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SUPER BOWL XLIX - PREVIEW – New England Patriots vs. Seattle Seahawks

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Strengths – The Patriots’ game planning has gone to another level in recent years given how much talent has left the offensive side of the ball. They haven’t made it all the way because their insanely resourceful offense has been waiting for the defense to catch up. They have this year. CB Darrelle Revis has been waiting for a Super Bowl opportunity for a long time and Brandon Browner came from Seattle to New England in the off season and brought their secrets with him. DBs Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington are very solid as well. They will excel in the kind of man coverage that should have been deployed by the Packers in the NFC Championship as stud linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower will patrol and control the mid-range targets.

The Seahawks will run a lot of run-option with Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson. Lynch was also effective against the Packers as a receiving option. While the Pats will prepare for this, stopping Lynch is easier said than done. Lynch is the key to a repeat for Seattle as any tricky plays will be negated by New England’s disciplined defense.

Weaknesses – One big weakness for New England is giving up big plays, which is exactly what Seattle exploited in the historic defensive collapse against the Packers in the NFC Championship game. I’ve never seen such a drop in quality of a defense that had been playing very well up until the last 4 minutes of regulation. But with the excellent coaching and team football intelligence, such a collapse shouldn’t be a problem for the Patriots with this much time for preparation, controversies aside.

For Seattle, their weakness lies in their 26th ranked passing attack. While Russell Wilson can create down-field opportunities late in a play, this will be schemed against with New England. The Seahawks don’t have a go-to guy among their receivers which will make it difficult for them if they need points for a comeback.

Bottom Line – I see the Patriots winning. RB Shane Vereen will play a bigger part running the Seattle defense ragged while LeGarrette Blount pounds them inside. TE Rob Gronkowski and WRs Julian Edelman & Brandon LaFell accounted for over 3000 yards receiving this season and will be as focused and ready as Tom Brady is to make plays down the field. I actually dare to say this will be a double-digit win for the Patriots.

The Patriots have the hunger, focus and drive. Seattle is still the upstart at this point; the Pats are still a dynasty with Belichick and Brady. New England will be entering their 6th Super Bowl in 14 years and having lost the last two in heartbreaking fashion to the New York Giants. They have a championship level hunger for a title game win. Couple an underdog status and the overconfidence on a young, brash Seattle squad, and you have a recipe for a big New England win.

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AFC Championship – New England Patriots 45, Indianapolis Colts 7

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#INDvsNE

Impact Players –
LeGarrette Blount returned to New England during the season after Pittsburgh had no use for him. He repeated his 2013 playoff performance and dominated with 148 yards and 3 TDs. Tom Brady had his typical efficient postseason game with a 100.4 QB rating and 3 TDs. WR Julian Edelman chipped into the first down total of 28 with chain moving catches (caught 9 of his 11 targets totally 98 yards).

Game Changing Moments – There was no game changing moment other than New England stepping onto their home field with domination on their minds. The offense totaled nearly 400 yards and the defense held Indy’s offense to 209 total yards. Not to mention their 2 INTs of Andrew Luck’s passing and holding him to a terrible 126 yard, 36.4 completion rate. This was the number one passing offense in the league for almost the entire year. It just goes to show you the expert preparation and unflappable focus the great Patriots have. The system works.

What’s next? – The Colts will be perennial contenders in the playoffs but will obviously have a lot to still learn as a team to get to the ultimate goal. The Patriots fulfill many predictions with a Super Bowl 49 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. It should be a great game.

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NFC Championship – Seattle Seahawks 28, Green Bay Packers 22

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#GBvsSEA

Impact Players –
Rookie Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix had 2 first-half interceptions and the front 7 controlled Russell Wilson’s movements perfectly, limiting him to 12 yards on 2 of 9 passing and 2 yards on 1 rush. In the second half they continued bottle up Wilson and rattled him out of his game….until the last 4 minutes when they let up and the Seahawks erupted for 15 points.

Despite two INTs and a low completion rate (55.9%), Aaron Rodgers never lost his poise and focus and kept drives going. His efforts were wasted by the defense in the last 4 minutes and in overtime. Marshawn Lynch was a true beast as he gained 157 on the ground with a score. Russell Wilson was terrible most of the game aside from when it mattered most, at the end.

Game Changing Moments – Seattle gave the Packers some life with two penalties in the opening drive, but it was ended with a Richard Sherman interception in the endzone. But then Packers’ CB Tramon Williams pick off a tipped ball and took it right back into the redzone for Green Bay. All the Packers could muster was a short field, and on the ensuing kickoff, a fumble on the kickoff return led to another short field goal. The first half stats ended with 4 Seattle turnovers (3 Wilson INTs) and Green Bay holding a huge advantage in total yards and first downs 178 and 12 to 59 and 3. Aaron Rodgers had 2 picks himself but the Seahawks couldn’t capitalize off them as the Packers did, carrying a 16-0 into the locker room at halftime.

In the second half the Green Bay defense continued to surprise with a fourth interception of Russell Wilson and general all-around great play. They sacked him four times on the day and pressured him into forced throws from the pocket, not letting him use his legs as he does so expertly so often. Green Bay tacked on another field goal and the Seahawks scored a TD on a fake field goal. There were some big lapses in the secondary for Green Bay late in the second half. In the last 4 minutes they allowed Seattle to march down the field for a TD through the air. I understand them relaxing a bit but they really were giving up way too much, the scoring drive only took 1 minute and 43 seconds to take the score to 19-14.

Then the Seahawks recovered an on-side kick giving them new life. Suddenly now on these last two drives, Russell Wilson got in his groove and played great, marching the team down the field in the last two minutes. They let Marshawn Lynch rumble for a 24 yard TD only 44 seconds later. They were lucky enough to tie it with a field goal, otherwise the defensive collapse would have ended it.

The OT period should never have happened and the Packers’ defense completely let the Seahawks back in it in the last 4 minutes of regulation. The Seahawks got the ball first and

What’s next? – Super Bowl 49 is next for the Seahawks as they go to defend their title. The Packers had this game until the last 4 minutes and then the defense deflated and let Seattle come all the way back to tie to force and eventually win overtime. What a great shame all the work before then was wasted by the last four minutes and overtime, where the Seahawks were frankly unstoppable.

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NFL Playoff Preview – AFC Championship – Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots

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NFL Playoff Preview - NFC Championship – Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks

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NFL Playoff Recap - AFC Divisional Round – Indianapolis 24, Denver 13

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NFL Playoff Recap - NFC Divisional Round – Green Bay 26, Dallas 21

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NFL Playoff Recap - NFC Divisional Round – Seattle 31, Carolina 17

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NFL Playoff Recap - AFC Divisional Round– New England 35, Baltimore 31

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NFL Playoff Preview - AFC Divisional Round – Indianapolis at Denver

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