By Matt Budkofsky
New England Patriots vs. Seattle Seahawks
After a week off I have returned to finish my predictions for the NFL playoffs. So far I’m 9-1 and I have a better record than everyone on the show NFL Countdown. So yeah, I’m pretty legit.
Personally, I think this is a better matchup than last years game between the Broncos and Seahawks. Both sides possess elite defenses, elite quarterbacks, and elite coaches. The current trip to the big game has been quite different than last years for the Seahawks. Last season, they got almost all the media attention thanks to Richard Sherman’s tirade to Erin Andrews. This time, you have barely heard anything about Seattle, thanks in large part to the Patriots Deflategate scandal.
For the Seahawks to win this game they are going to need Russell Wilson and the offense to step up and deliver enough big plays to keep them in it. The Seahawks defense is a huge reason why they are in position to repeat as champions, but there is no doubt New England’s defense is very talented as well. Newly signed corner Darrelle Revis and safety Devin McCourty anchor the Pats secondary, while Vince Wilfork is the heart and soul of the defensive line. Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse are both solid receivers, but come on; are you really going to tell me that either of them are top 40 receivers in the league? Maybe top 50? Couple that with the fact that these guys are going to be seeing Revis and former Seahawk corner Brandon Browner all night, and I don’t see the passing game being much of a factor for the Seahawks in this game. My guess: Wilson throws for 200 yards and a TD, along with 2 INTs.
Without much of an aerial attack how is Seattle going to score any points? That’s simple. The answer is Marshawn Lynch. Beast Mode is no doubt a top-5 running back in the league, and (despite a decreased workload) has shown no signs of slowing down at any point this season. Vince Wilfork stated this week that Lynch is going to be the Patriots’ biggest challenge this year, and I’d agree with him. Marshawn is an animal that refuses to go down. Lynch is going to need 25 carries and 100+ yards with a touchdown or two to keep the Hawks in this one.
For the Patriots, the offense starts and stops with Tom Brady. He is one of the best, if not the best quarterback this game has ever seen. However, the Seahawks defense is one of the best, if not the best defense the NFL has ever seen. Now, I called Seattle out earlier for their mediocrity at wide receiver, but the Patriots are no different. Julian Edelman was actually solid all season, and is probably the best receiver that is going to be on the field for this game. After that, all you have is Brandon LaFell and Danny ‘I’m always hurt’ Amendola. Who?? The difference between the Pats and Hawks is Rob Gronkowski. Gronk is a matchup nightmare and, in my opinion, the best tight end in football. On top of this, New England does a fantastic job at moving him all over the field and getting him the ball. Seattle appears to have the tools to limit him though. Kam Chancellor is a rare breed of safety that has the size and speed to match Gronk. Plus, Seattle linebackers like Bobby Wagner are both athletic enough to stay with Gronk and strong enough to bring him down in the open field. Star defensive backs Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas are both dealing with injuries, and if they are limited, Seattle could be in trouble. What has gotten the Patriots here is their balance on offense. They can beat you with Brady’s arm, or they can go to Legarrette Blount and beat you on the ground.
Prediction: I really believe this will be a much more competitive game than last year’s Super Bowl. I also think this matchup has the potential to be one of the best Super Bowls we have seen in a while. When this is all said and done I think Tom Brady gets his 4th Ring and 3rd Super Bowl MVP. I’m sorry Russell, this isn’t your year, although you will get plenty of other chances. The Patriots are too good on both sides on the ball, and will prevail 28-27.