Super Bowl XLIX Preview

sb_xlixThe biggest show in North American sports is back again as the Super Bowl travels to one of its favourite location in Arizona. Glendale will host the 49th Super Bowl a year after the NFL experimented with an outdoor Super Bowl. Last year the Super Bowl travelled north to New Jersey where the open air of MetLife Stadium caused plenty of concern. The Northeast in February can be brutal but luckily for the league it ended up one of the more mild days of that winter. The first cold weather Super Bowl went off well and it could lead to more northern outdoor stadiums in the future but for now they return to a place that seems perfect for the game and yet hasn’t hosted many games. Arizona has the type of environment that the NFL loves when it comes to hosting a Super Bowl. The winter is rarely seen and the weather is fairly constant leaving the entire Super Bowl week a fun affair without the concern for weather. That makes them a good bet to host the Super Bowl but there was always something missing. They did not have a stadium that was suitable for the biggest game of the year. The first time that the super travelled to Arizona was for Super Bowl XXX at Sun Devil Stadium. The stadium was not enough for the growing game that had been steadily increasing in scale and so the NFL never returned. That was until the stadium that many refer to as “The Big Toaster” was built as a new and state-of-the-art facility that, not only, got the Cardinals into new digs but it also encouraged the NFL to come back to Arizona for the Super Bowl. With a total capacity of just over 78,000 and the concessions that people want in terms of the biggest game, University of Phoenix Stadium became a great option for the NFL. They showed that in 2008 when the stadium played host to Super Bowl XLII. Now they return as the stadium looks to be a constant stop on the Super Bowl tour and this time they will welcome a great matchup of the top two teams in the NFL. Rarely does this happen when the two teams who took the top spot in the conference get to face-off in the Super Bowl. It is becoming more common though as it will be the second year in a row that the two best regular season teams found their way to the Super Bowl. The New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks represent two of the more dominant teams in the NFL over the last few years and now they fight for the chance to return to the top of the NFL. It is a match of two teams that have Super Bowls and a veteran quarterback against the young gun. It is also a match of two teams that were expected to be here at the start of the season only to see those hopes fall short at the start of the season. Both teams had high hopes heading into the new season but both struggled to get their year going until they finally found something to turn things around and moved their way to the top of their conferences and now to the Super Bowl. One team will end a great turnaround season while the other will fall short of that ultimate goal to become champion.


The New England Patriots had a rough start to the season, at least by Patriots standards that saw their offence that was not as potent as usual. They lost their first game of the season to the Miami Dolphins and only scored 16 points against the Oakland Raiders in a 16-9 win. Another loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in their first four games had the Patriots at 2-2 and the hopes of them getting to another Super Bowl seemed to be out the door. It wasn’t that they were awful but the expectations were high for a team that has been one of the best teams over the past decade. The Patriots are the dynasty of the 2000s and the match of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady has brought the team three total Super Bowls. The problem for them lately has been the fact that they have returned to the Super Bowl twice since they last won in 2005 and in both cases they lost to the New York Giants. Those two losses have dominated the storylines over the last few years as many believe that Brady and Belichick will go down as a pairing started strong and finished poorly. That is what they are trying to do now as they are both nearing the end of their time in the NFL and are hoping to get another Super Bowl to their collection rather than having a 3-3 record in the big game. After their early season struggles they started to figure things out as Brady began leading the offence more and the return of Rob Gronkowski gave him another major target in the offence. Since then the Patriots ran through most of the league only losing two more games and working their way to the top of the AFC. From there they won a close game against the Baltimore Ravens and easily got by the Indianapolis Colts in the Conference Finals. Now they enter a familiar place with the same leadership and a generally new-look team as they try to find their way back to the top of the NFL.

The Patriots are a team that has no concern for much of their personnel as Belichick has a system that he plugs players into. Almost every year it seems like the team receives a facelift with new players coming in and other players taking one bigger roles. There are some players that are immune from this though and one of them is one of the best quarterbacks in the game. Brady has been the rock for the offence as he has been forced to work with new players around him for years and with a number of injuries this year they continued to change throughout the year. That has been the main reason why he hasn’t had the season that he is used to but the return of his best target helped solve things quickly. After spending most of the last two years with injuries, Gronkowski missed one game this year and began to get into a groove with his quarterback again. That has made the big tight end the second leading receiver and probably the most important offensive weapon on the team. Behind Brady is an ever rotating group of running backs that has seemed to settle on LeGarrette Blount through the playoffs. The Patriots have other options after a year where multiple backs got the ball. The defence is another story though as they have struggled to be dominant but have done a good enough job at keeping teams at bay. In the conference finals they limited Andrew Luck and the Colts to only one touchdown and have kept teams under 20 points in four of their last five games. They are getting better and despite a 31 point showing against the Ravens in the Divisional round they could be good enough to stop a less than great Seahawks offence. That will be key for the Patriots as they have the better offence in this game but their defence has shown signs of weakness. Luckily they are not facing a team with a great offence and if they can shut down their running game while preventing big plays they may be able to take this one home and earn their fourth Super Bowl.


The Seattle Seahawks started their year in a position that no other team was in for the season as they were the Super Bowl Champions. That left them with some major expectations this year and with the team remaining largely intact it seemed like they were a team ready for the Super Bowl. A lot of that had to do with the fact that this was a very young team with great talent that had remained in the Northwest for another year. Leading the charge was Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman, both only 26 years old. The two dynamic players are completely opposite off of the field but have come to lead the offence and defence on the field. Heading into last year’s Super Bowl they were expected to crumble under the pressure of a big game and against the veteran Broncos. Instead they went on to dismantle the best offence in NFL history for a 43-8 win in their first Super Bowl. With this team largely intact and now champions it was expected that the young group might be hard to beat this year. The season began looking like it was going to go their way after beating the Green Bay Packers 36-16. Then came a loss to the San Diego Chargers and three weeks later two more losses evened out their record to 3-3. This was not how the Super Bowl champions were supposed to be especially since they had not been lacking any of their top players. As they finished that period many started to talk about the Super Bowl hangover that has prevented anyone from repeating as champions since the Patriots did it in 2004 and 2005. The Seahawks were not willing to give up though and after a devastating loss to the St. Louis Rams a switch was flipped. The Seahawks began seeing their dominant defence return and lost only one game the rest of the way including a six game win streak to end the year.  An easy 31-17 win over the Carolina Panthers and then a massive 16 point comeback against the Packers in the Conference Finals put the Seahawks back into the Super Bowl.

The Seahawks now have a chance to do what their opponents did in 2004 and 2005 and become the first repeat champion in a decade. There is no question as to how they got here and how they are going to win this game. Defence, defence, defence, and defence is the key for the Seahawks, it’s that simple. The saying has always been that defence wins championships and the Seahawks have had the best defence in the league for the past two years. They are a fierce coverage team that loves to be physical and are clearly ballhawks. With Sherman taking away half of the field against most teams it leaves Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, and Byron Maxwell to cover the rest of the field. They have done that in a big way leading the league with 185.6 passing yards allowed per game this year. The pass rush is a big help as they can get to the quarterback but can also be shut down. The defence is the key but the offence will need to step up a bit more this time around as they only got going in the second half in the conference championship which would not have worked if the Packers offence could have scored touchdowns on all of their drives. They do not want to play that game again in the Super Bowl so they will need to get going early. Wilson has not had the season that many expected from him but he hasn’t had to with Marshawn Lynch having another great year. The threat of the running game from Lynch and Wilson has kept teams on their toes but they are simply not as consistent as they were a year ago. They can make big plays at big times though and are not to be overlooked when it comes to the Super Bowl. If the offence can put it into another gear than they had in the championship they are sure to give the defence enough support to put this game away. The defence will once again be the key for the Seahawks and if they can continue to be dominant they may end up being the first team in 10 years to repeat as champions.


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