New England Patriots vs. Seattle Seahawks (+1)
Sunday, February 1st, 6:30 PM, NBC
University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
The NFL playoffs are kinda screwy. The four major sports in the United States are largely imperfect systems when it comes time to “crown” one team within the respective leagues “champion.” As much as most major American sport purists don’t want to hear it, soccer’s English Premier League is the closest thing to defining a true winner. Each team play the other teams in the league twice, once at home, once on the road, and the team with the best overall point total based on wins, losses, and ties is the champion. No playoffs, no brackets, no seeding.
Who’s interested in fair?
The NFL created a one-and-done system for the sole purpose of piquing the interest of even the most resigned sports fan. That such system allows the bottom seeds a shot at the title and for the dark horses to shine.
It’s also the reason that this Super Bowl match up is ironically rather rare. This year’s pair of 1 seeds is just the 11th pair since the NFL started its playoff bracket system with home and away games in 1975 to reach the Super Bowl.
Further reading into playoff history finds that there have been only three 1 seeds to win the Super Bowl since the turn of the millennium. With that bit of useless suspicious factoring out of the way, it’s much more pertinent to focus on the current season, especially considering the current state of affairs in and around the NFL.
Is Deflategate a distraction?
It’s pertinent to think about this in two, current hypotheticals:
- The Patriots as an organization are guilty of deflating footballs and thus breaking the rules, those responsible could easily have the burden of unease like a sports edition of the “The Tell-Tale Heart.” The mantra of the team has been that they are moving on to prepare for the Seahawks and will put that matter out of their minds until after the Super Bowl. While that sounds great in theory, it’s also the perfect situation to claim it a non-factor before the game and exploit it as a disruption afterwards, especially if the team is proven or found not guilty.
- The Patriots as an organization truly have no idea how the footballs fell to an illegal pressure and are just as interested in finding the answers as the general public is (not so much the NFL). This would certainly feel like less of a distraction to the Patriots but still sort of like a dull itch in the center of their back.
Yes, they’re consummate pros under the watch of Brady and Belichick regardless of how ethical. But all signs point to the mental obstacle as being arguably more difficult to hurdle than anything on the field in neon green.
“U mad bro” in all of its ungrammatical glory likely would have been the highlight of talk leading up the Super Bowl, had it not been for deflated footballs and the diametrically dissimilar reclusive nature of Marshawn Lynch.
The dancing both literally and figuratively that Sherman displayed this week fuels the labeling fire with “loudmouth” and “troll.” But, it’s been a while since the target of the antics has been the chip-on-the-shoulder type such as Tom Brady.
Ever since Brady’s 199th selection in the sixth round of the 2000 draft he’s played like the underdog with a passion for perfection. Nothing is more apparent about his zeal for winning than his violent post-scoring “celebrations” that look about as fun for the players he’s hitting as a stiff kick in the nuts.
There’s the old sports cliché of putting the newspaper clipping of some reporter badmouthing a player or a team in the lockers of the players, but there’s few in the league if not all of the four major sports that would be able to actually harness anger and frustration from something like that and turn around and use it on the field like Tom Brady. The Patriots are the villains of the NFL, and I doubt the Patriots don’t know it.
I’d be careful if I was in the shoes of Richard Sherman. With confidence comes the proximity of arrogance and should that turn around and work against you, nothing will feel worse than a Tom Brady snuffing of your jawing.
Momentum and game plans really feel like they go right out the window like the league’s checks and balances. Last year’s Super Bowl felt somewhat predictable, given the lax behavior of the Seahawks and the comfort of being the underdog. The pressure for Peyton Manning to match his postseason play to that of his regular season was the recipient of the spotlight.
This year oddly feels the same. I say oddly, even though the Seahawks are underdogs again, because the momentum feels shifted towards Seattle now that the Patriots are enduring controversy and a varying amount of distractions given the number of press conferences they’ve had to hold on everything but the game.
Plus, it’s very hard to feel like you’re the favorite and get complacent when you have a teammate incessantly telling you that you are the underdog, even though the Seahawks were favored and predicted by most to win over a gimpy Aaron Rodgers—whatever works for you.
As offensively driven as this league has become, a good defense finds its way to thwart the trend. Unfortunately for the Patriots, the Seahawks have a great one.
Winner ATS: Seattle
Spreads courtesy of CBSsports.com