The Super Bowl is this coming Sunday, pitting the New England Patriots against the Seattle Seahawks. With the game likely to be a classic, here are the key storylines heading into the game in Phoenix, Arizona.
1) This is the matchup that many people have been looking forward to all year
Before the season began, a lot of pundits predicted the Patriots to play the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. Those predictions were proven right. While both teams got off to slow starts in the regular season, they have been playing their best football lately and made it to the Super Bowl after being top seeds in their conference. Seattle pulled off a crazy comeback to beat Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game 28-22 in overtime, while New England blew out Indianapolis, 45-7.
The game pits the preeminent NFL dynasty over the last 15 years, quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick’s Patriots, against the defending champion Seahawks. Seattle head coach Pete Carroll used to coach for New England from 1997-1999, adding even more intrigue to this much-anticipated matchup. And if all of that isn’t exciting enough, Katy Perry is performing at halftime.
2) The Patriots are embroiled in controversy
One of the weirdest scandals in recent NFL history has hit the New England Patriots. Without getting into the minutiae, the Patriots are accused of using under-inflated footballs against the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game. Both Belichick and Brady have denied involvement, but many media members and fans are accusing the Patriots of cheating. While the effect of using these altered footballs is debatable, especially in a 45-7 victory, the Patriots now have to answer for the fact that people think they cheated their way into the Super Bowl.
3) Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski is the toughest player to match up against in the NFL
New England’s huge advantage on offense is tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski is 6 feet, 6 inches tall, and weighs 265 pounds. Coupled with his speed, he is either too fast or too strong for most players in the NFL to cover him. This year, Gronkowski caught 82 passes for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns, good to make him an NFL All-Pro at the tight end position for the year.
Seattle’s defense, though, could be the only one in the NFL equipped to cover Gronkowski. Seattle’s cornerbacks and safeties are the best in the NFL, and safety Kam Chancellor might be able to keep up with Gronkowski. If he can, the Seahawks will be able to take away the Patriot’s most dangerous offensive weapon.
4) Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch is the key to this game
Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch has proven almost impossible to tackle. A Pro Bowl running back, Lynch ran for over 1000 yards for the fourth straight season. But talking about Lynch in words doesn’t do him justice. He runs like a bull, and he often hits defenders harder than they hit him. He sets the pace for Seattle’s offense, and when he runs well, he opens up Seattle’s offense.
Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork will have a tough test trying to contain Lynch. If he and New England’s linebackers can make sure Lynch is tackled at first contact, Seattle is going to have to throw the ball downfield, which isn’t their strength.
5) The two best defensive backs in the NFL square off in this game
New England cornerback Darrelle Revis and Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman are considered the two best in the NFL at their position, both All-Pros for this past season. Revis is not as physical as Sherman, but Revis can line up anywhere on the field. Sherman plays exclusively on the left side of Seattle’s defense. Sherman and Revis feuded two years ago online over who was better, with Revis calling Sherman out for “running his mouth,” among other obscenities. The two will have a chance to try to settle their score on the field this Sunday.
Image courtesy of Courtesy of The US Air Force (Flickr)