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Super Bowl XLIX Predictions

SUPER BOWL XLIX TOTAL AND POINT SPREAD PREDICTIONS: NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS VS. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
By FoShizzleWisel, NFL Handicapper, Predictem

As the playoff seeds have predicted, the top dawgs from the NFC and AFC are going to Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, AZ on February 1, 2015. Since 1978, there have been 8 Super Bowls between the number one seeds from the AFC and NFC. The average margin of victory in those Super Bowls was a whopping 22.5 points, even though the games matched the top seeds of their respective divisions. But do not let history fool you, for this Super Bowl is as hard to handicap as any. Vegas is even having difficulty choosing a favorite. There is a lot on the line for both teams (duh) and lucky for us, there are plenty of intriguing story lines leading up to the game.

2 Roads to The Same Place

The Patriots dynasty led by Coach Bill Belichick and Quarterback Tom Brady are heading to their sixth Super Bowl, and they are 3-2 in previous Super Bowls. If the Patriots are able to beat the Seahawks, both Belichick and Brady would tie the record of 4 Super Bowl rings for a coach and a player, respectively.

Their road to Super Bowl XLIV was a relatively easy one, going 12-4 during the regular season and leading the NFL in point differential, outscoring their opponents by 155 points (468-313). A turnover ratio of +12 also helped to get the Pats to the Super Bowl.

Tom Brady surpassed 4,000 yards yet again, threw for 33 TD and 9 INT. It was typical Tom. And the Patriots backfield was a typical Belichick committee, where no rusher rushed for more than 100 attempts. In week 11, Jonas Gray rushed for 201 yards and had 4 TDs at Indianapolis. In week 12, he did not even suit up for the game. Released by the Steelers this year, LeGarrette Blount, ran all over the Colts as well last week in the AFC championship game. So, trying to predict the ground attack is almost impossible with the Patriots.

The road for the Seahawks has dynasty implications as well. If they beat the Pats, they would become only the seventh team to win back to back Super Bowls. Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch are free agents after this year, so this could be their last chance together to solidify the moniker of a dynasty.

This year started off shaky for the Seahawks. They started the season (as defending Super Bowl champs) 3-3, losing to San Diego, Dallas, and St. Louis. After that, they went on a tear with a 9-1 record to finish off the season at 12-4.

In their two postseason games, Seattle showed heart. In the divisional round, they scored 17 fourth quarter points to beat the Panthers 31-17, and in the AFC championship game last week, they pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in NFL playoff history by scoring 15 points with 2 minutes remaining to eventually beat the Packers in overtime, despite being grossly outplayed for three and a half quarters.

The Storylines

There are many factors to consider for this year's Super Bowl when trying to predict the outcome.

Richard Sherman's health is a concern after colliding with Kam Chancellor in the NFC championship game. He finished the game, clearly in pain while favoring his elbow. An MRI showed that Sherman suffered a sprained elbow, which means he is more than likely to suit up with some elbow protection.

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Another member of the Legion of Boom, Earl Thomas, suffered a dislocated shoulder in the first half of the NFC championship game, but is also expected to play in the Super Bowl. Thomas, who said, "I'm a warrior," had his shoulder placed in a harness after the injury and also finished the game.

Speaking of the Legion of Boom, former member Brandon Browner will face his former team for the first time since being released in the offseason and picked up by the Patriots. Alongside Browner is arguably the best shutdown corner in the game, Darrelle Revis. Sherman on one side and Revis on the other might make this game a low scoring running-centered affair.

As I said before, the Patriots rushing attack is hard to predict, but Seattle can be beat if you can run on them. In two of Seattle's losses this year, the opposing RB rushed for over 115 yards. A matchup to watch is Kam Chancellor (the biggest and baddest Safety in the NFL) taking on Rob Gronkowski. If Gronk can be limited, the Pats will have a rough time moving the chains. On the other side of the ball, Marshawn Lynch is the man for Seattle and could end up carrying the load for Seattle's offense. Browner and Revis will likely shut down a lot of the passing attack from Wilson and we could see New England stacking the box to contain Russell Wilson's mobility and Beast Mode.

The Numbers

The Seahawks have the number one rushing attack in football, averaging 172.6 yards per game versus a league average of only 111.3 yards per game. They also had 5.3 yards per carry, 20 TDs, and 2.2 yards after contact (league avg. was 4.2 ypc, 12 TDs, and 1.7 yac, respectively). Ironically New England boasts a defense that has allowed only 6 rushing TDs, which is second best in the NFL. Bobby Wagner's impact on the Seahawks is amazing. They were 9-0 with him back, and their rushing defense had gone from 4.0 yards per carry to 3.1 with him on the field. On passes of ten yards or less the Patriots are technically the second best in football, with an average time before the pass of only 2.11 seconds. Seattle also allows 72% completion rates on short passes of ten yards or less.

When blitzed, Brady was sacked on just 2% of his dropbacks (2nd best in the NFL). On the flip side, when blitzing, the Seahawks have an 11% sack rate (also ranked 2nd in the NFL). As you can see, many stats and strengths are cancelled out which is leading to a pick em point spreadů

Vegas Baby

Oddsmakers have had a tough time choosing a favorite here. The Las Vegas Westgate Sportsbook opened as a pick em, with an over/under opening at 48.5 points and recently moving up a bit to 49. MGM has New England favored by 1. If the spread ends up as a pick em, it will be the first time in Super Bowl history.

As of this article, the public is leaning heavily on New England with 78% betting on the spread and 71% betting on the money line. 64% have bet on the over.

I can see the running games taking over in the Super Bowl, leading me to believe the under is the bet to take. With Sherman and Thomas hurting, and Seattle coming off a game in which they were dominated until the fourth quarter, I agree with the public and believe the Patriots win this one, solidifying the dominant era of Belichick and Brady, and also proving how hard it is to win two Super Bowls in a row.

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