The New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks are without question the two best teams in the NFL. This isn’t a case of teams who just got hot at the right time in January. These are teams that earned #1 seeds in their respective conferences and then validated that standing in the playoffs to get to Super Bowl 49. But it’s a common weakness of both that’s weighing on me as we get closer to kickoff on Sunday night in Phoenix.
Neither team has a very good offensive line. Seattle has survived because…well, if you’ve ever watched Marshawn Lynch run, you know he doesn’t need all that much help. And Russell Wilson is at his best when he’s on the move in any case. New England has survived because Tom Brady gets rid of the football so quickly and precisely, and because he has Rob Gronkowski, who can pile up yards after the catch.
Now each offense has to go against a well-coached defensive unit. The reputation of Seattle’s “Legion Of Boom” precedes them. New England has played defense with a toughness much more reminiscent of their championship teams from 2001-04 then of some of the softer units of recent vintage (notably 2011) that came up short.
It’s hard to see either offensive line miraculously having a good game against this caliber of opposition. Therefore, that means the winner of the Super Bowl is almost certainly the team that can somehow manage to move the ball in spite of a lack of blocking.
Based on pure talent, the edge goes to the Seahawks. Lynch is the most physical runner in the league, and while New England’s LeGarrette Blount isn’t far behind, anyone would take Lynch if the contest is about who can drag a pile of bodies with him the longest. Wilson’s mobility and improvisational skill give him the edge over Brady.
There’s a case to be made for New England. The Seahawk offense is often unimaginative, and if the Patriots find a way to keep Wilson in the pocket and neutralize his legs, the edge then shifts to the veteran Brady. He’s rarely had a top wide receiver throughout his career and has become a master and picking the open man among 3-4 receivers running within ten yards of the line of scrimmage and doing so in a split second.
The scenarios for both teams are reasonable, a good reason this game is still a Pick’em in Las Vegas on Friday. I give the slight edge to Seattle. There’s been a strong trend in recent Super Bowls that have favored young quarterbacks—not since 2002 has a quarterback over the age of 30 won the Super Bowl (Brad Johnson for Tampa Bay). Peyton Manning won he was 30 on the nose, in 2006.
And in this case, it’s no ordinary young quarterback. Wilson already has a championship ring, has already led a stunning NFC Championship Game this year and already commands respect as a winner. It doesn’t have to be a choice between the spry young quarterback and the veteran who’s a winner—because the younger guy is both.
There’s no denying Brady’s immense toughness and savvy, and I’m rooting for New England. But the recent track record says football, at least by this point, is a young man’s game, and I’m picking Seattle, 20-16. And if I was a betting man, the Under 47 is where I’d put my money.