Super Bowl XLIX has a chance to be one of the best ever since the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks are quite evenly matched. As it turns out, very little separates these two teams historically.
The Pats and Seahawks have played each other 16 times entering the big game, and it should come as no surprise that they are dead even, according to Dave Sims of Westwood One:
Per Pro Football Reference, the Patriots hold a 321-295 scoring edge. Also, the Super Bowl will be the first-ever playoff meeting between the two clubs.
Looking at history certainly makes for some fun storylines entering a game, but the fact is that New England beating Seattle 31-0 in 1977 will have absolutely no impact on the Super Bowl. The most accurate tool available in terms of comparing the Patriots and Seahawks is the result of their most recent matchup in 2012 and everything that has happened since then.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was a rookie in 2012, and he has steadily developed into one of the NFL's best signal-callers since then. Truth be told, Seattle's 24-23 triumph over New England on Oct. 14, 2012, may have been the first sign that Wilson was truly something special.
As pointed out by Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun, Wilson outdueled a future Hall of Famer in Pats quarterback Tom Brady during their first and only head-to-head matchup:
It may not feel as though that game occurred too long ago, but there is no question that both teams have changed dramatically over the past two years. That much is apparent simply by looking at their rosters. According to Ben Volin of The Boston Globe, the roster turnover is well over 50 percent for both the Pats and Seahawks since their 2012 encounter:
There are several reasons why the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks and Patriots have been so successful over the past couple of seasons. Seattle has had the NFL's best defense during that time frame, while New England has arguably been tops on offense.
One major thing that most great teams have in common, though, is the fact that they protect the football. As evidenced by this statistic, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info, nobody has done that better than the Patriots and Seahawks since 2012:
Another interesting aspect of the Super Bowl is that there may be some existing bad blood between the teams, despite the fact that they don't play each other very often.
Much like Wilson burst onto the scene by beating the Pats in 2012, cornerback Richard Sherman did something similar. He intercepted Brady in that game and famously asked No. 12, "You mad, bro?" after the game was over.
Per ESPN.com's Terry Blount, Sherman claims that Brady had it coming to him:
I think people somehow get a skewed view of Tom Brady. That he's just a clean-cut guy that does everything right and never says a bad word to anyone. We know him to be otherwise.
In that moment of him being himself, he said some things and we returned the favor. Unfortunately, he apparently didn't remember what he said. I'm sure also in those moments when he's yelling at the ref, he's just saying, 'Good job. You're doing a fantastic job. Keep it up.'
With Brady having to face Sherman and Seattle's Legion of Boom secondary as well as questions from the media regarding Deflategate, there is no shortage of interesting storylines.
The Patriots are currently 1.5-point favorites, according to Odds Shark, which is understandable after they destroyed the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game, while the Seahawks needed a miraculous comeback to get past the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game.
Seattle is no stranger to shutting down high-powered offenses, though, which is precisely what it did in a 43-8 win over the Denver Broncos in last year's Super Bowl.
The Seahawks also have a great formula on offense, with Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch anchoring the NFL's No. 1 rushing attack.
Seattle can largely keep the New England offense on the sidelines, while its defense can shut down Brady and Co. otherwise. Because of that, look for the Seahawks to win Super Bowl XLIX by a score of 23-20.
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