If only this game had happened last year:
Your 2013 record: 12-4, featuring an AFC title game curb-stomping at the hands of the Broncos, who were themselves curb-stomped by the Seahawks in the Super Bowl two weeks later. Obviously, this means that if the Patriots had played the Seahawks, they would have lost 945-6. God, I would love to see that happen in a Super Bowl one day. I’d love to see Pats fans get all stammery and annoying just because Pete Carroll beat them senseless. HE’S NAWT REALLY A GOOD COACH! WE KNOW BETTAH!
As the sarcastic “obviously” suggests, you can’t take the chain literally — the same logic can show that the Raiders (who beat the Chiefs, who beat the Seahawks and the Patriots) were the best team in the NFL this year. But it certainly would have been very hard to see the Patriots beating the Seahawks in the Super Bowl last year. This year, of course, it’s very easy to see. New England is substantially better, Seattle not quite as good. Schatz claims that it could be the closest Super Bowl matchup ever, and it’s not implausible.
I assume if you care you’ve read Barnwell already. The opening insight — that both teams have defenses largely constructed to stop things their opposition in this game doesn’t really do — makes the game especially hard to call. What this near-coin flip comes down to for me is that I think the market is overreacting slightly to last week. The Green Bay game, admittedly, did reveal some real issues. Most notably, Seattle’s receivers are a real problem — if I was making a case for New England, I’d assume Revis takes Baldwin out of the game and ask who’s making plays for Seattle. And Green Bay shut down Seattle’s thinner pass rush — if Rodgers had been healthy, even Mike McCarthy couldn’t have given away enough points to keep Seattle in the game.* New England’s offensive line isn’t Green Bay’s, though, and Wilson isn’t going to play football that would embarrass Ryan Lindley for 50 minutes again. And note that Seattle turned the ball over twice and gave up only 22 points to the Packers — as you may have heard, Seattle can play some defense. Looking at the season as a whole, Seattle is a better team than New England — not much better, but better. And they’re mild underdogs. I think you have to take the point for what should be a terrific game. Seahawks (+1) over Patriots.
*For those who missed them, I think these thoughtful comments from fellow master of strategery Jim Caldwell — exclusive to LGM! — deserve careful consideration:
My biggest issue with McCarthy’s otherwise excellent coaching is I don’t think he used his punter effectively. That’s an awfully big weapon to leave just sitting on the sideline, especially late in the game. For example, on the last drive in regulation, I would have considered punting instead of kicking the field goal. McCarthy still had a timeout, and if he really pinned Seattle deep and trusted his defense, he could have forced a safety or a turnover. Then overtime wouldn’t have even been necessary.
Though it is pretty hard to dispute that McCarthy coached circles around Carroll. I like Carroll’s idea to fake the field goal, but he completely botched it. The better call there is to have the punter/holder take the snap and pooch kick it. That’s what you do when you trust your defense. Having him throw it is a sign of serious weakness and lack of trust.