Peter King made a remarkable point in his weekly Monday Morning Quarterback article released this Monday morning.
“One player out of 106 active Seahawks and Patriots was not healthy enough to practice when the two teams worked out this weekend,” wrote King. “That player, Seattle starting right guard J.R. Sweezy (ankle), still is listed as probable for Super Bowl 49, meaning it’s very likely he’ll play in the biggest game of his young life next Sunday.”
Each of these teams is playing their twenty-third game of the season next Sunday, and only one player has an injury that could keep him out of the game?
That’s crazy. Props to the training staffs of both the Patriots and the Seahawks for keeping both teams in peak physical condition for the biggest game of the year.
But let’s get into the meat of this matchup. The Seahawks and Patriots both come into Super Bowl Sunday in dominant form.
Despite throwing four interceptions in the victory over Green Bay last Sunday, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson willed his team to victory, making tons of clutch plays in the fourth quarter and in overtime to send the Seahawks back to the big game.
Meanwhile, Patriots signal caller Tom Brady thoroughly dismantled the Colts in Foxborough, throwing for 226 yards and three touchdowns in the 45-7 rout.
During his third NFL season, Wilson has evolved from the game manager label he was unfairly given during his first two seasons into a dynamic threat who can beat a defense with his scrambling ability or underrated arm.
The fact that he has the Seahawks in position to win their second straight Super Bowl after having arguably the worst game of his career last weekend speaks to his drive and the team’s resiliency when the situation looks its most dire. After last week’s debacle, you can bet that Wilson will not have the same type of game this week versus New England.
On the other side of the field, Brady and Coach Bill Belichick are looking for their fourth title together. After winning three titles in the early 2000s, the duo has been denied twice by the New York Giants in the big game since then. After a masterful season in which the team has become even more dangerous on both sides of the ball, Sunday’s game could very well represent Brady and Belichick’s last chance to win a title together.
Unfortunately for them, Brady and the offense have to go against a Seattle defense that has been the league’s best over the past two seasons. It’s a star studded unit that is both loaded with talent and it can beat you from anywhere on the field.
The defensive line, which includes defensive ends Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin, consistently hounds the quarterback into making poor decisions. Just look at Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ first half against the Seahawks last week.
The linebackers, which features stout middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and last year’s Super Bowl MVP in Malcolm Smith, are playmakers of their own right and are always around the ball carrier, no matter where there are on the field.
And of course, we have the Legion of Boom. This is a unit that will dominate the game if Brady can’t find a way to beat them. Three superstars, two of which signed big money extensions in the offseason, lead the secondary: cornerback Richard Sherman, who is arguably the best at his position; free safety Earl Thomas III, who is the definition of a speedy ballhawk; and strong safety Kam Chancellor, who is a classic thumper who excels in both run and pass defense. Over the past two years, this defense has hardly been tested, including during Seattle’s 43-8 romp over Denver in last year’s Super Bowl. Will Brady be able to do so?
I previously mentioned that the Patriots had improved on both sides of the ball. Well, that’s especially true on the defensive side of the ball, as Belichick and the scouting department focused on beefing up the unit during the offseason, particularly in the offseason.
The signings of cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner added to a secondary that was already on the rise with young corners Kyle Arrington and Logan Ryan as well as Pro Bowl safety Devin McCourty.
Revis has once again taken his place among the league’s top corners after a recovery year down in Tampa Bay and is Sherman’s main competition for the title of best corner in the league. Browner won a title as Sherman’s running mate last year in Seattle, so he will look to prove the Seahawks wrong as he looks to capture his second ring in a row. But the secondary isn’t the only strong unit for the Pats.
The linebackers are another young, up and coming unit led by second year pro Jamie Collins and inside linebackers Dont’a Hightower. King and fellow MMQB scribe Greg Bedard named at least one of the aforementioned players to their All-Pro squads.
Last but not least is the Patriots’ defensive line, which is another underrated group. Perennial Pro Bowl defensive tackle Vince Wilfork has played some of his best football in years in the middle of the line, and defensive end Chandler Jones has had a strong third season. It will be imperative for them to pressure Wilson and keep him contained in the pocket so they can minimize the damage he can do with his legs.
So who is going to win this one? Part of me wants to say Brady and the Patriots will be able to pull this one out in the end, but when the Seahawks have a lead heading into the fourth quarter, its nearly impossible to take it back. That’s what happens when you have the league’s best defense and one of the best running backs in Marshawn Lynch. So on Sunday, look for the Seahawks to be the first repeat champions since the Patriots did it from 2003-2004.
The final score: Seahawks 28, Patriots 24.
Jordan Llanes can be reached at email@example.com