Perhaps the ultimate football faceoff of all time takes place this weekend in warm Arizona.
The New England Patriots (14-4) and Seattle Seahawks (14-4) enter Super Bowl Sunday with a lot on the line. Seattle has a chance to convert last year’s championship into the first piece of a steadily-evolving dynasty. The Patriots have long been a dynasty, but quarterback Tom Brady could cement his claim as the best of all time with a fourth ring.
New England’s offense carries the team, while their defense is surprisingly effective and stacked with playmakers—and but the same holds true for last season’s champion Seahawks. The subplots are already in place: “deflategate” has dominated national headlines, and star Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch has been standoffish with the press. It’ll be a lot to process this weekend, but the biggest question still remains: Who wins Super Bowl XLIX? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.
Riley: The Patriots have lost their last two Super Bowl appearances after winning three straight, and I just can’t see them losing another. With “deflategate” threatening to sour their season, head coach Bill Belichick will definitely have his players revved up and feeling like they have something to prove. The Patriots are the more complete team, able to suffocate teams with their defense as well as push the score up behind Brady. Their run game has come on strong at the right time with the late season reacquisition of LeGarrett Blount. The team is a better version of the last two New England squads that represented the franchise in the Super Bowl. They may not be as laced with the big names as they once were, but New England is playing fantastic right now and that dominance will show on Sunday.
Green: It seems we put the trophy into the Patriots’ hands every season, and every year they fumble it. Seattle has proven over the last few seasons that they’re as clutch as it gets when it comes to winning big games in January and February, and this will be another step on their way to becoming the NFL’s latest dynasty. They are explosive on the edges on both offense and defense, and they have major playmakers at running back with Lynch and quarterback Russell Wilson. They’ll arrive to the University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday with just as much swagger as the Patriots. Riley, you talk about New England playing good football lately, but Seattle has won 11 of their last 12 games, not to mention last season’s Super Bowl. They’ll have a defense drawn up to contain Brady, just like they did Peyton Manning last year, and they’ll ride Lynch into the sunset.
Riley: Their streak over the last half of the season has been impressive, but they could have easily lost to the Green Bay Packers. I suspect Belichick will pull a few pages out of the Packers’ defensive playbook to contain the Seattle attack, and Brady will do a better job capitalizing on miscues. Green Bay faced several spots in the game when they could have solidified their victory but they let those chances slip through their fingers. As the more mature team, New England won’t squander the opportunities that are sure to present themselves. Keep in mind that Wilson threw four interceptions in his last game, and the Packers’ secondary doesn’t sport the same type of weapons that New England’s does. Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington headline a talented but underrated unit that will surely give Wilson fits. If Wilson continues to turn the ball over, it’ll be another Patriots Super Bowl win.
Green: Yes, Wilson did toss four interceptions—but he also had the last laugh, throwing for the game-deciding touchdown in overtime against the pesky Packers. This team can play to any style of game and bounce back. A win over Brady on Sunday would add the Patriots star to an impressive list of quarterbacks who have failed against the Legion of Boom. Manning, Cam Newton and Aaron Rodgers are three of the best quarterbacks in the league, and Seattle treated them as regular quarterbacks. There’s no glaring way to attack the Seahawks and the Patriots don’t have an offensive formula that they execute remarkably well. The Patriots defense is good, but they’re not great. Prior to holding Indianapolis to just seven points in the AFC Championship a couple of weeks ago, they struggled against Joe Flacco and the Ravens, who went up by 14 points on two separate occasions before New England gutted out a 35-31 win. The same game saw Flacco throw four touchdowns before the third quarter was over. There’s holes on this Patriot team that can be exploited, and I expect a stronger Seattle team to do just that.