With the NFL Honors ceremony just hours away, it's official: The eve of Super Bowl XLIX has arrived.
Looking back at every game leading up to the big dance, both the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots endured plenty of adversity to get to this point. Seattle's defense started the season in sluggish fashion but found its groove and quickly became one of the league's most dominant teams. New England's offense couldn't get anything going early but wound up as one of the NFL's most prolific units.
Since both teams have flourished in the face of great tribulation, remaining resilient through 16 regular-season games and two playoff contests, it's difficult to determine who actually has the upper hand heading into the Super Bowl. After all, the NFL's championship game is filled with many obstacles, and both teams proved they can handle whatever's thrown their way.
Still, it's always fun to speculate, so before these teams return to the gridiron for one final showdown, let's take a look at the game's updated odds and predict which team will ultimately come away with the coveted Lombardi Trophy.
Super Bowl XLIX Schedule and Odds
When: Sunday, February 1
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona
Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
Betting Info (via Odds Shark):
- Over/Under: 47.5
- Spread: Patriots -1
Preview and Prediction
Consistency will be key for both teams in Super Bowl XLIX. Based on the quality of defensive play between these squads, this isn't time for either offense to veer away from what works. For the Seahawks, it's the running game, and for the Patriots, it's the passing game.
Generally, establishing a well-balanced offense is crucial in any NFL contest; however, recent trends have indicated that may not be the best solution for our Super Bowl competitors.
The Patriots have a bruising running back in LeGarrette Blount, yet they have been highly inconsistent running the football. Sure, Blount torched the Indianapolis Colts to the tune of 148 yards and three touchdowns; however, New England has a difficult time getting its ground attack going against better run defenses—the Patriots rushed for just 14 yards against the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round.
This isn't to say New England should avoid running the football completely. The team needs to make the running game complement the passing game. However, the Seahawks own the league's third-ranked run defense, allowing just 3.4 yards per carry to opposing ball-carriers during the regular season. Utilizing short passing plays to Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman as an extension of the running game is the answer here.
After all, according to a tweet from NFL Network's Jeff Darlington, quarterback Tom Brady has already done some major film study for the game:
Picking the right spots to run the ball will be essential for the Patriots if they want to avoid many 3rd-and-longs against Seattle's top-ranked secondary.
Seattle has a bruising running back of its own in Marshawn Lynch. He's been phenomenal when utilized heavily this season, eclipsing the 100-yard mark in five of the nine games he was given at least 20 carries (including playoffs). He only gets stronger as the game goes on, and this telling statistic from ESPN Stats & Info gives a great visual on his ability to wear down defenses:
Aside from Lynch, quarterback Russell Wilson is always a danger to run. He led all quarterbacks in 2014 with 849 rushing yards while averaging 7.2 yards per carry. His ability to scramble and utilize his vision to find running lanes down the field has caused problems for many of the league's defenses.
Wilson is generally an efficient passer; however, the passing game isn't Seattle's bread and butter. The signal-caller is coming off a career-worst four-interception performance against the Green Bay Packers, and while he's mentally tough, there's a strong possibility that showing is still resonating in the back of his mind.
Establishing the running game to help open passing lanes will allow Wilson to generate some momentum and build his confidence throughout the contest.
Both of these teams are extremely good at what they do; however, the nod here goes to Seattle. The Patriots tend to get a little too creative sometimes, and if the team gets too cute against this Seahawks defense, it could cause some game-altering miscues. Expect Seattle to wear New England down with the running game and control the clock en route to a second consecutive Super Bowl victory.
Prediction: Seahawks 27, Patriots 24