With just the Super Bowl and 60 minutes of football left the NFL season has come down to Seattle Seahawks versus the New England Patriots. So lets preview the game and pick a winner.
How they shape up : New England Patriots
On the one hand answering questions about how eleven match balls came to have less than the league required amount of air is probably not how the Patriots would have chosen to interact with the press in the build-up to the Superbowl.
On the other hand it has provided Belichick and the Patriots with great motivational fodder. No doubt New England have entered a full 'us v the rest of the world' bunker
mentality and said mentally could carry them to another Championship ring.
Outside of 'deflategate' New England are pretty much at full strength save that Tom Brady has been dealing with a case of the sniffles.
How they shape up : Seattle Seahawks
The big issue for the Seahawks is the fitness of defensive stars Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas. Both are expected to be fit but neither are at 100%.
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If Sherman and Thomas are able to play at the same level that they usually do then the Seahawks defense is looking good. If injuries restrict their play though then the Patriots could have found a chink in the 'Legion of Boom's' armor.
How they win : New England Patriots
Stop Marshawn Lynch. If 'Beast Mode' activates then the Patriots will quickly find themselves in all sorts of difficulties. The key man in doing this is nose tackle Vince
Wilfork. If Wilfork brings his 'A' game in Arizona on Sunday then the Patriots will be one giant step closer to winning.
The big problem for the Patriots however is that Wilfork hasn't looked good in the playoffs picking up just two solo tackles in the games against the Baltimore Ravens and
the Indianapolis Colts. Wilfork needs to turn his form around quickly.
How they win : Seattle Seahawks
One thing the Seahawks need to do is find a way to combat the Patriots 'trick' four lineman plays. In the divisional round against the Ravens were completely thrown off their game by this. Then in the AFC Championship game the Colts were nonplussed by the Patriots eligible-ineligible plays that they did not seem to have any strategy at all. In fact it was as if the Colts hadn't bothered to gameplan for the plays at all.
Seattle can't afford to do the same. Whether it is playing zone defense or rushing so many men that Tom Brady needs extra protection on the line to stay alive the Seahawks can't allow the Patriots to have a play that essentially guarantees them a first down whenever they want it.
Verdict : NARROW SEAHAWKS WIN
As a Super Bowl should be this game is a coin flip game. Ultimately, the Seahawks should have enough to win it.
The comeback against the Packers in the NFC Championship game shows that Seattle are a team with complete self-belief. This belief and the 'Legion of Boom' defense should be enough to see the Seattle Seahawks lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the second time in as many seasons.