Are the Seattle Seahawks the winning Super Bowl XLIX bet? Find out as we weigh the strengths and weaknesses of the defending champions according to relevant and popular NFL rankings and examine the possible scenarios that could emerge from the divisional round. in order to determine the best NFL picks.
Seattle Seahawks Look To Defend Their Title
Russell Wilson and his Legion of Boom are attempting to become the first team since the New England Patriots (2003 and 2004) to repeat as Super bowl champions. NFL odds makers certainly install the Seahawks as the team to beat on the NFL odds at +200 futures to pull off the feat and with an auspicious matchup (on paper) with the 7-8-1 SU Panthers, the stars seem to be aligning.
Last years' Super bowl was the first instance since the 2009-2010 Super bowl that saw the top seeds of both Conferences collide, and it was the Seahawks, who finished the season at the top of the ESPN NFL Power Rankings and at the top of TOTAL DVOA and WEIGHTED DVOA rankings at Football Outsiders, that came through on their statistical rankings with these established football outlets as indicated in Table 1.
Table 1: The table includes ESPN NFL Power Rankings from week 18, along with NFL regular season-ending rankings for total offense and total defense, and QBR rankings. As well, relevant DVOA rankings (Source: Football Outsiders) have been used to broaden the picture. These statistical rankings have been totalled and averaged to give us a simple hierarchy of the eight teams in the divisional round from top overall ranked to lowest overall ranked team, as shown by the Adjusted SBR Power Rankings column.
SBR Adjusted Power Rankings Table 1: 2013-2014 RANKINGS AT A GLANCE
Super Bowl: No.1 Seattle def. No.1 Denver 43-8
The Seahawks capped the 2014-2015 season at the top of the aforementioned charts, once again. They have the best defense according to the NFL Regular Season Rankings and they are ranked first in ESPN's NFL Power Rankings in week 18, as well at the top of the DVOA rankings for defense, Total DVOA and Weighted DVOA. However, as Table 2 shows, the sum total of all their rankings, puts them as co-second with New England Patriots in our Adjusted SBR Power Rankings.
SBR Adjusted Power Rankings Table 2: 2014-2015 RANKINGS AT A GLANCE
It's interesting to note, that the top four teams in Table 2 are also the top four favourites across Sportsbooks and top NFL picks to win the Super bowl XLIX: Seahawks +200, Patriots +300 and Broncos and Packers +500.
This hasn't been the case in previous seasons, mind. For example, the 2012-2013 Super bowl XLVII final yielded the Baltimore Ravens champions over San Francisco 49ers. The Ravens had scored at the bottom of most rankings: 10th in power rankings (the lowest of all the divisional round teams), 8th in total DVOA (third lowest) and 11th in weighted DVOA (third lowest). What's more, they were the underdogs from the divisional round onwards and the long shot NFL pick in Super bowl betting. Similarly, the 2011-2012 NY Giants and 2008-2009 Pittsburgh Steelers ranked low across the board in the various NFL rankings, respectively, proving that the regular season and the playoffs are two entirely different beasts.
In winning the Super bowl, the champion team lays claim to the title of being the best in the NFL. However, as past seasons reveal, it's not always the so-called best regular season team that wins the title rather the "best" team in the playoffs.
It follows, therefore, the Seattle Seahawks are in no way guaranteed to emerge champions and NFL bettors will want to take all this statistical information with a grain of salt. Last season they were the best regular season team and the best playoff team. Can they do it again?
Why Seattle Seahawks Can Repeat As Champions
Arguably, the reason for Seattle to repeat as champions is form. They are riding a six-game winning streak into the playoffs, marking the best run of form going into the divisional round. Repeating as champions rests on their defense and home field advantage through the playoffs as well, two of their strongest aspects. Defense is the most formidable in the NFL according to the relevant rankings and CenturyLink Field is an intimidating arena that can rattle any opponent on the field. Seattle haven't lost a home playoff contest since 2005, for good reason (seven-game winning streak).
Why Seattle Seahawks Won't Win
Comparing the above Tables, the 2013-2014 Seattle Seahawks had a considerable edge in the rankings across the board. They were a good distance better than the rest of the field, ranking well higher in every category. Table 2 shows a more tightly packed field by the rankings for the 2014-2015 Super bowl XLIX. This could be interpreted as an overall stiffer field of competition for the Seahawks en route to the final. At the end of the day, games aren't played on paper but on the field. Repeating as champions is a difficult challenge for any team, including the so-called best regular season teams. This is evident by the lack of a repeat champion in over a decade.
The Carolina Panthers can't be underestimated. They are the quintessential dangerous floaters in the playoffs, not unlike the Baltimore Ravens were a few years ago when they went on their giant-killing ways to the title. Panthers are built to tackle a defense such as the Seahawks have; earlier this season they made the Seahawks work hard for the 13-9 win. It would be a grievous error to assume the Seahawks have a straightforward clash in the Panthers on Saturday.
If the Seahawks get past the Panthers, they could face either the Packers or the Cowboys in the Conference final, the latter of which beat them at CenturyLink field earlier this season 30-20. The Packers did lose to the Seahawks in week 1, but some allowances have to be made for the fact that it was the season opener. Down the stretch, the Packers picked up pace to finish third in total DVOA and weighted DVOA rankings. What's more, they can turn to their first game against Seattle as a useful blueprint of what not to do and, even, flip the script.
If the Seahawks emerge as the NFC Champions, the work only begins. They could face either New England Patriots or Denver Broncos, two of the top favourites to win outright and teams that rank just as good as the Seahawks do overall according to the above tables. (Indeed, the Broncos top our Adjusted SBR Power Rankings not unlike the Seahawks did last season). The possibility of a surprise finalist can't be ruled out either. Baltimore Ravens, who are one of the most successful teams in the postseason, loom the most dangerous. No team has won more playoff games than the Ravens, who are now 10-4 on the road following the 30-17 victory over the Steelers in the wildcard round. Or they could tackle the Indianapolis Colts and Andrew Luck, a quarterback destined to come of age sooner rather than later.
Super bowl Betting Verdict
By ESPN's and Football Outsiders' rankings, the Seahawks are the top contenders for the title, an assessment underscored by the NFL futures currently trading. These stats serve as reason to back the Seahawks on your NFL picks, but they aren't proof positive of a winning NFL pick. In reality any team has a mathematical and notional shot at the coveted Super bowl XLIX. Keep in mind, if last season's Seattle Seahawks, the top-ranked team according to our SBR Adjusted Power Rankings, won then it follows this season the Denver Broncos accordingly would appear to be the best Super Bowl pick at +500.