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by Jim Feist - 01/26/2015
The great Patriots offense against the dominant Seahawks defense! Where have we heard this tune before? It’s another Super Bowl clash of styles, one that went Seattle’s way last season in a 43-8 laugher….as an underdog. This is the second straight season that the top seeds in each conference have met in the big game, but that hasn’t been the norm, either.
We had been in a golden age for the AFC for a while, almost as if the pendulum had swung. During the 1980s and much of the 90s, the NFC dominated, winning 15 of 16 Super Bowls, including 13 in a row. That changed in 1998 when Denver upset Green Bay, 31-24. Since then, the AFC has won 10 of the last 17, including two years with the Ravens, though the Saints, Packers, Giants and Seahawks have won four of the last five. .
What we have in 2015 is finesse versus physical, the high flying veteran QB against the old fashioned, powerhouse defense and throwback running game.
We’ve seen the Colts and Saints meet in the Super Bowl, the top two offensive teams, the pass-happy Patriots, and even the Arizona Cardinals winning it with Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald. But let’s face it: Defense is still King. The Giants won two titles with great defense, topping the Patriots, and the Ravens and 49ers were physical, punishing defenses, topping finesse teams in the conference championships. And last year was another exclamation point for defense as Seattle crushed Denver’s record setting offense.
Remember that when the Packers and Steelers squared off four years ago they were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in points allowed, so defense is still very much alive and dominating.
The Patriots opened as a dog before the game moved to pick ‘em. They hope to continue a trend: The underdog is 10-3 ATS the last 13 Super Bowls, winning seven times. Here's a look at what to expect this weekend as America's unofficial national holiday, the Super Bowl, kicks off.
What the Patriots want to do: Stuff the run. That’s what Seattle does best on offense, running with Marshawn Lynch and QB Russell Wilson. The Patriots defensive game plan will be to contain both, especially Wilson from slipping outside, so they may bring up safety Pat Chung on first down.
On offense that Patriots are unpredictable and tough to defend. Since Seattle can stuff the run New England may bail on the ground game and go with a short, quick passing game. They can also go no-huddle, throw in trick plays, and even run the ball with draws and reverses with Julian Edelman, LeGarrette Blount and Shane Vereen.
38-year old QB Tom Brady (33 TDs, 9 INTs) has plenty of targets with WRs Brandon LaFell, Edelman and even double tight end sets with Tim Wright and star Rob Gronkowski (1,124 yds). The defense is versatile and very much improved from a year ago with CBS Brandon Browner, Darelle Revis and the emergence of young LBs Jamie Collins and Donte Hightower. The Pats are 4-11 ATS in their last 15 playoff games.
What the Seahawks want to do: Forget about any track meet. This is an old-fashioned style of team from the 1920s (or maybe the 1985 Bears) that prefers to knock the tar out of opponents from the opening kickoff through the first quarter. They are a physical, dominating defense that can stuff the run, rush the passer, and for good measure the athletic secondary is No. 1 against the pass.
Even in their last defeat, 24-20 at Kansas City on November 16, the Chiefs only had 298 total yards and were 2-of-6 on third down. The offense does whatever is needed, a conservative group behind quiet, cerebral QB Russell Wilson (20 TDs, 7 picks), who chipped in 849 yards rushing, and power back Lynch (1,306 yds, 4.7 ypc), a bruising back who seems to get better in the fourth quarter as defensive players tire.
Seattle has two weeks to recover from the miracle comeback against Green Bay. Seattle is on a 34-16-1 ATS run, plus 11-5 under the total against a team with a winning record. New England’s last five Super Bowls have gone 4-1 under the total, though Seattle is 9-3 over the total in playoff games. The last 39 years the "over" has gone 23-16 in Super Bowl play, though the under is 6-4 the last 10 years. Enjoy the big game!