Who will win Super Bowl 49? Will the New England Patriots earn the fourth title of the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era? Or, will the Seattle Seahawks earn back-to-back championships? Here are the picks from your Big Blue View staff writers.
Defense wins championships. The Seahawks relied on their defense last year and will do so again this year. The Patriots have Gronk, but of any team in the league, it's the Seahawks with Bobby Wagner, Kam Chancellor, and Earl Thomas that are the best equipped to handle him. The Patriots have Julian Edelman. The Seahawks counter with Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell, guys that excel in bump and run, not allowing Edelman to work free in zones. Finally, the Seahawks have a pass rush. We all know how Brady fares against that.
On the other side, the Patriots defense is well equipped against the pass, with a great secondary. I have no idea how they are going to stop the Russell Wilson/Marshawn Lynch read-option attack. Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell should hit that well early and often. I think the Seahawks take control of this game early and never really let it go.
Pick: Seahawks 33, Patriots 20
I'm going to go ahead and pick the Seahawks. It's just fitting that the first team to repeat as Superbowl champs since the Patriots did it, do it by beating the Patriots. More than that, I like how the Seahawks match up against the Pats.
Gronk is the Flintstones style engine that makes the Patriots offense go. Take him out of the game and they suddenly look very ordinary. Even with Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas banged up, I don't think the Patriots receivers really pose much of a threat to the LOB, and if anybody can take Gronk out of the game its Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner, and KJ Wright.
If there's one thing we can attest to, its that Tom Brady looks a lot more like a 6th round pick than a future Hall of Famer when you can get pressure on him and get him hearing footsteps. If the LOB can handle the Patriots' receivers in man coverage, that gives them options for containing Gronk and Wright. If Seattle can do that -- and they have a better chance than anybody -- then they can get pressure on Brady.
On the flip side, Seattle's offense doesn't really offer a threat to NE's defense on a play by play basis. However they make you play a full 60 minutes of football, and feel each and every second. The key is Russell Wilson, who can stress defenses with his arm and legs, and has the mind to see and exploit cracks when they appear. And they will.
Since it's the Superbowl I'm going out on a limb here. No, I'm still not going to offer a score. But I will make a prediction: Earl Thomas makes a tip-drill interception of a pass intended for Gronkowski, and Marshawn Lynch breaks off a Beast Mode run, complete with an invitation to "Taste The Rainbow" to seal the game.
I wouldn't say I'm rooting for the Seahawks, it's more like rooting for a really good game (unlike last year) and AGAINST the Patriots. We can all admit that our last two Super Bowl wins were even sweeter because they simultaneously crushed the Evil Empire. I really do think the game will be tight and down to the wire, but I think Beast Mode wins the fourth quarter and carries the Seahawks to back-to-back rings.
Pick: Seahawks 24, Patriots 21
The Patriots are coming into this game off of two huge playoff performances, but this match up isn't the best for Tom Brady and company. The Seahawks can control the ball on the ground and make enough plays with Russell Wilson's scrambling ability to keep the Patriots at bay. I expect a good game, but the Seahawks pulling it out, 27-20.
(My favorite prop bet is over 3.5 field goals combined)
Hard for me to believe that all four staff writers above have picked the Seahawks to defend their title. This game isn't nearly that clear-cut, and I would have anticipated a mixed bag, not a clean sweep one way or the other.
This is a tremendous matchup. You have the team of the century thus far in the Patriots, making their sixth Super Bowl appearance of the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era. You have the defending champion Seahawks, a still-young team trying to become the first team since New England in 2004 and 2005 to win back-to-back titles.
You have two great quarterbacks in Brady and Russell Wilson. You have the great defense of Seattle vs. Brady, Rob Gronkowski and the forever-scheming Patriots offense. You have Belichick vs. Pete Carroll, two coaches who march to the beats of their own drummers.
I have to be contrarian here and go with New England. The Patriots are angry, I think from top to bottom they have more ways to win than the Seahawks do and I can't see Brady and Belichick coming up short in a third straight Super Bowl.