The first big question about this year’s Superbowl – “why isn’t it called Superbowl IL?” – is easy to answer. As should be obvious, the subtractive principle for Roman numbers has these restrictions: You can only subtract a power of ten, and only from the next two higher “digits”.
You might call this the battle of the established dynasty versus the next dynasty. Under head coach Bill Belichick, the Patriots have enjoyed sustained success. It’s the classic case of the champion team always beating the team of champions. Belichick’s coaching and systems are just that good that they are robust to most any setback. Lose a top player to injury? No problem – just slot someone else into the system. Sure, he has pushed boundaries, but he ought to go down as the best NFL coach of all time.
The Seahawks, under experienced and innovative College coach Pete Carroll, are the emerging dynasty. They have put together all the pieces, and added to that enjoy the best home ground advantage of any NFL team. They have shown the character to overcome form lapses, whether during the season or during a single game, and find ways to win. They are also peaking at the right time. Those are the ingredients of playoff success.
If you do the classic ‘match up’, the teams look very even. The Patriots have patched up weaknesses in their running game with Blount, and in the secondary with Revis, and look as well-rounded a team as ever. The Seahawks also have it all, with their ferocious tackling, oversized corners, and a balanced offence that can get you any number of ways.
Last year the Seahawks overwhelmed the Broncos from the very first play, and never looked back. This year won’t be the same walk in the park. The Patriots are experienced, mature, calm, and know how to come from behind. They’ve done it several times this season, and they are the highest-scoring second-half team in the NFL this year. They will not panic being two or three scores down. This game will be won in the second half.
The game of American football is quite simple: it starts in the trenches (the offensive and defensive lines) and works outwards from there. You can remove one dimension of your opponent’s offence, but if they are good enough, they will find other ways. On the other hand, if your defensive line can get through and create pressure, everything else collapses: the quarterback is hurried and can make mistakes, routes don’t have time to develop, and turnovers happen. The Patriots offensive line has always given Brady just that little bit of extra time, and that makes all the difference. Their most dangerous player is Edelman – he lurks underneath and is the ‘go to’ guy when nothing else is around. Even if you take out the deep routes, they will pick you apart with the running game and short passing. What I wrote back in 2008 is still just as true, there is one way to beat them: pressure Brady.
The Seahawks offence can be quite unstoppable. Lynch is truly a raging beast – his ability to grind out yards after initial contact is outstanding. He is probably their most important offensive player. Wilson is immensely talented but still young – the key for him is knowing when to take an option and run, and to stay calm throughout. Crazy comebacks like their win over the Packers in the Championship game are like lightning. On the defence, there is lots of talk about Sherman, but Cam Chancellor is the key.
You might have guessed by now that I’ll be rooting for a Seahawks repeat. Frankly, I’ve had enough of the Patriots and want to see some other teams rise up and compete.
This year, we will see a lot of hard hitting, a lot of tackle breaking, more than average number of turnovers, and less than average deep passing plays.
Prediction: Seahawks 31, Patriots 27.