In many Ways football is a large game of moving chess. The team with the best strategy and ability to adapt will win. With the two best teams in the NFL on the grandest stage, we can expect our fair share of strategy and adjustments. Let’s take a look at five matchups and who has the advantage.
Beast Mode vs. The Patriots Defensive Front: The best offensive chess piece the Seahawks offense has is Marshawn Lynch. His physical running ability sets the tone and pace for Seattle’s offense. Without his production, the Seahawks will have to rely on Russell Wilson and their receiving core to produce for them. With the skill level of the Patriots secondary, it would serve Seattle best to do everything in their power to get the ground game going. Although the Patriots ranked in the top 10 for rushing defense, they have a losing record when opposing teams have been able to break 100 yards up the middle. Bill Belichick has a lengthy history of taking away the strength of his opponents. Go back and look at his work as a coordinator for the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXV. He found a way to slow down the Bill’s high powered offense. I’m sure Belichick has something in mind, but stopping Lynch is something that is seldom done.
Advantage: Beast Mode
Gronk vs. The Legion of Boom: Gronk is what Lynch is to the Seahawks offense, their greatest weapon. When he’s healthy he is the best tight end in the NFL. It just so happens that he’ll be going up against the best secondary the league has to offer. Gronk will be seeing a lot of Kam Chancellor when he lines up in position. And if he lines up outside, he’ll have to deal with either Byron Maxwell or Richard Sherman. There’s no place for Gronk to hide. But one thing I want to bring up is one instance where a tight end was successful against Seattle. Go back to week 2, when the Seahawks went to San Diego. Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates were able to find a lot of success against the L.O.B. Gates shredded the Seahawks for 96 yards and 3 touchdowns. You can be certain that the Patriots took a look at the game film from that game. I believe that Gronk can find some success against Seattle, but it won’t be easy. Both sides will get theirs.
Seattle Receivers vs. Patriots Secondary: Seattle’s receivers are often overlooked and underappreciated by most pundits in the NFL. But I happen to be one of the few who believe in Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, and company. They’re able to do their jobs for their team, but going up against the Patriots secondary something different all together. They’ll have to deal with Derrelle Revis, Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, and L.O.B alum Brandon Browner. In the AFC title game, the Patriots held Colts receivers to only two catches. They’re a physical bunch that likes to challenge the toughness of their opponents. Expect it to get really physical on the outside when these two sides meet up.
Advantage: Patriots Secondary
Patriots Offensive Line vs. Seattle’s Defensive Front: As we all know, football is a game won in the trenches. The Patriots struggles in their two previous trips to the Super Bowl can be attributed to the Giants pass rush getting after Tom Brady. If Brady is under pressure, he can be beaten. The Patriots offensive line struggled to protect their quarterback in the first quarter of the season. But during the last 12 games of the season, Brady was only pressured 26.3% of his drop backs and sacked 15 times. The improved play in the trenches has greatly aided the Patriots surge. The Seattle defensive front is aggressive and tries to get pressure wherever they can. One thing the Packers did right was keeping a wounded Aaron Rodgers upright for the majority of the NFC title game. That will have to change if Seattle wants to win this game. And I expect it to change for the better. The Patriots are vulnerable on the edges, and that is one of the strengths of the Seahawks pass rush. Look for Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril to get really acquainted with Mr. Brady.
Advantage: Seattle’s Defensive Front
Belichick vs. Carol: The biggest chess match of them all will take place between the two coaches. The ability to adjust will come from these two for the most part. Pete Carol is a good pro football coach, but when it comes to adjustments, there is no one better than Belichick. Even before the two ‘gate’ scandals, Belichick has been one of the best game planners in the NFL. I traced his work all the way back to Super Bowl XXV and his work against the Bills high potent offense. He has out schemed a lot of great coaches and players over the years. The Patriots level of sustained success (with or without the cheating scandals) shows Belichick can coach. Carol is on his way to that plateau, but Belichick is already there.