By Stacey Gillard
Sunday, February 1st will be a sacred day in many households around the world. SuperBowl XLIX will be played in Phoenix, Arizona pitting the Seattle Seahawks against the New England Patriots, a classic sports tale of David vs Goliath. Or is it?
New England quarterback, Tom Brady, earned a grand total of $17million in the 2014 season, made up of his $2million salary and $15million in a signing bonus agreement made in 2013. Russell Wilson, quarterback for the Seahawks, is still employed under his 4 year rookie contract and will take home around $817,000 for this season between salary and bonuses. The NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement dictates that rookie contracts cannot be renegotiated until their third year so that tells me this will be the last season Wilson will be earning the NFL equivalent of minimum wage. Having said that it’s unlikey Wilson will be pulling in Brady figures for a few years to come but he has a case for a significant pay raise. This is a man two years removed from his rookie season whose version of the dreaded “Sophomore Slump” was to win the SuperBowl.
These numbers, the years of experience of the Patriot and Brady’s 3 SuperBowl rings versus Wilson’s 1, suggest an unbalanced match-up but the Patriots would be wise to remember the same was assumed last February when Seattle’s team stunned 16 year veteran quarterback Peyton Manning, taking the title from his Broncos in a lopsided 43-8 victory.
Seattle’s defense ranked in the top 3 in all categories in 2014 and this is where they have an advantage over the Patriots, whose defense never broke into the top 5 all season. Cornerback Richard Sherman, in the lineup as long as he’s healthy and the imminent birth of his son is delayed long enough, will need to be on top of his game considering the amazing passing of Brady this year. With 12 touchdowns and 1124 total receiving yards from Rob Gronkowski alone the throwing game has been a strength for the Patriots and while their lack of rushing (1727 yards) could be a concern, their power in other areas more than makes up for that. The Patriots’ offensive line will need to be particularly attentive to protect Brady from the sacking machine that is Seattle’s Michael Bennett especially considering the quarterback’s less than stellar running ability. With Earl Thomas questionable due to a shoulder injury there is a hole at free safety which Brady should look to take advantage of.
The area that will be a fascinating matchup is Seattle’s rushing. With 1306 yards and 13 touchdowns, running back Marshawn Lynch is a force to be reckoned with but New England has been strong on rush defense. Of course they also have Russell Wilson’s own rushing prowess to contend with, the quarterback ranking higher than many league running backs in this category. Patriots Linebackers Collins and Hightower have combined in 2014 for 209 tackles and 10 sacks so Wilson’s ability to drop back may be severely hampered. After struggling with his accuracy in the NFC Championship game against Green Bay, Wilson should consider avoiding any part of the field covered by Darrelle Revis who has been solid for New England this season.
Championship games in any sport are notoriously unexciting as the players are mentally and physically broken down by a long season and by definition the matchups are of two teams of the highest level which often leads to a dull push-pull effect. However, I feel this weekend could see a lot of exciting football and I’m projecting a high scoring, close matchup with Seattle edging out the Patriots.
Between the controversy of “Deflategate” and the media hype surrounding Marshawn Lynch’s refusal to talk to reporters there is a lot surrounding Superbowl XLIX that seems to be detracting from the game. I always find that to be a shame; this has the potential to be a fantastic battle and whether it turns out to be David vs Goliath or Godzilla vs Mothra we should be focusing on the football. So stock up on nachos and deli meats, get in the six-packs, and sit back for what promises to be a thrilling Sunday afternoon.
Who are you cheering for? As always, comments are welcome!