Super Bowl XLIX Preview: New England Patriots v Seattle Seahawks

Tom Brady is seeking a fourth Super Bowl ring, while Russell Wilson is hoping to win his second NFL title

After a gruelling season and dramatic series of play-off games, Super Bowl Sunday is here as the NFC and AFC champion Seahawks and Patriots do battle for the right to hoist the Lombardi trophy aloft in Phoenix, Arizona. A win for Seattle would see them repeat as champions, making them the first team to do so since… The New England Patriots, in 2003/4. Those Patriots teams built on their surprising victory in 2001 and although Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have been back to the big game twice in recent years they have yet to win another Super Bowl since they were found guilty of spying on opposing teams sidelines, making tonight the perfect opportunity for both men to cement their legacy as greats of the NFL. To find out which match-ups to keep an eye on as both teams chase history, just keep reading.

When New England has the ball…
Early on in the season Seattle struggled to contain opposing teams tight ends, and as a result many analysts have put two and two together and predicted a big game for New England’s Rob Gronkowski. However while Gronkowski is an elite talent and match-up nightmare Seattle will be able to call on the services of punishing safety Kam Chancellor as they bid to keep ‘Gronk’ under wraps. Chancellor was injured for the early part of 2014 and that goes a long way towards explaining their poor numbers versus tight ends in the campaign’s early going.

It’ll also be interesting to see how New England attacks, or more likely doesn’t attack, Seahawks corner Richard Sherman. Sherman is used to opposing teams completely ignoring him and shutting off that side of the field, but with no standout threat on the outside at wide receiver it’ll be interesting to see who Sherman covers as the game unfolds.
Edge: Seattle 

When Seattle has the ball…
In the NFC Championship game Russell Wilson refused to run the ball himself with regularity until the game was on the line in the fourth quarter, but it’s unlikely that he’ll remain in the pocket for so long this evening. With opposing defenses keying in on Marshawn Lynch Wilson is often able to pull the ball and run himself, so New England will have to be wary of the Seahawks two-headed running attack.

Similarly to New England, the Seahawks posses no standout receiver on the outside. Jermaine Kearse hauled in the winning score two weeks ago against Green Bay but along with Doug Baldwin Kearse is an average at best NFL receiver. If Seattle are to move the ball on the Patriots they will most likely have to do so on the ground, as since last year’s Super Bowl victory they have lost both Golden Tate and Percy Harvin through free agency and trade, respectively.
Edge: New England

Special Teams
Stephen Gostkowsi has been a reliable kicker for New England ever since he was brought in to replace Adam Vinatieri, although he has yet to be on the winning side in a Super Bowl. Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka has also earned himself a reputation as one of the premier points scorers in the NFL, and most would agree that he has a stronger leg than Gostkowski.

Both teams have good coverage units, although Seattle’s is probably marginally better, although neither possesses much of a threat in the return game. Seattle have particularly felt the loss of Harvin in that department. Edge: Even

Weather
The game is being held at the University of Phoenix stadium, and the weather is set fair for the game and the field is reported to be in excellent condition.

Prediction
New England 14, Seattle 24

Who do you think will win Super Bowl XLIX? Leave a comment or tweet @fredjstanley

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