Seahawks QB Russell Wilson has been impressive in his first three NFL years and led his Seahawks to their championship last season, but with veteran Tom Brady, the Patriots hold the edge at the QB spot for Super Bowl XLIX.
Patriots More Able To Rally From Behind With Brady’s Arm, NE’s Targets
Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson is certainly not your conventional NFL QB, but then again, you could probably say that about a dozen signal callers in the league. But the odd combination of having the NFL’s best defense in years and an almost poor receiving corps—whose best WR is Doug Baldwin—means that Wilson can get away with making some mistakes but that he also often has to use his quick feet to scramble and get out of situations when those receivers are covered downfield on patterns. When Wilson and New England Patriots QB Tom Brady meet on February 1 in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona (NBC, 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT), it will certainly be a clash of styles with the speedier guy with less experience and the weaker arm (Wilson) going up one of the game’s Golden Boys who is slower, but more experienced and has a much stronger and more accurate throwing arm in Brady.
Let’s examine some of the different key matchups between the two starting QBs and see if there is any perceived edge at the position for this championship game in which the AFC representative Patriots have now actually moved to be slight favorites (-1) in a couple of Las Vegas casinos (Mirage, Station Casinos) on Tuesday afternoon. And, as often is the case, two of the best QBs in the NFL are participating in the Super Bowl, a testament to how important this position is in this particular sport.
Physical, Running Ability
Thirty-seven year-old Patriots QB Tom Brady stands a tall, 6-foot-4 inches and is a semi-thick 224 pounds while third-year man Wilson, 26, is just 5-foot-11 and weighs 206 pounds, so, the New England veteran has the edges in size and experience. But Brady is very, very slow for a QB (5.28 40-yard dash), while former baseball player Wilson, who butters his bread by scrambling and making things happen with his speed (4.55 40-yard dash) and mobility, is much better at being able to make something out of nothing and avoiding the sack. Brady gets points for being able to see over his line of scrimmage much easier and the former University of Michigan QB has a much stronger and more accurate arm than does Wilson. And with Wilson looking so poorly in the first half of the NFC Championship game where he posted a 44.3 QBR and taking a really solid, if indirect blow to the head in the win against the Packers, the slight edge goes to the Patriots long-time QB Brady here for his better size, arm strength and accuracy.
Tom Brady holds the obvious advantage in overall experience and has a proven track record of leading his team to the Super Bowl as the 37-year-old has brought three NFL championships back to Foxboro in a record six previous appearances here in the Big Game (2001, 2003, 2004), where he was twice named the game’s MVP (XXXVI, XXVIII). Wilson, who played collegiately for both the University of Wisconsin and North Carolina State University, has had as much experience as a third-year guy can have at the helm of his team’s offense, and Wilson did lead the Seahawks to that first-ever Super Bowl appearance and win last season. But when Brady—the 199th pick in the Round 6 of the 2000 NFL Draft—was playing his first season in the NFL (2000), Wilson was still just a growing boy in middle school back in Virginia. A no-brainer here.
Brady is historically good at making last-second decisions and is known for finding his favorite guys at the right time to get the necessary yardage and first downs, but when the time comes to scramble out of the pocket and run upfield and try to get some valuable yards, the sloth-like Brady seldom does so and the ability to run for big yards and the first down just isn’t part of his QB arsenal. Seahawks QB Wilson is excellent at running and avoiding the pressure although against Green Bay last weekend, he was put in a tough situation where he had to play catch-up football for all four quarters. And Wilson looked tentative to run up-field, perhaps overwhelmed by the score, the Packers swarming defense and that aforementioned shot to the dome. Wilson does have a lot of work to do in terms of growth for handling pressure and his 48.9 QBR on third down this season ranked 22 of 33 qualifying QBs. But the Seahawks energetic kid gets the call here because gazelles escape lions more frequently than wildebeest and Wilson—who finished 19-29 for 209 yards with a TD and 4 interceptions against Green Bay—did rally his team down from a 15-0 deficit against the dominating Packers despite playing an atrocious first half and taking a nice little shot to the cranium. The mere fact that Seattle is even in this game next Sunday night is a testament’s to Wilson’s ability to handle pressure, both on the scoreboard and on the playing field.
Brady threw for 373 completions, 4,109 yards and 33 TDs, while Wilson had 285 completions for 3,475 yards and 20 TDs (63.1% completions, 7.7 yards per pass). Expected edge Brady. But as discussed, Brady provides virtually nothing in terms of rushing the ball and certainly isn’t considered a weapon with his heavy feet whereas Wilson and Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll know it’s an important part of the 26-year-old’s game and essential for Seattle with such poor WRs and former speedster WR Percy Harvin long gone. In the regular season, Wilson rushed 118 times for 848 yards and 6 TDs (7.2 ypc). With the Seahawks an anemic 27th in the league in Passing (203.1 ypg), Wilson’s impromptu scrambling and rushing yards are, and will probably always be imperative to this team’s success on the gridiron. With Brady’s ability to pass and Wilson’s ability to run, this is an even category as their weaknesses—Brady’s mobility and Wilson’s arm—are just as even as their strengths for this particular game. If it were about lifetime stats, Brady (53,258 Passing yards, 392 TDs, 95.9 Passing Rating) would win hands down. It’s not.
Both QBs have very good and large OLs in front of them and the starting five on the depth chart right now for both teams is pretty even. The Seahawks getting starting C Max Unger back for the postseason was massive for the defending Super Bowl champs and the 6-foot-5-inch, 205-pound 28-year-old University of Oregon product is surrounded by LT Russell Okung (6-5, 310), LG James Carpenter (6-5, 321), RG JR Sweezy (6-5, 299) and rookie RT Jason Britt (6-6, 325). That beefy Seattle OL along with RB Marshawn Lynch and Wilson’s nimble feet give the Seahawks the #1 Rushing game (172.6 ypg) in the NFL. Brady and the Patriots line up with LT Nate Solder (6-8, 320), LG Dan Connolly (6-4, 305), C Bryan Stork (6-4, 310), RG Ryan Wendell (6-2, 3000) and RT Sebastian Vollmer (6-8, 320), a unit very even with Seattle’s if not a slight bit better, but just not enough to give them a marked advantage with the Seahawks so good at rushing the ball this season.
The Hot Factor
Wilson is 5-1-1 ATS in his L7 playoff games, and Seattle has now won 8 straight games, going 7-1-0 ATS in those contests and allowing a total of just 75 points (3, 3, 14, 7, 6, 6, 14, 22) along the way, the only non-cover coming in last week’s exciting 28-22 OT win over the Packers in the NFC Championship game at CenturyLink Field in the Emerald City as closing 8½-point favorites on the NFL odds. Both teams strangely rallied after mid-season losses to the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Patriots have won 5 of their L6 overall but New England is just 1-3 ATS L4 and nobody in the NFL has been hotter in the second half of the 2014/2015 NFL season than these Seahawks, thanks in great part to the stellar play of their young and extremely versatile QB. With Wilson and that historic defense, the Seahawks should be a threat to come out of the NFC for the next decade.
Wilson has only been in the league three years and he has played New England and Brady just one time, with his Seahawks covering and winning, 24-23 in Seattle as 3½-point underdogs in Week 6 of the 2012 season, Wilson’s rookie year in the NFL. Wilson lead the Seahawks to score 14 points in the last 7:31 of that game, connecting with WR Sidney Rice for the game-winning TD at home in Seattle. Wilson was 16-27 for 293 yards and 3 TDs in that game while Brady went 36-58 for 395 yards and 2 TDs in the Patriots loss. Although Wilson got the win and the spread cover, one game doth not make a healthy sample size, Romeo. If Wilson beats Brady here again in the Super Bowl, then The Kid will get the edge. But not until then. When the two best teams meet in the league end up meeting in the Super Bowl, it’s always a proving ground. This game will be no different.
The Seahawks were 9-6-1 ATS in the regular season thanks to that torrid 7-0-0 finish and Seattle is 1-1 ATS in the postseason while the Patriots were 9-7 ATS in the regular season and are also 1-1 ATS in these playoffs. So, this game will determine who has the (slight) edge in this category—and rightfully so. And at even (Pick ‘Em), the point spread is as ambivalent as to who may be the ultimate winner here but the game winner will almost undoubtedly also be the ATS winner in this Super Bowl...so if you think you can figure how will simply go home with the Lombardi Trophy on its plane, then you have figured out who will get the money at the betting windows in Super Bowl XLIX, bubba. Wilson is 26-17-1 ATS as a Favorite, but with so much money moving Seattle from its opening 2½- to 3-point favorite status to where the line now lies—with the Patriots actually favored by 1 point in a couple of places—that stat is rendered moot. Brady is now a very respectable 97-79-4 as a Favorite since joining the NFL after New England’s 45-7 pasting and cover against the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game last Sunday in Foxboro, but, like Wilson, the stat is pretty useless with this game being a Pick at most places and no team really donning the adjective of “favorite” at this particular point in time. Once again, way too even to dub an advantage for either in this coming game, but Brady’s history as a favorite over a much longer period of time probably carries a little bit more weight than does third-year man Wilson’s
Skill Position Weapons
Seattle is 27th in the league in Passing (203.1 ypg) and the Seahawks most dangerous downfield weapon, Percy Harvin, was sent packing after not fitting in with the defending champs, giving QB Wilson Doug Baldwin (66 receptions, 825 yards 3 TDs) and Jermaine Kearse (38 receptions, 537 yards, TD) to work with, along with virtual no-names Ricardo Lockette (11 receptions, 195 yards, TD), rookie Paul Richardson (29 receptions, 271 yards, TD), Kevin Norwood (9 receptions, 102 yards) and Bryan Walters (6 receptions, 57 yards). At the TE spot, with usual Seattle starter Zach Miller on the I-R List, Wilson has Luke Wilson (22 receptions, 362 yards, 3 TDs) and Cooper Helfet (12 receptions, 185 yards, 2 TDs) to work with. So, overall, the lack of quality WRs, Harvin’s departure an Miller’s injury add up to a definite negative in this category for the defending Super Bowl champions.
At the WR position, the AFC champion Patriots and Brady have the incredibly valuable possession receiver Julian Edelman (92 receptions, 972 yards, 4 TDs, 10.6 ypg), Brandon LaFell (74 receptions, 953 yards, 7 TDs, 12.9 ypc) and clutch Danny Amendola (27 receptions, 259 yards., 6 TDs) as the main three guys with Josh Boyce (9 receptions, 121 yards) and Brian Tyms (6 receptions, 82 yards, TD) providing depth but getting little playing time and being infrequently targeted. Insteadt, Dr. Brady prefers to slice up opponents’ defenses with his own Frankenstein-ish creation, 6-foot-6-inch, 265-pound monster Rob Gronkowski (82 receptions, 1,124 yards, 12 TDs, 13.7 ypc), a TE who may be the single hardest player to cover defensively in the NFL. Second-year Tim Wright (26 receptions, 259 yards, 6 TDs) provides a nice backup to Gronkowski at TE and proved this season he can come through for New England in the Red Zone. With Gronkowski, Edelman, the underrated LaFell, waterbug Edelman and RB Shane Vereen (52 receptions, 447 yards, 3 TDs, 8.6 ypc) providing a fantastic receiving option out of the backfield, the Patriots and Brady hold a serious edge in this category. The problem? They’ll be playing one of the best defenses in the history of the game playing at the peak of their potential. This 48th Super Bowl in the Sonoran Desert should be absolutely fabulous.
So, the best things for Wilson here are that he doesn’t have to play against his own team’s defense, his speed and mobility and his familiarity with University of Phoenix Stadium—home of NFC West division rivals the Arizona Cardinals. For veteran Brady, now appearing in his seventh Super Bowl, this game may be about trying to get the taste of back-to-back Super Bowl losses to the New York Giants out of his team’s collective mouths and with the huge edge in the Skill Position Players department, Brady and his Patriots should at least have an advantage on offense in Super Bowl XLIX, although they will face the ultimate test knocking heads with this ferocious Seattle Seahawks defense. New England will really need to protect Brady and have him be at his absolute best to come out of this game with the win.
Super Bowl XLIX QB Edge: Tom Brady, New England Patriots