed for 905 yards and 12 TD while the opposing running backs, who have often been more than one per team have just 680 yards with four touchdowns. Again, this is a huge testament to Lynch having success against less than stellar rushing defenses while the Seahawks, have boasted a top-five rushing defense in each of Wilson’s three full seasons.
Finally, you’d be remiss to mention these 10 wins without including the fact that eight of them have come at home at CenturyLink Field, a place where the Seahawks are an incredible 26-2 in the Wilson-era.
So while there is no denying Wilson is a great quarterback, his wins against some of the best and most elite signal callers in the game, are no more his than they are the Seahawks. Ultimately, football is a team game though, so it shouldn’t matter how Seattle has gotten it done, just that they have.
Offense vs Defense, Take Two
Last year’s Super Bowl pitted the league’s best offense against the league’s best defense and defense won handedly. This year it happens again and even though the Patriots aren’t coming off a year of historic proportions like the Denver Broncos were, New England has the better chance to avoid yet another year of defense winning championships.
The matchup is Brady vs the Seattle defense and the ever-so-slightest edge skews to the QB on this one.
Brady has played in more postseason games (28), has more wins (20) and more TD passes (49) than any other QB in NFL history. As opposed to Peyton Manning, Seattle’s punching bag from last year, Brady doesn’t have a reputation for coming up small in the big games. In fact, he’s been even bigger.
Limiting Brady has been a challenge for defenses in the postseason but will be even more so now with Brady’s biggest weapons in Gronkowski and Blount. Both lit up the AFC Championship with huge numbers and Gronkowski has been a beast his entire career in the postseason (6 GP, 5 TD, 31 REC, 459 YD). Even the Legion of Boom is going to have a tough time defending that kind of production.
Seattle Seahawks vs New England Patriots, Super Bowl Betting Picks
The sportsbooks have been slightly split. With one line that opened with 2.5 in favor of the defending champs has now moved to favor the Patriots by two. This shouldn’t be too surprising once you factor in the neutral site and prolific offense that is New England. However another can not split the teams and goes ‘pk’, which effectively means there is no handicap on the spread as both teams have an equal chance of winning. In this case the spread and the moneyline are the same.
I don’t love New England, partly because of the distraction that has been Deflategate, mostly because Seattle’s defense is historic on so many levels, but I like them enough to crown them Super Bowl champs.
- This year offense will end up on top, so take the New England Patriots to win. The best wagering option on the spread is with 5Dimes Sportsbook or Betonline who both go ‘pk’ for the spread and so offer odds of -110 effectively for both spread and moneyline. Bovada’s spread has the Patriots -1.5pts. Though all these sportsbooks do offer alternative spreads too.
- Also take over 47 total points for the game with BetOnline @ -110 betting odds. The others are worse odds for the over or their total points spread is higher.
- Non-Americans can bet on those options with Bet365.