We’ll cut right to the chase. There has never been a Super Bowl between such evenly matched teams. Most fan polls show the New England Patriots as a slight favorite, but the Seattle Seahawks come in as the defending champions and with a potent defense.
Let’s take a look at some of the most important matchups that will determine the next NFL Champion.
Hightower vs. Lynch
Dont’a Hightower took over starting MLB when Mayo went down the past 2 seasons. With 89 tackles this season he is clearly the run-stopper of this Patriots defense. Marshawn Lynch has been running through linebacker arm tackles his entire career so his success will be determined by this matchup. Expect to see Hightower and Lynch to meet up many times around the line of scrimmage.
Collins vs. Wilson
Russell Wilson is a winner. Even when he throws 5 picks in a game he’s able to beat teams with his arm, legs, and determination.
Jamie Collins has had a knack for making key plays early in his career. His 115 tackles, 4 sacks, and 2 INT reflect his versatility and nose for the ball. And on Sunday he will likely be a “spy” on Wilson, trying to contain big QB scrambles. Collins has the ability to be successful here but an effective play-action and option-read will neutralize him.
Players/units to watch:
Patriots punt return
Julian Edelman is statistically the best punt returner in Patriots history and nearly in NFL history. With how proficient the Pats special teams has been this season look for a big return from their punt return unit Sunday.
TE Luke Willson
The tight end position is usually a run-block focus in Pete Carroll’s offense. But while Willson only has 3 TDs this season this is the kind of game where unexpected heroes shine. If the Seahawks get in the red zone expect Willson to get several looks.
Utilize screen passes against over-aggressive defense. The Seahawks should come out aggressive and looking to cram the line-of-scrimmage to get pressure on Tom Brady. Expect lots of halfback screens and WR bubble screens to gain quick yardage.
Make use of overload blitzes on Brady’s blindside to take advantage of the Patriots offense in spread formations. LT Nate Solder has been inconsistent this season, so he may struggle again Sunday night to protect his quarterback.
Both defenses will be firing on all cylinders. Patriots manage a few extra plays in a nail-biter.
New England Patriots 17
Seattle Seahawks 13