The Seattle Seahawks obviously have the better defense going into Super Bowl XLIX. We saw them crush the Denver Broncos and the NFL odds last year. But what else does Seattle bring to the Big Dance?
Jason’s 2014-15 postseason record: 3-3 ATS, 3-2-1 Totals
The Seattle Seahawks have been here before. They were considered the favorites when last year’s Super Bowl odds went up on the board, but the Seahawks were 2-point underdogs shortly afterward. The same dynamic is playing out this year, only with the New England Patriots supplying the opposition instead of the Denver Broncos. Same old, same old.
So we all know that Seattle is the defensive monster in this matchup (Feb. 1, 6:30 p.m. ET, NBC). But where exactly do the defending champions have the advantage? And is there anything else besides defense where the Seahawks have the edge over the Patriots? Our football picks depend on it.
I Smell Foul Play
Let’s step into the Wayback Machine and set the controls for 2013. Look, it’s Sherman – Richard Sherman, that is. Seattle’s outspoken cornerback is there, along with his Legion of Boom teammates: safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, and CB Bryon Maxwell. With ample support from linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, these gentlemen formed the backbone of last year’s No. 1-rated defense at Football Outsiders.
All six players have returned for another crack at the title, and go figure, Seattle’s defense is once again at the top of the efficiency charts. The only missing ingredient from last year’s Super Bowl starting mix is CB Walter Thurmond III, who signed with the New York Giants in the offseason, and didn’t make it past Week 2 before going on injured reserve. Of note, former Seahawks CB Brandon Browner is now with New England; he missed Super Bowl XLVIII on a drug suspension, but Browner has been a useful player for the Patriots.
If we focus on the defensive lines, Seattle still has the clear advantage, but there are some areas where the Patriots shine – most notably in run blocking support from the secondary, as we discussed in our look at New England’s advantages. However, this pales in importance to how good Seattle’s blocking is at the first and second levels. The Patriots are dead last in the NFL in short-yardage situations. Which leads us directly to Advantage No. 2…
It’s Always Marshawn, Marshawn, Marshawn
It isn’t easy being Marshawn Lynch. Imagine if any of the rest of us had to pony up five figures every time we grabbed our crotch. Those NFL front-office fines could climb to six figures if Lynch doesn’t talk to the media this week. Then there’s those gold cleats. You and I can wear gold cleats anytime we want. Not Mr. Lynch, no sir.
What Lynch can do is run (4.7 yards per carry, 13 TDs). He’s the fulcrum of Seattle’s offense, bowling over would-be tacklers and picking up those precious Yards After Carry. Lynch also keeps a firm grip on the ball, coughing up just one fumble during the regular season. Football Outsiders has Lynch ranked No. 1 in rushing DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average). And he’s got soft enough hands to be Seattle’s No. 3 receiving option this year at 37 catches and four TDs. Too bad Super Bowl Sunday might be his last game.
The Unger Games
The Patriots don’t have anything close to what Lynch offers. If they could play the Indianapolis Colts every day, that would change things. LeGarrette Blount, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley and Jonas Gray each has his talents, but they need favorable matchups like Indianapolis to thrive. This is not a favorable matchup.
Seattle’s offensive line is also superior to New England’s at run blocking, and it’s maybe the one aspect of the game that the Seahawks have really improved on from last year. It looks like the entire front five will be healthy for Super Bowl XLIX, too, including two-time Pro Bowl center Max Unger. If Seattle’s defense can cancel out New England’s offense, the Seahawks should be able to run all the way to their second straight championship. NFL picks don’t get much simpler than that.